chapter  6
12 Pages

When “L’Essence Arrose de Haine”: The Reinvention of Identity in Francophone Tunisian Literature

WithLAMIA BEN YOUSSEF ZAYZAFOON

Revisiting Hegel’s argument that Islam is the “universalization” of Jewish monotheism,” Slavoj Zizek wonders if “the time has not come, especially with regard to the Middle East confl ict, to talk about the Jewish-Muslim civilization as an axis opposed to Christianity.”2 Reproducing Hegel’s opposition between the polytheist trinity in Christianity and the pure monotheism encountered in Judaism and Islam, he concludes that if there is so much “anti-Semitism” in Islam, it is “because of the extreme proximity of the two religions.” What is relevant to this chapter is Zizek’s de-Semitization of Arabs-Muslims and his transfer of Hegel’s anti-Semitism (which targeted Jews and Muhammadans)3 into some abstract Islamic essence. As Gil Anidjar has pointed out, what “differentiates Judaism from Islam” in nineteenth-century anti-Semitic literature is the verbreitung4 or “spatiopolitical” location of the enemy: the Semitic Jew is the theological enemy within, the Semitic Arab-Muslim is the political enemy without. If antiSemitism is to be understood as a historical discursive practice, then what Islam, what century and what part of the Muslim world is Zizek referring to? If, as a solution to the Middle Eastern confl ict, Zizek reinvents Islam as anti-Semitic and proposes to read its alleged anti-Semitism as proof of the proximity between Judaism and Islam, then would he entertain the counterargument that Judaism is anti-Semitic because of its proximity with Islam? After all both Jews and Arabs-Muslims were invented as Semites by nineteenth-century European anthropology! It is such discursive culde-sacs that this chapter attempts to address-for, unquestioned, language hinders rather than facilitates our understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict. This chapter examines in particular how, in response to two specifi c historical conjunctures (the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict and the rise of Islamism), Tunisian left-wing intellectuals have reshaped and reinvented the Eurocentric categories of the Semite, the anti-Semite, the Jew and the Arab-Muslim to reconstruct themselves and others. While Albert Memmi reproduces in his work these discursive categories, Gisèle Halimi, Hédi

Bouraoui and Fethi Benslama attempt to subvert them through both feminist and Sufi humanist aesthetics.