# 131 / Editorial

In 1941, almost 600,000 Jews were living in Eastern Galicia – a territory that corresponds to today’s Western Ukraine. From the start of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941, genocidal violence raged in the region. In Le pacte antisémite. Le début de la Shoah en Galicie orientale (Éditions Passés/composés)[Not yet translated], Marie Moutier-Bitan seeks to grasp the logic of a moment when everything shifted dramatically in just a few weeks. Concentrated in space and time (22 June – 11 July, the date of the end of the Ternopil pogrom), the book studies the mechanisms that immediately led to the extermination in this region and leaves the reader dumbfounded by the speed of the act – made possible by the initiative left to the local population, free to participate or not in the massacre of the Jews. The investigation, which is conducted “at man’s level, down to the ground”, continues right up to the present day. The historian, with whom we speak in K. this week, has made around 25 trips to meet the last witnesses, mainly former “neighbours” who still live in the villages where the Jews were murdered. In her book, the account of yesterday’s events is reflected in the local memory, which is fragmented and is constantly changing and being used to suit the political events that are currently shaking the region.

Historically, Jews have been able to live under two sets of laws, their own law, known as halakha, and the law of the country in which they live. The adage “The law of the Kingdom is the law” (dina de-malkhouta dina) formulated in the Mishnah was an early warning of the need for Jews to submit to the law enacted by the foreign king, sovereign in his domain, and the law of Moses (torath moché) with which they could not compromise. The accommodation, sometimes unstable, since the advent of political modernity, since a single civil law has been imposed on everyone, including Jews who are now citizens of their States, has only served to exacerbate the potential contradictions between the two spheres – including in Israel which, in matters of personal status, has granted the rabbinate a monopoly, while allowing appeals to the Supreme Court, which judges according to the criteria of a secular State. Astrid von Busekist’s article, based on the get cases, shows, however, that the collision between the two legislative spheres is not necessarily head-on, especially in North America, where mechanisms for cooperation between civil law and rabbinical law have been established, making traditional Jewish life not only possible, but positively influenced by the principle of equality to which every citizen must consent.

Last week, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed – who last May did not deign to describe the recent deadly Ghriba attack as antisemitic – said of the subtropical Mediterranean cyclone Daniel, causing devastating floods in Libya, that “the name Daniel was chosen because the Zionist movement has infiltrated, leaving minds and all thinking in a total intellectual coma”. With these remarks, Tunisia is falling into a conspiracy and anti-Jewish political discourse that is undermining its small community. The rumour spread by the Rais is reminiscent of the one to which the community of Bizerte fell victim in 1961. The rescue of the town’s Jews, accused of treason on behalf of the French army, by Mossad with the uncertain support of the Gaullist authorities, was recounted to us by Agnès Bensimon, with unpublished documents and eyewitness accounts. We are republishing ” Fleeing Bizerte, leaving Tunisia “, which tells one of the beginnings of the end for the Jews of Tunisia, who were abandoned and singled out.

Between 2009 and 2020, Marie Moutier-Bitan made around 25 trips to the former territories of the Soviet Union with the Yahad-in Unum association. Her fieldwork focused in particular on Eastern Galicia, now Western Ukraine, where the author of Le Pacte Antisémite (untranslated from French) attempted to identify the mechanisms that led to the extermination of the Jews in this region, transforming, in the space of a few weeks, the Jews into victims and their neighbours into executioners.

The get, the centrepiece of traditional divorce, is a particularly sensitive legal act which today seems to be the focus of the greatest tension between civil law and Jewish law. Is it a place of confrontation? Astrid von Busekist sees it more as a place where a legal pluralism is formed, capable of honouring freedom of religious practice while bending it towards recognition of the general principle of equality for all.

The departure of the Jews from Tunisia, generally associated with the consequences of the Six Day War, was in fact rooted in a Tunisian-French conflict known as the Bizerte Crisis, which took place five years earlier. The accusation of treason leveled against the Jews of Bizerte, and their consequent rescue by Israel, marked the beginning of the rapid disappearance of any Jewish presence in Tunisia. Writing for K., Agnès Bensimon, a specialist in the history of the Jews in North Africa, tells us about the last days of the Jewish community of Bizerte.

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