#88 / Editorial

Even if the results of the recent Israeli elections had been largely anticipated, they have had a startling effect: the most right-wing government in the country’s history is set to be formed, with a man in it – Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the Otzma Yehudit [Jewish Force] party, of which Netanyahu has made his main ally. As Bruno Karsenti writes in his article: “The slope has been taken: the progressive forces, which have proved incapable of allying themselves and converging, and whose deficit on the social front has long since given way to the religious parties, have now been defeated in favour of a reactionary bloc whose open radicalism warrants all fears.” One of these fears: the prospect of a process that touches on the very redefinition of Zionism. In Israel, we now hear a slogan, which we were more used to in the old European nations: “We are at home”. But who is this “we” in the case of Israel? The original Zionist project seems to have gone astray – at least as seen from Europe and the Diaspora – if this formula is understood as the expression of an identity-based nationalism that intends to close off the country and fold it into a form of state that Ben-Gurion would not recognise. What does “being at home” mean in such a state, Bruno Karsenti asks, recalling that a certain idea of openness is structural to the idea that presides over the creation of Israel and its purpose of existence. In so doing, he shows us that the recent elections also call for a renewed reflection on the Israeli-Diaspora bipolarity.

This week, Sylvaine Bulle introduces us to a little-known moment in modern Jewish thought, but one that is part of the emancipatory dynamic of the Haskalah. By “anarcho-Judaism” the sociologist refers to the coherence of a theoretical current developed at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by intellectuals, and sometimes rabbis, most of whom were educated in the yeshivot of Eastern Europe. This branche, at the intersection of Jewish tradition and anarchist thought, within which an ecological thought prefiguring forms of community and mutualist organizations emerged, where the relationship between the earth (adama) and social issues is forcefully affirmed, represents what Sylvaine Bulle designates as a “messianism of the here and now”. Her article gives an account of this political thought, interrupted by the first two world wars, but also of its paradoxical heritage; for if it is in contemporary ecological and libertarian movements that one finds traces of this anarchist and Jewish tradition, it is without it ever being mentioned as such. By ignorance? By avoidance?

Proust died on November 18, so just one hundred years ago this week. The year 2022 has been marked by an intense editorial activity in France around the author of La Recherche du temps perdu. Among the books published, that of Antoine Compagnon: Marcel Proust du côté juif (Gallimard). Milo Lévy-Bruhl has read it, taking an interest in Proust’s specific trajectory within French Judaism, but also comparing it to that of some of his readers – in particular André Spire, a fundamental actor in the 1920s of a Jewish affirmation critical of French-style assimilation conceived in the form of ‘israélitisme‘. “Proust’s pivot to modern Jews” can be read as a double portrait, that of the author of La Recherche and that of one of his readers seeking to annex him as a source enabling him to articulate an internal critique of French Judaism. And in the framework of this double portrait, Proust appears as a pivotal, and perhaps divided, figure whose work testifies to the internal tension of the French Jewish world at the beginning of the twentieth century, traversed by both the dynamics of individual emancipation and of “Jewish awakening”.

After the recent Israeli elections, the most right-wing government in the country’s history is expected to emerge. If the result is the effect of a long dynamic, it is nonetheless staggering. The philosopher Bruno Karsenti comes back in this text on what may well be a turning point in the history of Israel, and on the deviation of Zionism that it signals. A deviation that, in order to be avoided, implies re-understanding Zionism from the Diaspora, and particularly from Europe.

Ecology, as well as anti-capitalist and communalist alternatives, are increasingly popular with activists and researchers committed to social criticism. These audiences sometimes refer to Gustave Landauer (1870-1919), Emma Goldman (1869-1940), Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), or even Martin Buber (1878-1965), Jewish thinkers who can be described as anarchists or libertarian socialists. Their utopian visions prefigured an agrarian socialism or an everyday communism, of which certain initiatives in France – such as the zones to be defended or the alternative and ecological collectives – are reactivations. Sylvaine Bulle returns to the Jewish origins of these reference authors; origins that remain silent by those who analyse and defend their thought.

2022 marks the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s death. For the occasion, the “Jewish side” of the author of In Search of Lost Time is the focus of unprecedented attention. The Museum of Jewish Art and History (mahJ) in Paris is showcasing an exhibition “Marcel Proust. Du côté de la mère” (on display through 28 August), whose principal academic advisor is Antoine Compagnon. The professor at the Collège de France has published a book entitled Marcel Proust du côté juif (Marcel Proust: From the Jewish Side) devoted to analyses of the work that have focused on its “Jewish” aspect. After reading this excellent work, Milo Lévy-Bruhl presents Proust from a new angle: as a product of the competing impulses in modern Judaism of return and emancipation.

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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.