Article by Julia Christ

“We have to differentiate between anti-Zionism and antisemitism”, say those who don’t like being called antisemitic. On the face of it, there’s nothing foolish about this demand: it’s necessary to distinguish between legitimate criticism of the Jewish state and dubious feelings towards Jews. But is it really necessary to invent a specific word for this criticism? Philosopher Julia Christ traces the various possible uses of the notion of “anti-Zionism” and asks under what conditions, and in what context, criticism of the State of Israel can legitimately be called anti-Zionist. This brief analysis of state criticism and its modalities provides a clearer picture of when anti-Zionism is just another word for antisemitism.

What can we say about the sexual crimes committed by Hamas men on October 7 – documented a little more each day by the work of an Israeli group of gynecologists, forensic doctors, psychologists and international lawyers? And how are we to understand the concealment of the violence against women on that day by part of world opinion – including supposed “feminists”? Doesn’t this concealment amount to inflicting violence on these women a second time, as if their ordeal didn’t count and was meaningless?

In the aftermath of the 7 October massacre, the Israeli left saw how a section of the global left in the United States and Europe refused to condemn the murder of 1,200 men, women and children, most of them Jewish. Within the extreme left, some even glorified the pogrom as a decolonising event and expressed no hesitation in their objective support for Hamas. Adam Raz – interviewed in K. this week- was one of the authors of the open letter expressing his ‘concern at the inadequate response of someAmerican and European progressives to Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians, a response that reflects a disturbing trend in the political culture of the global left’. Julia Christ looks back at the disillusionment of the Israeli left and sets out the political lessons to be learned from the rift that has emerged between the Israeli left and part of the global left. 

European and American universities, once considered politically neutral, have gradually become involved in political statements in solidarity with victims of injustice. However, when it comes to events related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these same universities, without consulting each other, have generally remained silent, tacitly and collectively. They have thus revealed their fundamental reluctance to take a stand on any issue concerning the Jews, especially when the issue is their mass murder as Jews and in the most important Jewish centre in the world, Israel. Why is this so? What does it mean, in particular, that the majority of the social sciences have become incapable of studying the Jewish condition from an objective point of view, whether in the Diaspora or in Israel, and seem to have an irresistible tendency, without admitting it, to place “the Jews” in the camp of the “dominant”?

On 30 January 1933, ninety years ago this week, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Reich. Faced with this event, the whole of Europe was waiting for one person to speak: Karl Kraus, a Viennese Jew, a radical pamphleteer and universally feared polemicist who had founded The Torch in 1899, a newspaper of which he was the sole editor from 1911 and from the arrows of which few of his contemporaries escaped. But Karl Kraus refuses to speak. Instead of commenting on the ‘event’, he tries to make all those who want to ‘talk about it’ understand why there is nothing more to say. Julia Christ examines the silence of the man who until then had always found something to talk about and gives an account of its significance for the history of Europe.

What happened that caused the newspaper published by the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to demand that the Minister of Culture resign? The presence of a blatantly anti-Semitic painting in the world’s largest contemporary art exhibition – the documenta, which has been held every five years since 1955 in the city of Cassel. It was due to the presence of the painting but also the result of a long debate before the fact about the anti-Semitic character of the 2022 edition of documenta, on which the minister did not want to take position in the name of freedom of art. Julia Christ reports on the crazy sequence of discussions and false humility consequent to the appearance of this work.

There are the facts: the violence of the Russian force that is bearing down on Ukraine. There are the words: Putin’s propaganda, Zelensky’s desperate appeals to win the support of a West unable to provide a conclusive solution. Then there is the perception of the facts and the words in Europe, stunned by the event and forced to reflect on policy approaches. The return of war to our continental home already points to options for future European integration. These options, ineluctably, find themselves imbricated with questions of Jewishness and Holocaust memory. It is mainly on this issue that Julia Christ proposes her analysis, paying attention to the words used and to the representations deployed on both sides.

Born in Germany, from which she fled to London, the narrator of “The Appointment” pours out her heart while being examined by her gynecologist, Dr. Seligman. Resolutely provocative, mixing sexual fantasies about Hitler with sharp insights into our contemporary society, the novel is a satirical parable over which the shadow of Philip Roth, Woody Allen and Thomas Bernhardt hovers.

The anti-vax and anti-sanitary pass demonstrations, where yellow stars flourish, are the social movement of the summer, in France as in Europe. For Julia Christ, it is not the “anti-system” rear-guard of society that is expressing itself through the gesture of hijacking this historical symbol, but rather a kind of hyper-individualist and ultra-liberal avant-garde.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.