Article by Bruno Karsenti
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.
France was the first of the European countries to emancipate the Jews. The revolutionaries’ promise of freedom and equality for every Jew was not always honored. The Jews suffered for…
What did Kafka’s work mean to the rising generation of German Jews who embraced it with fervor in the 1910s and 1920s? What experience of the modern European Jew was refracted for them in his writings?
Through Moses Mendelssohn, the greatest figure of the Haskala, the Jews ceased to be intruders and became distinguished guests. Today, as Europe seeks to reconnect with the Enlightenment, Mendelssohn may well become our contemporary again. He will return, however, in a different guise than the one he wore in the era of emancipation…
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