Is the binational idea, which is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, more than just an anti-Zionist fad? If you listen to the most radical proponents of the “one-state solution”, there’s little doubt that it’s all about getting rid of the State of Israel, which is seen as an obstacle to the political realization of the Palestinian nation, and thus putting Jews back in the minority. But is this really all there is to the binational idea? To shed some light on this question, we asked Denis Charbit to review Shlomo Sand’s latest book, Two people for one state? Rereading the History of Zionism (Seuil). In it, Sand reminds us – but only to play Zionism off against itself – that the binational idea was first and foremost a Zionist idea, defended by authors such as Scholem and Buber. However, Charbit highlights what is really important: the fact that, from the point of view of these thinkers, that of an internal critique of Zionism, binationalism is the horizon for regulating the excesses of nationalism. That the realization of this horizon had to be abandoned does not mean that the perspective that emerged from it was forgotten. And it is the Zionist idea itself which, contrary to Sand’s view, is deepened and enriched, in order to better apprehend the tensions of the present situation.

Beyond guilt, can a sense of political responsibility emerge from the recognition of past crimes? It’s this question, which Europe cannot escape, that the case of Austria invites us to reflect on this week. In this latest instalment of our series on antisemitism in Europe, conceived in partnership with DILCRAH, Liam Hoare looks at Austria’s strategy for combating hatred and prejudice against Jews. In this first part of his investigation, we learn how Austria intends to implement a policy aimed at strengthening Jewish life and institutions. Between an educational policy confronted with difficulties on the ground, taking into account the concerns of the Austrian Jewish community and an in-depth work on the relationship with the Nazi past, the task looks set to be a long one. Next week, we’ll look at the challenges that lie ahead.

What does a community, a Jewish community need in order to sustain itself and grow? With Jewish life struggling to survive or being endangered in some places, while in other parts of the world there are at times small rennaisances of communal activity, we are particularly interested in Anshel Pfeffer’s article on the historic Jewish community of Suriname and its evolution over the centuries –  a place that not only carries multi-layered history but also could have been the blueprint for a Jewish state in the 18th century. 

Happy reading!

The United States’ abstention from the latest UN Security Council vote on March 25, 2024, seems to indicate a widening gap between Israel and its historic protector. Are we witnessing a divorce between Israel and the United States?

The text by Jean-Claude Milner that we are publishing this week was written before this vote, yet it sheds a unique light on it. In it, Milner gives us his analysis of this idyll, seemingly on the verge of ending, a break-up which, in his view, has already been consummated. As is often the case in affairs of the heart, divorce occurs when the illusions that cemented the relationship fall away. Here, the illusions identified by Milner’s analysis are entirely American: they stem from the projection onto Israel, the only democracy in the Near and Middle East, of the values of the American way of life and, above all, of the Western credo of peace. If the United States can abandon its unconditional support for Israel, and seek to place it under trusteeship, it would be because American Jews have long been more identified with the WASP world than with the Jewish world.

Milner’s radical analysis is crystal-clear, but is it really the last word in history? It seems to us to provide food for discussion, and so we add a commentary signed by Danny Trom and Bruno Karsenti. Just listen to the speech by Jewish Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, and you’ll find a living European perspective at the very heart of American power. Criticism of the form taken by Israeli military policy today can indeed be an authentically Jewish position. This was the point of the text “Gaza: How To Get Out”, which we published in K. two weeks ago. Chuck Schumer’s recent speech “My last name is Schumer, which derives from the Hebrew word Shomer, meaning ‘guardian’. Of course, my first responsibility is to America and New York. But as the first Jewish majority leader in the U.S. Senate, and as the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history, I also feel very strongly my responsibility as Shomer Yisroel, meaning guardian of the people of Israel. Throughout Jewish history, there have been many Shomrim, and many of them were far greater than I claim to be. Nevertheless, this is the position I find myself in today, at a time of great difficulty for the State of Israel, for the Jewish people and for Israel’s non-Jewish friends alike.”.

As if echoing these issues, this week we also publish Macha Fogel’s latest column. Her dive into the Yiddish world leads her this time to the Satmar current, whose Yiddish-language press irrigates the Hasidic world from Brooklyn. How do these Jews, American but not WASP-identified, anti-Zionist yet concerned about antisemitism on campus, talk about the war in Gaza?

From day one, Israel’s war in Gaza has been legitimized by a dual objective: to destroy Hamas and to bring back the hostages. However, since wanting to free the hostages “at all costs” implies negotiating with Hamas to buy them back, these two objectives are in contradiction. Thus, from the very first days of the war, a new political divide emerged in Israel: should an agreement for the return of the hostages be negotiated, or not, at the risk of national security? Noémie Issan-Benchimol examines the coordinates of the opposition between the various Israeli “tribes” on this thorny issue. At a time when hostage posters have been torn down even in Israel on the basis that they would undermine martial morale, it is in fact Jewish fraternity that is at stake: is the person captured by the enemy still part of the community, is solidarity still required? Tracing the traditional legitimization of hostage rescue in Jewish thought, Noémie Issan-Benchimol asks how the form of brotherhood specific to exile can relate to the state situation.

While life in exile is marked by a constitutive instability, it is nonetheless punctuated by a calendar that emphasizes festivities.
Lacking the reassuring certainty of territorial anchorage, the diasporic Jew is inscribed in a ritualized temporality that serves as support and refuge. For a time, that of the feast, the world is set aside, and anxiety gives way to a carefree attitude that sometimes resembles recklessness. For many observant Jews, October 7 was Shabbat. The next day, coincidentally, was Simchat Torah. This week, Ruben Honigmann gives us an intimate account of this shifted temporality, where the event only happened belatedly, once the cell phones had been switched back on. But do we ever emerge from the night of October 8, where history caught up with us? Months go by, but the stupefaction remains, as if temporality remains dissociated, and all support has been withdrawn.

Sciences Po prides itself on being an establishment where we learn not only the art of rhetoric, but also that of nuance, which presupposes the ability to confront contradictory ideas and critically relate to the diversity of opinions. This is, after all, the least we can expect from an institution that intends to train tomorrow’s intellectual and political elites: that it trains their reflexivity, i.e., that it teaches them to dispense with reflexes of thought that, even cloaked in the trappings of subversion, bear witness to the most blithering conformism. With students and activists parading around in Keffiyehs and controlling the entrance to the “Gaza” lecture hall, it’s doubtful whether this mission has been accomplished. This week, we publish the testimony of Clara Levy, a former Science Po student and founder of the Paris-Tel Aviv Association. She recalls a time when all was not rosy for Jewish students, but when opposing views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be discussed, when teaching staff dared to provoke thought, and when she could feel comfortable enough to organize trips to Israel and Palestine.

“Never again!” The slogan has all the hallmarks of moral indignation, and it is inevitable that it will arise when a disaster occurs for which we know we are in some way responsible. Isn’t this horror intolerable, the horror that is currently gripping us and with which we are struggling, as is the case today in Gaza? But what repetition or what return are we conjuring up? The expression, as we all know, points to the Holocaust. But the reference is all the more effective because it remains implicit, distended. Horror may have its degrees, but we hear that fighting against it is a universal moral imperative that does not tolerate discrimination. The phrase “Never again” will cover all massacres indiscriminately, and its acuity will fade. This week Danny Trom explores a lesser-known source of the formula, which leads him to the poem by a Zionist pioneer, Yitzhak Lamdan: “Never again will Masada fall”. What the poet was trying to ward off was what he saw as the traditional passivity of the Jews, which, in his view, left them open to horror. As for the means of preventing this recurrence, they cannot be those of abstract universalism, any more than they can be those of militarism without any awareness of what it defends…

If a cat speaks when a parrot is eaten, is it enough to say “Jewishness” to understand what we are talking about? European Judaism, and French Judaism in particular, is a mixed reality, inherited from disparate socio-political contexts and traditions, which fit together as best as they can. However, this reality is all too often viewed from an Ashkenazi-centric perspective, which makes Yiddish with a Polish accent the marker of Jewish identity par excellence, and prefers – one wonders why – stuffed carp to the sweetness of North African pastries. The arrival of a free-thinking cat on the French cultural scene has righted some wrongs in this respect. Paying tribute to Joann Sfar’s brilliant comic strip Le Chat du rabbin, Ewa Tartakowsky takes the opportunity to question the colonial situation in which Algerian Jews became French, and the way in which it continues to fuel inequalities within the Jewish world.

A month ago, Javier Milei visited Israel. The world’s first libertarian president once again demonstrated his closeness to the Jewish community by announcing, as soon as he arrived at Ben Gourion airport, his intention to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Usually outrageous, the man who likes to be nicknamed “el loco” showed unusual restraint during his visit with Netanyahu to the scene of the October 7 massacre. What is even more surprising is that there are rumours that, thanks to his prayers and dancing at the Wailing Wall, he was involved in the successful operation to free two Argentinian-born Israeli hostages a few days later. To help you understand why Milei aspires to become Argentina’s first Jewish president, and what Friedrich Hayek and Jewish messianism can do together, we are republishing this week the article that Francesco Callegaro devoted to this question in December.

At K., we have not ceased to underline the horror caused by the attacks of October 7, while at the same time expressing the Zionist dereliction, in the sense that we understand it, and that this event has provoked. The manifestations of hatred of Israel that have come to light – from the most vulgar antisemitism, leading to concrete acts of violence, to that of certain intellectual elites feeding the reaction of part of the global left – are what we need to fight against in the diaspora. In our view, none of this diagnosis can be called into question at a time when the ever worsening situation in Gaza demands that we take a clear stand. While just in its aim, the war has a price in terms of Palestinian lives destroyed that even Israel cannot agree to pay. Michael Walzer put it this way in an interview published in K. on October 18: “the way you conduct a just struggle compromises the justness of that struggle”. And this week, Bruno Karsenti analyzes how Israeli military policy, as currently pursued, undermined by its total lack of perspective, is proving to be a dead end.

But we must not forget that there are many fronts. For Jewish communities in the diaspora, the war is above all symbolic, and is played out in attacks on language itself, when it distorts reality (historical, political) and the demands of thought give way to the temptation to retreat into ideology. This approach is shameful when it takes on the posture of high intellectuality in order to dumb down a captive audience rather than enlighten it. Judith Butler’s statements last week, during a round table in Pantin at the invitation of a decolonial collective, are a case in point. Eva Illouz – for whom the positions of a certain Left undermine the egalitarian and universalist ideals of the Left, opening the way to hatred of the Jews – and our own Karl Kraus – particularly attentive to the foolishness of ready-made opinions that work from within a discourse that claims to be articulate – each return to this in their own way…

What explains South Africa’s commitment to being the vehicle for the accusation of genocide against Israel? [Note: See in K.: “Israel at the ICJ: Interview with Yann Jurovics” and “At the Aftermath of The Hague”]. To listen to South African politicians and their supporters, you’d have to look no further than a selfless love of human rights, freedom and justice. The African National Congress’ (ANC) unwavering support for the Palestinian “resistance” would simply be a natural extension of Mandela’s party’s struggle against apartheid. But, as this essay by Howard Sackstein, a founding member of the Jewish Anti-Apartheid Movement, shows, there are good reasons to be wary of this idyllic narrative. The “rainbow nation” proclaimed by Mandela seems to have developed its dark side since then. At a time when South Africa is plagued by galloping poverty and endemic corruption, the ANC’s attempts to dress itself up as a paragon of virtue seem to be little more than a smokescreen. After all, it wouldn’t be the first to try and buy itself a progressive reputation on the back of Israel. And, by alienating the South African Jews who were its historic allies in the struggle against apartheid, is it not denying part of the heritage to which it lays claim?

In K., we have already questioned the way in which the October 7 massacres revived the memory of the European pogroms for Jews, that fatal repetition which the creation of Israel as a state of refuge for Jews was supposed to avert. This week, Anne Simon explores the mythological, religious, linguistic and literary imaginaries conjured up by the recent pogrom. However, her starting point opens up other perspectives and sheds new light on the events: that of the Flood. For how did Hamas conceive of its atrocious crime, if not as a retelling of this biblical myth? “Operation Flood of al-Aqsa” is the name they gave to the day when every creature on Israeli soil, including pets, became the target of a divinely-inspired will to annihilate. From then on, hope for the future was captured by the equivocal and scattered motif of the Ark.

Finally, as the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel presented its detailed report on the sexual violence committed by Hamas on October 7 to the UN last week, we are republishing Julia Christ’s article on the subject from late November. At that time, after nearly two months of deafening silence, it was one of the first to shed light on the systematic nature of the rapes suffered by Israeli women during the massacre. Above all, Julia Christ questioned the stakes involved in their concealment by a significant proportion of international opinion, including so-called “feminists”.

What makes the constant flirtation of American anti-racist circles with antisemitism possible, if not a certain ingenuity in the face of historical reality? Confined to the American context, they have the impression that antisemitism is, after all, not a very serious issue, especially when compared to the violent racism of a formerly slave-owning society. Especially since Jews, being “white”, would be welcomed into American society if only they wanted to be. By omitting the European context of persecution against which it was formulated, they can equate Zionism with Western racism and imperialism. From Europe, we then have the impression that, if anti-Zionism can appear to be the natural extension of American anti-racist struggles, it is above all due to a naiveté peculiar to our friends across the Atlantic. In this respect, Christian Voller’s text provides food for thought. Tracing the transformation of the civil rights movement into the militant activism of Black Power, and the way in which Black Americans encountered traditionalist Jews in the slums of America’s industrial metropolises, Voller highlights the genesis of a specific antisemitism, which accuses Jews of being representatives of the domination exercised by white society. Paradoxically, while liberal Americanized Jews have historically supported the civil rights movement, this antisemitism specifically targets the least integrated Jews, reinforcing their identitarian withdrawal. The Brooklyn of the ’70s, with its clashes between Huey Newton’s Black Panthers and Kahane’s Jewish Defense League, appears to be the crucible for a pattern of interpretation that is today applied without nuance to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Contemporary French Judaism seems to suffer from a strange paradox: while it still represents the largest Jewish community in Europe and can boast a particularly rich political and intellectual history, it seems to be bled dry, unable to renew itself and pass on its heritage to younger generations. Gabriel Abensour’s observation is clear: it was only in Israel that he discovered the great thinkers of the French Judaism in which he grew up. Against the attempt to compensate for the instability of identity with a lack of audacity and the adoption of a rigid ultra-Orthodoxy, he reminds us of what Franco-Judaism owes to the revolutionary spirit and to a Sephardism that cannot be reduced to its culinary talents.

Finally, this week we publish the second part of our investigation into the specificities of Greek antisemitism. Journalist Sofia Christoforidou tells us how the Greek authorities have set about tackling the problem. But with the Orthodox Church perpetuating the idea that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, digital packs of Holocaust deniers, tags associating swastikas with the Star of David, and a tendency to import the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the difficulties encountered in this fight are understandably particularly complex to overcome.

By now, we’ve become sadly accustomed to hearing that Jews are taking undue advantage of the history of their persecution, that they’re basically wallowing in their status as eternal victims. This week’s interview with Dara Horn, based on her book People Love Dead Jews, offers an interesting twist on this accusation. For the journalist and professor of Yiddish and Hebrew literature, the question is why Westerners, and Americans in particular, seem to find dead Jews so much more interesting than living ones. Why, in the contemporary imagination, are Jews always relegated to the figure of the victim, or rendered invisible as Jews? For Dara Horn, the sanitization of the memory of the Holocaust, and the teaching of it as a moral fable from which everyone can draw their good conscience, erase the particularity of Jewish life and culture, and reduce Jews to the status of symbols of Nazi horror, and of the lessons we are supposed to have learned from it forever. What therefore seems unthinkable, and gives rise to unease, is the idea that Jews can be actors in their own destiny: the figure of the all-powerful Jew is countered by that of the radically powerless victim. To this interview conducted before October 7, Dara Horn adds a reflection following the event that continues to hit the Middle East.

Little remains of Greece’s once thriving Jewish community, which was devastated by the Holocaust. This has apparently not prevented antisemitism from flourishing, as Greece is now one of the European countries where prejudice against Jews is most prevalent. To understand the specifics of the Greek case, this week we present the first article in a series conceived in partnership between K. magazine and DILCRAH as part of a European survey on the state of public policies to combat antisemitism…

Interview with Carlo Ginzburg / Belgium, 19 April 1943: the attack on the 20th convoy

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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.