Article by Bruno Karsenti
A major figure in global intellectual debate, Jürgen Habermas is the author of a monumental body of philosophical work that can be read as the theoretical basis of the European political ideal since the Second World War. The consciousness of German crime and the Jewish contribution to European philosophy over its long history occupy a fundamental place in his thinking. This is what recalls this essay by philosopher Bruno Karsenti, conceived as a tribute. It is also a tribute to what the European spirit, as extended by Habermas, can still bring to today’s Jews.
In France, a resolution tabled by Communist deputy Jean-Paul Lecoq to condemn “the institutionalization by the State of Israel of a regime of apartheid” was defended on Thursday May 4 in the French National Assembly, before being rejected. Bruno Karsenti reviews the text of this resolution and shows what the demon of apartheid brandished by the now hegemonic part of the French left is really for. He also shows how, while seeking to take advantage of the movement of opposition to the government that is currently taking place in Israel, the drafters of the resolution fail to understand its meaning and scope.
The crisis in Israel and the struggle for democracy that it is manifesting, among Israelis as well as within the Diaspora, has at least the merit of bringing clarity to a situation that until then appeared paralyzed and paralyzing. It forces us to seize an opportunity to take up some fundamental questions that affect the future of Jews as a whole.
Examining the political situation that is inflaming Israel, Bruno Karsenti gives an account of the multiple fractures that deeply divide the populations living in the region. All the sub-groups in turmoil – religious Zionists, Israeli citizens demonstrating in defense of a modern democratic state now in danger, Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories – are brought back to the same question, which touches on the feeling of belonging, which is felt in different ways. For although it is of equal intensity, it does not have the same content or the same meaning according to the perspectives involved. To belong or to possess? Sari Nusseibeh returns in this week’s issue of K. to the tension between these two words. Bruno Karsenti’s text reads like an introduction to the Palestinian philosopher’s contribution.
After the recent Israeli elections, the most right-wing government in the country’s history is expected to emerge. If the result is the effect of a long dynamic, it is nonetheless staggering. The philosopher Bruno Karsenti comes back in this text on what may well be a turning point in the history of Israel, and on the deviation of Zionism that it signals. A deviation that, in order to be avoided, implies re-understanding Zionism from the Diaspora, and particularly from Europe.
Vienna, 1900: the Austro-Hungarian Empire declines. Its German neighbor overshadows it, and the social mobility of the previous decades comes to a halt. In 1984, in a work that has become a classic, Vienna 1900, sociologist Michael Pollak analyzed the effects of this political and social crisis through the notion of wounded identity. Bruno Karsenti revisits this book this week in K. In his turn, he specifies the causes of this crisis and its main consequence: the development of an unprecedented anti-Semitism. More than a century later, the resurgence of anti-Semitism signals a new crisis in European liberal societies. But a crisis from which all the ways out seem to be blocked.
Last month, a group of almost three dozen members of the lower house of the French Parliament, the National Assembly, introduced a resolution labeling Israel an “apartheid state”. The deputies, hailing from the far-left France Insoumise (LFI) and Communist parties, set off a fiery debate in the chamber, as members of Emmanuel Macron’s government accused LFI of promoting antisemitism. Bruno Karsenti evaluates this latest controversy over antisemitism in France.
Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) was a historian-sociologist – died in the Riga ghetto – who made the history of the Jews a history of the mutations of the diaspora, spread out and organised around various centers. The Jewish nation is polycentric and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was necessary for him to grasp the new map of these centers in the modern era, to understand the tensions and balances, in a context of persecution, but also the obvious vitality of Judaism in the East. But, after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, how can we understand the scattered community of modern Jews today? Bruno Karsenti, a century later, asks this question in conversation with Dubnow.
The “Diaspora” collection, founded by Roger Errera in 1971 at the French publishing house Éditions Calman-Levy, has been decisive in more than one way for the French public in general, and for French Jews in particular. For non-Jewish French people, it opened the best possible access to Judaism. For the Jews themselves, it represented an invaluable aid for re-understanding their diasporic situation after the Holocaust. By sketching a portrait of Roger Errera, Bruno Karsenti endeavors to bring out the new meaning of this diasporic position in post-Holocaust Europe. If persevering in exile is the characteristic of the Jewish people, and if this condition is modified without being vitiated by the existence of the State of Israel, then it is a singular political position that emerges.
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