Frantz Fanon, the Thinker behind Western Apologetics for Terror

April 9, 2024 | Leon Hadar
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In America and Western Europe, the progressive left’s response to the October 7 attacks has largely been one of hostility toward Israel. There are many reasons why this is so, but among them is the malign and outsized influence in intellectual circles of Frantz Fanon. Born in Martinique 1925, Fanon wrote extensively on race and the evils of colonialism, and did much to shape how both topics are thought about in universities. Fanon spent the last years of his life collaborating with the terrorists who liberated Algeria from French rule. He died in 1961, just before his comrades drove the Jews out of the country.

Reviewing a new biography of Frantz Fanon by Adam Shatz, Leon Hadar writes:

The fighting in Algeria radicalized Fanon. His writing about the colony and the meaning and utility of political violence was militant. “At the individual level,” he wrote, “violence is cleansing. It rids the colonized of his inferiority complex, of his passive and despairing attitude.” In other words, killing colonizers was not only tactically expedient, it was also therapeutic for the colonized. “The colonized man liberates himself in and through violence,” he wrote. What the colonized needed was not concessions granted by the master but “quite literally the death of his master.” . . . And readers of Fanon are left in no doubt that he believed attacks on civilians to be the “logical consequence” of colonial oppression.

Nor did Fanon express much interest in limiting what forms redemptive violence takes. Hadar observes that in a different work he posed the question: “Just as there are faces that ask to be slapped, can one not speak of women who ask to be raped?”

Shatz, Hadar notes, is an editor for the virulently anti-Israel London Review of Books, and is “an anti-Zionist polemicist who believes that Israel is ‘the world’s last settler-colonial state.’” And that may not be unrelated to Shatz’s “sympathetic” treatment of his subject:

Shatz has told a Ha’aretz journalist that he doesn’t know if Fanon would have supported the October 7 massacre. The point is moot, but since Fanon never met a murderous militant he didn’t like, it’s plausible that Shatz is simply being coy in his judgment. He does, after all, remark that Hamas’s terror operation on October 7 was a “classic example of Fanonian struggle.”

There can be little doubt that Fanon’s writing influenced and radicalized Palestinian nationalism. Shatz reminds us that the first Arabic translations of Fanon’s work, which appeared in Beirut’s bookshops in 1963, helped to shape the emerging Palestinian nationalist movement.

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