The Flotilla and the Necessity of the Public Critique
By: Michael D. English June 17, 2010
Judith Bulter’s (2004) Precarious Life, in particular the essay “The Charge of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and the risk of public critique,” is worthy of reflection in the wake of the flotilla crisis. Throughout the work Butler attempts to illustrate the vulnerability we face as social creatures dependent upon one another for the maintenance of our health and safety. Our fear of violence drives us to place a premium on safety while failing to critically investigate the very causes of violence. Butler focuses in a number of sections on the the anti-intellectualism plaguing the public sphere in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and the essay is a response to Lawrence Summers (now Obama’s chief economic advisor) on the ease at which being charged as anti-Semitic can lobbed against those who reject Israel’s use of violence. The comments of Helen Thomas and her subsequent retirement are a not so subtle reminder of the potential costs to a person chooses to vent their frustration over this particular conflict. Thomas’ comments were of little critical or factual value, yet they somehow garnered a more harsh response from the Whitehouse than the actual killing of nine Turkish citizens. While the substance of her statements was surely poor, her frustration with the situation is certainly justified. What are we to do when faced with the continued use state violence perpetrated in the name of freedom and security?