#37 / Editorial


The mandate to stun animals prior to slaughter is a demand of many European animal rights activists and environmentalist parties. This purported campaign for animal rights clashes with Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter rules in an incidental way. At least, most of the time. For in the course of history animal welfare has indeed been used to justify anti-Semitic policies and, in the public debate, can still serve as a pretext for the extreme right in its attacks on Islam. But is such a purpose to be found among the majority of today’s animal welfare advocates who oppose ritual slaughter? As Israeli jurist Shai Lavi explains, the question of intent matters to Jews because the accommodations they can make to ritual slaughter standards depend on it. Thus, latent anti-Semitism would make its prohibition unacceptable on principle. By taking the path of historical comparison, Shai Lavi invites us to question what lies behind the intentions.

It is this same question of decoding that runs through the second article of this week, The End of Robert Klein. Looking back at Joseph Losey’s mythical film (1976), director and film historian Jean Baptiste Thoret tells of the doubling of the character who gives the film its title. Through the quest of Mr. Klein, played by Alain Delon, who is stubbornly trying to find out who his namesake is, a question is formulated for the spectator, who sees an “ordinary bastard” gradually become a victim of genocide. In the trajectory of Robert Klein, we also see the gradual reunion of the two Frances of the Occupation, one that was hunted down and persecuted from the start, and the other that, when it did not benefit from it, accommodated the situation until the denial of truth became a tragedy.

Giving testimony to the special court convened to try the accused of the November 13 attacks, Bernard Cazeneuve, the former Prime Minister returned to the terrible grief that must have united, at the end of the terrible year 2015, all French people. When we met with him last May, we asked him about the difference in public perception of the attacks depending on whether or not they exclusively affected French Jews. Returning to the public’s reaction to the attacks of November 2015, he estimated that “from the attacks on the terraces of Paris, Saint Denis, and the Bataclan in November 2015, everyone, because they knew or heard of a victim, everyone, because they had seen this insane violence unfold, thought that their own child could be among the victims. From then on, the solidarity that had been manifested in the greatest otherness, took on a new form. With the November attacks, the meaning of otherness was amplified, and everyone projected themselves in the place of the cartoonist, the journalist, or the fellow Jew.”

The ban on ritual slaughter (shehita) has confronted Jews in Europe several times. Shai Lavi reminds us that traditional authorities have always reacted to this situation by trying to adapt to the context in which the ban was formulated – which implies that the intention behind the ban must be clearly identified. Since only the antisemitic motive condemns any compromise, it is extremely important to establish this motive before making a decision. The essay by Shai Lavi, professor of law, suggests that we would be well advised today to extend this enquiry whenever Jews are caught up in any such controversy.

July 1942. Robert Klein is a Parisian art dealer who takes advantage of the Occupation to enrich himself on the backs of Jews forced to sell the pieces of art they own at low prices. One day, he receives a copy of “Information Juive” in his name. But isn’t Klein a good French Catholic? Who is this double? Is it a misunderstanding? A manipulation? Klein goes in search of this Other… and thereby of himself. Jean-Baptiste Thoret revisits Joseph Losey’s film on the occasion of its release on Blu-ray and an edited volume commenting this masterpiece made in 1976.

As Minister of the Interior during the presidency of François Hollande, Bernard Cazeneuve had to deal with the wave of attacks in 2015. An interview about the threats to the Jews of France and the attacks they suffered, as well as his conception of the Republic and the relationship of Jews to it … >>>

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