Zizek on Jerusalem

In the LRB, Zizek on Jerusalem.

If there ever was a passionate attachment to the lost object, a refusal to come to terms with its loss, it is the attachment of Israelis and many diaspora Jews to the ‘Holy Land’ and above all to Jerusalem. The present troubles are supreme proof of the consequences of such a radical fidelity, when taken literally. For almost two thousand years, when the Jews were fundamentally a nation without land, living in exile, their reference to Jerusalem was a negative one, a prohibition against ‘painting an image of home’ or indeed against feeling at home anywhere on earth. Once the return to Palestine began a century ago, the metaphysical Other Place was identified with a specific place on the map and became the object of a positive identification, the place where the wandering which characterises human existence would end. The identification, negative and positive by turns, had always involved a dream of settlement. When a two-thousand-year-old dream is finally close to realisation, such realisation has to turn into a nightmare.

Brecht’s joke a propos the East Berlin workers’ uprising in 1953 – ‘The Party is not satisfied with its people, so it will replace them with a people more supportive of its politics’ – is suggestive of the way Israelis regard the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. That Israelis, descendants of exemplary victims, should be considering a thorough ethnic cleansing – or ‘transfer’ – of the Palestinians from the West Bank is the ultimate historical irony.

What would be a proper imaginative act in the Middle East today? For Israelis and Arabs, it would involve giving up political control of Jerusalem, agreeing that the Old Town should become a city without a state, a place of worship, neither a part of Israel nor of a putative Palestine, administered for the time being by an international force.

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