By GILAD ATZMON

One way to look into marginal politics is to illuminate the problematic tension between demands for equality and the maintenance of clannish supremacist worldviews. I am referring here to the difficult duality involved in requesting to be seen like everyone else while considering oneself to be superior.

At first glance, it seems as if a humanist demand to equalise civil rights would address the issue and resolve any form of tension between the margin and the centre. But marginal politics intends to defeat any humanistic call for equalisation. For the marginal politician, assimilation, emancipation, integration and even liberation are death threats.

Once assimilated, the margin may face a severe 'identity crisis'. To a certain extent, the marginal subject is asked to renounce his particularity and singularity. Following integration, the heroic 'pre-revolutionary' days of the righteous struggle for civil rights are replaced by a nostalgic narrative. In its post-revolutionary phase, what had once been the margin becomes an unnoticeable entity, an ordinary crowd. Thus, we should deduce that, at least at the level of identity, the demand for equality is in itself a self-defeating mechanism. Once equal, one is no different from anyone else.

The marginal politician is engaged in
the maintenance of negation.
This negation is usually achieved
by elevating hostility towards the
margin within the centre.
The Zionist is there to provoke
anti-Semitism. Similarly, gay marginal
politics is dependent on the
existence of homophobia and the
feminist maintains the image of
patriarchal society.

The success of integration may transform any meaningful marginal self-realisation into irrelevant anachronistic content. This is the reason that we find so few marginal politicians who willingly endorse a political call for assimilation. Such a call would mean political suicide, a self-imposed destruction of one's political power.

By contrast, we can easily conceive of an individually motivated tendency towards assimilation; we can envisage a member of the so-called margin searching for ways to integrate within mainstream society. A glimpse into the social reality of pre-Second World War European Jews provides an interesting insight into the issue. Assimilation has never been presented as a Jewish marginal political call. It was rather individual Jews who welcomed and enjoyed European liberal tendencies. I would add that even the Bund that supported Jewish political assimilation insisted on maintenance of Jewish cultural heritage.

A survey of our surrounding contemporary Western reality would reveal an image of multiplicity. Our society is an amalgam in which many who were once marginal are now fully assimilated and integrated. Moreover, various minorities do not even regard their integration as a process of assimilation but rather as a natural celebration of their civil rights. This natural tendency to merge with one's surrounding society is seen by the marginal politician as a major threat.

The notion of identity that is so crucial
for post-modernist and marginal
theoreticians is a myth.
When we refer to 'marginal identity',
what we really mean is
'marginally identifying'.

This essay offers a critical perspective on different aspects of marginal political thought. I argue that theories and political thoughts should be differentiated by their strategies of justification rather than by their mere content. Further, I suggest that something is inherently dangerous in any form of marginal politics. My focus here is the marginal politics of Zionist and lesbian separatist thinking. Although this paper criticizes marginal political discourse and thought, by no means does it suggest any criticism of the marginal subject or any minority whatsoever.

The Margin

'The margin' is a term that refers to those who live on the edge of society. It describes those who fall behind, those who cannot express their authentic voice within mainstream discourse. The margin is always oppressed, harassed, humiliated, subject to despicable jokes, and so forth. The margin is marginal as long as its pain is not acknowledged within the main discourse. The margin retains its marginal qualities as long as the injustices committed against it are not addressed within mainstream discourse.

Once the particularity of the margin is recognised and accepted by the crowd, the margin becomes an inherent part of the larger community; in other words, it becomes a minority group or even just an ordinary crowd. Hence, it should be accepted that the state of being marginal is, at least to a certain extent, defined by the centre.

But then, one should ask, can the margin also be understood within its own terms? Can the margin be defined by its own means? Is being a lesbian enough to turn one into a 'marginal lesbian' regardless of the surrounding social circumstances? How can one decide whether one belongs to any given margin? Is being a Jew, a Muslim, a gay or an ethnic Albanian enough to transform one into a 'marginal identity'? Clearly not. We can think of many Jews, Muslims, gays, lesbians and ethnic Albanians who detach themselves from any ties with marginal identification. They do not see themselves as marginal; nor are they seen as such by their surrounding environment.

The statement: 'I look into myself
and see a Zionist, a gay, a woman,
a nation, a watermelon and so on'
is anything but an expression
of authentic awareness.
What it really means is:
I identify with the Zionist, gay,
woman, nation... Again, 'Zionist', 'gay',
'woman' and so forth are lingual
expressions that are communally
and collectively assigned.

The margin, therefore, is dynamic and shaped by its relationship with the centre. The margin is that which fails to be the centre. The margin is defined in terms of negation (i.e. what it isn't) rather than by its positive qualities (i.e. what it is). This is the reason that marginal politics is so concerned with depicting reality in terms of binary oppositions. For the gay ideologist the binary opposition is gay/heterosexual; for the feminist politician it is femininity/masculinity; for the Zionist it is Jew/gentile and Zionist/diaspora Jew. The marginal subject is inclined to define itself via a process of negative dialectic.

As soon as the centre is willing to expand its categorical understanding of itself, the margin's reality fades; the margin becomes merely a minority. This is the point at which marginal politics interferes and the binary opposition is introduced.

The marginal politician is engaged in the maintenance of negation. This negation is usually achieved by elevating hostility towards the margin within the centre. The Zionist is there to provoke anti-Semitism. Similarly, gay marginal politics is dependent on the existence of homophobia and the feminist maintains the image of patriarchal society. It seems as if marginal politics is destined to engage in an ideological exchange with mainstream discourse. It is there to retain negation. And yet, the question remains: can the marginal define itself by its own means? In order to address this question we must grasp the notion of identity.

Identity, Identification and Authenticity

In order to transform 'marginal self-perception' into a meaningful notion, the marginal subject must assume that being a 'marginal subject' conveys a real and authentic identity. An American Jewish settler living on confiscated Palestinian land must genuinely believe that being on occupied land, being daily engaged in an endless list of war crimes and breaching all possible moral codes, while risking his own life and the lives of members of his family, constitute direct fulfillment of his 'true self'.

The settler must believe that he is the son of Abraham and that this relation to his ancestor grants him special rights where Palestinian land is concerned. The marginal subject must believe that he conveys a genuine self.

Belief in a truly authentic identity is crucial for the realisation of the self as a genuine autonomous agent, but is authenticity possible? A phenomenological thinker may say yes. Husserl argues that we can refer to 'Evidez', which is 'awareness' of matter itself as disclosed in the most clear, distinct and adequate way for something of its kind. Accordingly, one can experience a pure awareness of oneself. This notion was articulated by Descartes' cogito: 'I think therefore I am.'

Marginal communities are generally
very sensitive to the power of
language and this is probably
the reason that a substantial
amount of their political energy is
concerned with imposing lingual
restrictions within the mainstream
discourse (usually in the name of
political correctness).
This is the reason that marginal
communities are so creative
in their use of marginal languages.

In phenomenological terms, it is the pure and lucid 'awareness' of me thinking which removes any doubt concerning me 'being in the world', at least as a thinking entity. Phenomenology attempts to describe how the world is constituted and experienced through conscious acts and what is given to us in immediate experience without being mediated by preconceptions and theoretical notions. According to phenomenology, one's self-awareness can depict an unmediated authentic form of knowledge.

It didn't take long for Husserl's student Martin Heidegger to expose major cracks in his teacher's philosophical endeavour. Heidegger revealed that 'being in the world' might be slightly more complicated than Husserl had suggested. It was the former's notion of hermeneutics that exposed the shortcomings of Husserl's phenomenology. Hermeneutics deals with the complex interaction between the interpreting subject and the interpreted object. Within his critical reading of Husserl, Heidegger exposed the embarrassing fact that unmediated awareness is actually hard to conceive. Human beings, it appears, do 'belong to language'.

Language is out there before one comes to the world. Once one enters the realm of language, a separating wall made of symbolic lingual bricks and cultural mortar, blocks one's access to any possible unmediated awareness. Can we think without applying language? Can we experience at all without the mediation of language?

Admittedly, we are capable of feeling desire while dreaming or being overwhelmed by beauty but then, as soon as we think it through, we find ourselves entangled in a process of naming. As soon as we name, the awareness ceases to be unmediated. Once within the realm of language, our perception of the world is shaped by meanings that are not ours. It would seem that a comprehensive authentic awareness is impossible.

If this is the case, there is no longer room to talk about identity in terms of a genuine expression of a real self. Unmediated self-awareness is not available to any of us. Even when we touch the sublime or come across an inexpressible unmediated experience, as soon as we aim to share it even simply within ourselves, we are already surrendering to language. Hence, looking into oneself can never reveal an authentic identity.

Alternatively, we may be able think of identity as a set of ideas, narratives or 'thinking modes', as a worldview or a perception. But then rather than really talking in terms of a genuine 'self-awareness' we are intentionally moving to deal with a mental process that is better described as 'identification'.

The following list presents
different spellings for the word
woman/women used by
lesbian separatists in the 1970s:
wimmin, wimyn, womyn, womin.
These alternative spellings were
intended to 'prove' that, at least
symbolically, woman could be
'complete' even when the word
man/men was taken out of
woman/women.

We identify with ideas, narratives, thinking modes, certain worldviews, perceptions and so on. We must then accept that when we talk about identity we are really talking about identification. The notion of identity that is so crucial for post-modernist and marginal theoreticians is a myth. When we refer to 'marginal identity', what we really mean is 'marginally identifying'.

Thus, being a lesbian is not enough to turn one into a 'marginal lesbian'. While being a 'lesbian' is a state of being, being a 'marginal lesbian' is a form of identification. As we can see the marginal subject cannot define itself by its own means. The American Jewish settler who mistakenly believes that he follows his true call is in fact simply identifying with a messianic Zionist identity. He is identifying with an external idea rather than revealing his 'real self'.

As we come to view identity as a meaningless term, we move towards an understanding of self-perception as a dynamic mechanism. When talking about identity we refer to an axis of identification: at one pole we find the elusive notion of authenticity produced from unmediated self-awareness (something that is almost impossible to achieve), at the other pole we find a state of estrangement that is achieved by identification.

Thus, the search for one's genuine identity should be associated with utter misery: the more one searches for one's authentic self the more one is engaged in the process of identification that will eventually lead to complete alienation. Here I turn to Lacan's subversive twist on Descartes' cogito, in which 'I think therefore I am' became 'You are where you do not think.' If anything, thinking removes one from oneself. Identification positions one far from any possible authenticity.

Back to 'Marginal Politics'

It appears, therefore, that identity is a myth and authentic awareness a rare experience. Thus, the marginal subject cannot define itself by its own means. The statement: 'I look into myself and see a Zionist, a gay, a woman, a nation, a watermelon and so on' is anything but an expression of authentic awareness. What it really means is: I identify with the Zionist, gay, woman, nation... Again, 'Zionist', 'gay', 'woman' and so forth are lingual expressions that are communally and collectively assigned.

They are not within the realm of unmediated privacy. But then even 'I feel gay', 'I am a lesbian' and 'I feel Jewish' are not authentic, unmediated expressions. Such expressions only mean that an external lingual web orchestrates our feelings. Once we think, we are already defeated by the dictatorial power of language.

At the first Zionist Congress,
in 1897, Chaim Weizmann announced:
'There are no English, French,
German or American Jews,
but only Jews living in England,
France, Germany or America.'
According to Weizmann,
first you are a Jew and then
an American. In other words,
Weizmann called for Jews
to celebrate their sameness...

Marginal communities are generally very sensitive to the power of language and this is probably the reason that a substantial amount of their political energy is concerned with imposing lingual restrictions within the mainstream discourse (usually in the name of political correctness). This is the reason that marginal communities are so creative in their use of marginal languages. The Zionists' relationship with the resurrected Hebrew language is a good example. Early Zionists realised that full control over language would allow them to impose their world view on subsequent generations of Jews. But Zionists are not alone in this respect.

Other marginal groups are known for their creative dialects, spelling and vocabulary.
The following list presents different spellings for the word woman/women used by lesbian separatists in the 1970s: wimmin, wimyn, womyn, womin. These alternative spellings were intended to 'prove' that, at least symbolically, woman could be 'complete' even when the word man/men was taken out of woman/women. 'We, as womyn, are not a sub-category of men' (http://www.msu.edu/). The lingual meaning defines the worldview.

But then, if language has such a crucial role in marginal politics, the margin can never detach itself from the centre. Even when it establishes its own discourse, this discourse can only be realised in terms of its relationship with mainstream discourse. Moreover, if there is no room for self-grounded marginal identity in terms of self-realization or self-awareness, we are bound to deal with the margin in terms of its pragmatic strategies of exchange with the mainstream discourse.

The Strategies

Lobbying: Since the possibility of assimilation is occasionally presented to the margin by the hegemony, opportunities for integration with the centre are available to the marginal subject. Assimilated Jewish Americans have always been extremely excited about the possibility of becoming American patriots. Many American Jews have found their way into the leading classes via the academic world, banking, real estate, the stock market, the media, politics and so on. But since they have been in key positions within mainstream society, their patriotic tendencies have been challenged by those they had left in the margins.

In order to support their views,
Zionists illustrated an image of
emerging anti-Semitism.
Their illustration was far from accurate.
In fact, by the late nineteenth century
Jews were already deeply involved
in every possible aspect of
European civil life.
Moreover, the Zionist leaders
themselves were highly
integrated within their
Christian context. But a persistent
myth of persecution was needed.

Zionist lobbies in America specialise in tracing rich and influential Jews. They pressure them to 'come out of the closet' and to show greater commitment to the Jewish nationalist venture. Gay marginal politicians behave similarly. Some marginal politicians seek to shame their integrated brothers and sisters. This serves two purposes. First, it conveys a clear message that real assimilation is impossible: once a gay, always a gay; once a Jew always a Jew.

This logic was reflected in a recent Hollywood cartoon. Shrek and Princess Fiona were doomed to find out that 'Once an ogre always an ogre. One can never escape one's real identity.' Second, it pushes the assimilated being towards collaboration with his old clan. You will never escape being who you are so you had better be proud of it. The American Zionist takes this ideology one step further, telling the assimilated Jew: 'You will never escape being who you are so why not be proud of it and work for us.' These points help us understand the impact of Jewish political lobbies within the American administration. Moreover, they may give an explanation for the growth of Jewish espionage within America's strategic centres and businesses.

Let us review the logic behind this strategy. At the first Zionist Congress, in 1897, Chaim Weizmann announced: 'There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America.' According to Weizmann, first you are a Jew and then an American. In other words, Weizmann called for Jews to celebrate their sameness; he aimed to remove or even eliminate differences between them. Being Jewish is an essential characteristic; all other qualities are contingent.

Thus it would seem that even the 'good Jews', those who protest against Israeli atrocities while shouting 'not in my name', fall into Weizmann's trap. First they are Jews and only then are they humanists. In practice, without understanding it, they adopt Weizmann's anti-assimilationist strategy. In other words, they prove that the clan is more important than any other category. Weizmann's strategy is sophisticated and hard to tackle.

Separatism is a strategy of
ghetto building and Zionists
have followed this strategy
since the late nineteenth century.
And yet, who are the first to suffer?
Of course, those Jews who are
weak enough to take
Zionist Separatism seriously
and those who are doomed
to be born into a
Zionist reality in Israel.

Even saying 'I do not agree with Israel although I am a Jew' is to fall into the clannish trap. Having fallen into the trap, one cannot leave the clan behind; one can never endorse a universal language. As bizarre as it may sound, even when one denounces one's own clan, one is destined to approve the clannish marginal philosophy.

In the early days of Zionism most Jews refused to buy the Weizmann agenda, preferring to see themselves as American, British or French people who happened to be Jewish. This dispute between the individual Jew and the Zionist movement developed into a bitter conflict. During their struggle for recognition, Zionists admitted their contempt for the diaspora Jew. This was essentially the birth of Zionist separatism. Zionists confronted the Jewish people in the name of the call for their liberation.

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