Description – Anti-semitism
The book by historians Jean-Frédéric Schaub and Silvia Sebastiani – Race and History in Western Societies (15th-18th centuries) – intersects with many issues familiar to readers of Revue K. It recounts the construction of the concept of “race”, as it plays out in racist thought, as a process spanning several centuries, from the imperialist Ancien Régime to the modern period. It thus offers a much richer history of racism than those often limited to the scientistic theories of the late 19th century. Above all, the book places the “Jewish question” at the heart of its history of the concept of race: election, obstinacy and the invisibility of differences are all problems that Christian societies have encountered in their relationship with the Jews, and whose mark racism bears. Interview with the authors.
At the age of thirty, Cléo Cohen is representative of a movement that is sweeping through part of the younger Sephardic generation: the desire to reconnect with their Arab history, overcoming the silence and sometimes reticence of their parents and grandparents. She lives in Tunisia, where she felt “at home”, as she puts it. Three weeks ago, Cléo Cohen was in the Ghriba synagogue when the attack took place. In this text, she talks about her anxiety during the attack, and above all about the way in which the event impacted on her journey to re-establish her roots. She evokes the latent anti-Semitism in Tunisian society, the anti-Semitism that prevents Jews from being recognised as victims, and the great silence, in Tunisia as in France, in the midst of which this anti-Semitism unfolds.
Jonas Pardo has been an activist for several years within the radical left, where he has long hidden his Judaism. Following the attack on the Hyper Cacher, he decided, with a handful of other activists, not to let the anti-Semitism that sometimes manifests itself and the denial that often surrounds it continue. This was the first step in a process that would lead him to create a training course on the fight against antisemitism specifically designed to address the left. In this article for K. he tells his story, details his training workshop and the various reactions it provokes.
Lavrov’s statement that Zelensky could be both a Jew and a Nazi and that Hitler had “Jewish blood” struck a chord. Reactions in Europe were unanimous in their indignation at what was perceived as the obscene words of a political leader ready to do anything to justify his country’s brutal war. But what exactly is behind this sense of obscenity? Is it really the expression of a rejection of the real Nazism, the one that had the hatred of the Jews as its springboard? Or does this feeling cover a more fundamental ambivalence in the relationship that Europeans have with Jews, even today? Stéphane Bonnet shows us that this is indeed the case. Europeans, rightly shocked by Lavrov’s words, are not so inclined to analyse themselves as much as they should be to fight the roots of their antisemitism. After the Shoah, it is impossible for them to ignore the fact that it lies deep within themselves. And opposing it is a task that requires more than condemning it when it is stated openly: it requires going so far as to want Judaism in Europe and for Europe.
Vienna, 1900: the Austro-Hungarian Empire declines. Its German neighbor overshadows it, and the social mobility of the previous decades comes to a halt. In 1984, in a work that has become a classic, Vienna 1900, sociologist Michael Pollak analyzed the effects of this political and social crisis through the notion of wounded identity. Bruno Karsenti revisits this book this week in K. In his turn, he specifies the causes of this crisis and its main consequence: the development of an unprecedented anti-Semitism. More than a century later, the resurgence of anti-Semitism signals a new crisis in European liberal societies. But a crisis from which all the ways out seem to be blocked.
Georges Clemenceau, France’s newspaper editor-cum-prime minister, endures in historical memory as an implacable foe of antisemitism. He was accused of being indebted to “the Jewish syndicate.” Reading Au pied du Sinai (At the Feet of Sinai, untranslated) might be surprised to find in this collection of short stories and monologues rhetoric that belies the text’s status as a pro-Jewish apologetic. Clemenceau regurgitates a bevy of antisemitic motifs in this book. Philippe Zard explains how at the turn of the century antisemites and anti-antisemites both drew on “a broad repertoire of shared representations” vis-a-vis Jews.
During the night of May 8-9, 1990, a group of neo-Nazis broke into the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras and desecrated about 30 graves. The philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, his pen stirred by events, commented on the persistence of antisemitism in postwar Europe in an article in the Liberation newspaper. Lyotard’s article, emblematic of his later interest in “the Jewish question” in post-Holocaust Europe, has become a reference of specialists, who have passed it around in the intervening three decades. K. is reprinting the text in both English and French so that a wider public can engage with it. Jacques Ehrenfreund, professor of Jewish history at the University of Lausanne, prefaces the philosopher’s landmark meditation.
What happened that caused the newspaper published by the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to demand that the Minister of Culture resign? The presence of a blatantly anti-Semitic painting in the world’s largest contemporary art exhibition – the documenta, which has been held every five years since 1955 in the city of Cassel. It was due to the presence of the painting but also the result of a long debate before the fact about the anti-Semitic character of the 2022 edition of documenta, on which the minister did not want to take position in the name of freedom of art. Julia Christ reports on the crazy sequence of discussions and false humility consequent to the appearance of this work.
On Friday 3 June, Danielle Simonnet, a figure from French political party La France Insoumise, welcomed the support of Jeremy Corbyn, who came from London to beat the pavement in the fifteenth constituency of Paris where she is running for the NUPES (the alliance of the left parties) in the upcoming legislative elections. There was an immediate and legitimate indignation from those who do not have a short memory: they remember Labour’s complacency towards antisemitism when Corbyn was its boss. Danielle Simonnet spoke out: for her, Corbyn is only the “victim of a crude manipulation”. Milo Lévy-Bruhl – who with Adrien Zirah had already analysed in K. the EHRC report on anti-Semitism within the English left-wing party – returns to it this week for Danielle Simonnet’s good information. He takes the opportunity to reflect on the fate of a union of the left, which is undoubtedly desirable today, provided that some of those who lead it no longer deny the reality of the resurgence of anti-Semitism, including on the left.
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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.