#99 / Editorial

But what is the State of Israel? This is what Danny Trom asks in his book “L’État de l’exil” (The State of Exile), just released in France, and of which K. is publishing an excerpt this week. The question may seem incongruous seventy-five years after its founding in 1948. But at the time of its birth, the State of Israel failed to give itself a Constitution: it was unable to perform that modern act by which a nation-state defines itself. Behind this failure, Danny Trom sees the symptom of an impossibility because, he writes, the State of Israel is precisely not the nation-state of the Jewish people. It is an elaboration of another order, which can only be explained in the light of the political experience of European Jews. By reinscribing this State in the contradictory logics which led to its birth and which formed its strange appearance, Danny Trom maintains that the State of Israel is the State of the exile, that it remains attached to it, even though it could be perceived as the preamble to the dissolution of the exilic configuration. Because “Jews” and “State” stand, by construction, in a relationship of exteriority, the syntagm State-Jewish sounds like an oxymoron. It follows that the State of Israel is not so much a Jewish State as a State for the Jews. In this sense, it is a singular and yet modern form of State, whose potential for universalization is sketched out in the book. Danny Trom also points out what this State should not be and which nevertheless affects it from the inside, as the latest political events demonstrate.

Last week we published the first part of the conversation, conducted by Avishag Zafrani, between the philosophers Gérard Bensussan and Ivan Segré on the uses of Jewish tradition by the revolutionary left. It accompanied the essay on the French far-left journal Tiqqun, which drew from the Kabbalah and Jewish esotericism a form of revolutionary messianism that responded to a radical critique of the capitalist world. The following part of the discussion extends the reflection about the theological inspirations for politics. Has the Covenant been a political model of the social contract? What has been its significance for our political modernity? It is also a question of seeing what would have been hidden in the valorization of Jewish esotericism, and in the use of messianism, in particular the democratic dimensions of Jewish plebeianism, as well as the ethics of the Mosaic law.

Icelandic researcher Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, notably the author of a study on anti-Semitism in a country without Jews, wonders why the authorities in his native country promised to initiate Holocaust education in 2000 and 2002 and then did nothing. “The more I think about the Nazi sympathies of Icelanders, their anti-Semitic feelings in a country where there are hardly any Jews, the more I am grateful to nature for having made Iceland an island and for having kept its inhabitants away from their fascist idols on the European continent,” he finally says, in a column where the anger is palpable.

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.

Continuation of Avishag Zafrani’s interview with the philosophers Gérard Bensussan and Ivan Segré on the political uses of the Jewish tradition within the modern revolutionary tradition. How can we think about the processes of secularization of elements of the prophetic or messianic tradition at work on the extreme left, and their participation in the ideas of emancipation and redemption of the world? Why this permanence of a theological-political impulse in the context of our European political modernity?

The Jewish community in Iceland is both young and very small. Yet the island at the edge of Europe has a rich history of antisemitism. To learn more about this apparent paradox, K. publishes a disturbing text by researcher Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson. He tells us about Iceland, its elites of dubious ancestry, its antisemitic undertones… and its few Jews.

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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.