Albert Memmi’s Very Jewish Rejection of Postcolonial Orthodoxies

Reviewing the Tunisian-French-Jewish writer Albert Memmi’s most recent book (not yet translated into English), Daniel Gordon surveys the career of a man he describes as a “novelist who wrote like a sociologist [who] became a sociologist who wrote like a novelist.” Memmi, born and raised in Tunisia, spent World War II in a concentration camp. In 1957, he wrote The Colonizer and the Colonized, a foundational text of postcolonial theory, but quickly broke from his friends Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in presciently expressing his concerns about the ability of former colonies to govern themselves, decrying Arab anti-Semitism, defending Israel, and rejecting the bloodthirsty ideology of Frantz Fanon. Gordon writes:

Memmi has defended Third World revolutions while condemning their tyrannical by-products ever since his native country drove out its Jewish population soon after attaining independence. The recently published Tunisie, An I (“Tunisia, Year One”) is Memmi’s diary from the years 1955 and 1956. This was when Tunisia ceased to be a French protectorate and became, as its new constitution stated, “an Islamic state.” . . .

Memmi . . . insisted on a distinction between the process of liberation from oppression and the achievement of a durable liberty. This is, arguably, a characteristically Jewish distinction. As readers of the Bible from Moses Maimonides to Michael Walzer have noted, the book of Exodus vividly depicts the difference between the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage and their maturation as a people in the desert for 40 years. The great cultural Zionist Ahad Ha’am summed up this tradition when he wrote that a “people trained for generations in the house of bondage cannot cast off in an instant the effects of that training and become truly free.”

At the end of The Colonizer and the Colonized, Memmi made a parallel point about the postcolonial revolutionary: “In order that his liberation may be complete, he must free himself from those inevitable conditions of his struggle.”

Although Memmi burst upon the intellectual scene as someone who had brilliantly dramatized and theorized the injustices of colonialism, his full message was one that neither violent theorists nor armchair rebels wished to hear. His work was too subtle, too unflinchingly honest, and too unabashedly Jewish for that. He began telling the “whole truth” in the 1950s, and while he is now ninety-seven years old, one hopes he still has more to say.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Albert Camus, Albert Memmi, Arts & Culture, History & Ideas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Mizrahi Jewry, Postcolonialism, Tunisia

 

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin