Article by Danny Trom
Daniel Boyarin, Professor of History of Religions and a renowned specialist in Talmudic Culture and Ancient Judaism, has published this year The No-State Solution. A Jewish Manifesto [Yale University Press], which claims on its back cover to be a “provocative book”. “provocative book”. Danny Trom discusses the anti-Zionism and “diasporic nationalism” that Boyarin promotes.
Confronted with the illiberal temptations of the Netanyahu government, how can we sort out the criticisms of Israel that aim to find a solution by recalling what was the main intention of this state and those that aim to destroy it ? And, in particular, how can the criticism from Jews in the Diaspora, especially from Europe, free itself from its inhibitions and fears of being misused in order to assert its singular position?
In Communist Romania, Jews were traded for pigs, calves or cows. This is how Sonia Devillers’ grandparents – as she recounts in Les Exportés (Flammarion, September 2022, not yet translated into English) – were able to pass to the West. A picture of blood and guts emerges from Romania: after being slaughtered by hand, the surviving Jews were worth just about the price of the animals for which they were exchanged.
But what is the State of Israel? Danny Trom’s book The State of Exile proposes an answer to this apparently simple question: the State of Israel is not, cannot be, the nation-state of the Jewish people but a state “for the Jews”. Proceeding from the political experience of the Jews of Europe, it remains inscribed in the exilic configuration of the Jews, outside of which its very foundation would disappear.
How can we understand the composition of the new government formed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which gives pride of place to religious Zionism and to a nationalism itself increasingly tinged with religious references? How can we understand it historically and circumstantially? Danny Trom looks back at this event, which marks a break in the history of Israel and of Zionism itself.
We know the Christmas movie genre and its more or less serious sub-genres invented by Hollywood. Danny Trom, after having seen ‘Gremlins’ (1984), the horror film directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, analyzes what could be a specific sub-genre to be identified, the Jewish Christmas movie…
The impromptu arrival of the Netanyahu family one day in the winter of 1959 under the roof of Ruben Blum’s family causes the life of the young history professor at a provincial university in New York State to falter. But how can we understand this explosive event that American novelist Joshua Cohen stages without giving us the key?
“Avenge us”. To the supplication that arose from the murdered Jews and appeared everywhere after the war – on the walls of ruined synagogues or on small pieces of paper left by those who made it their last wish before perishing – Abba Kovner, poet and fighter, wanted to respond. He sought to extend the partisan struggle against the Nazi state with a large-scale revenge action. He made plans that either failed or were not carried out. The legacy of Abba Kovner is that of a dead end, according to Danny Trom: the dead end of a revenge thought to be necessary and unattainable.
“I have no other country,” writes the Israeli Ehud Manor in a poem quoted by Nancy Pelosi before the U.S. Congress. “There is no Israel for me” says the narrator of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission. Danny Trom proposes, from a combined analysis of these two statements, a distinction between several experiences of the political relationship to one’s own country: that of having only one country, that of having no other, and that of having an alternative, even if it is impractical. The question arises here: is not every citizen of his state in Europe now in a position to feel a Jewish experience?
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