Description – Antisemitism

What is it that explains the ability of anti-Zionism to unify protests in the name of emancipation, and the fact that Israel has become the focal point of criticism from universities? In a measured and enlightening text, Bruno Karsenti takes a step-by-step look at the language of student protests, to gain a perspective on the political reconfigurations that lie ahead. In this language, two notions are opposed as irreconcilable: the nation, the only historically realized political form of collective and individual emancipation, and an apolitical fetish – the solution to all ills – autochthony. A drifting critique haunts the university, which instead of reflexively reclaiming the potential of the political form nation – which has undeniably led to crimes – opposes it with the fantasy of a pure, authentic people. Unbeknownst to the students, it is the old ‘Jewish question’ that finds a new formulation, around the unthinkable persistence of the Jewish people in the modern nation.

On what cultural soil is the radical condemnation of Israel based? Eva Illouz applies the principle of deconstruction of representations so beloved of part of the Left to the question of antisemitism. She sheds light on the old trope that feeds militant passion, and allows it to clear its conscience: the idea that Jews represent a danger to humanity.

The historical crises of the first two decades of the 21st century, from 9/11 to the coronavirus pandemic and further, have prompted much discussion about conspiracy theories and their detrimental impact on the public sphere, public reason, democratic institutions, and, indeed, democratic political regimes. This renewed interest has been kindled in particular by the ever-growing presence of different, so-called “alternative” news outlets that reject mainstream news media coverage and framing. At the same time, conspiracy theories are linked to the concept of social critique and critical social science in general: there are debates in which they are discussed in relationship with the proper operation of democracy, contrasted to the rule of an antidemocratic elite. However, if conspiratorial criticism is simply taken as just another anti-hegemonic form of critique, as it is frequently done in some critical interpretations, then an important point will be missed, namely that it may turn out to be antisemitic. Conversely, it is equally or even more problematic if anti-hegemonic critique turns into antisemitism due to a conspiratorial worldview.

What is going on in Belgium? Joël Kotek is alarmed at the spread of an “anti-Israeli passion” across the entire Belgian political spectrum, and asks what is allowing the expression of unabashed antisemitism in Europe’s capital.

On February 26, a riot broke out on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, on the occasion of the visit of an Israeli lecturer. Daniel Solomon, a doctoral student in history and K.’s first English translator , gives us an insider’s account of the event and the threatening climate in which it took place. As the rise of antisemitism calls into question American exceptionalism, Solomon examines the loss of illusions, and the sense of loneliness that accompanies it.

In this latest instalment of our series, conceived in partnership with DILCRAH, on antisemitism in Europe, Liam Hoare looks at Austria’s strategy for combating hatred and prejudice against Jews. After exploring how Austria intends to take responsibility for its Nazi past and promote Jewish life, this week Liam Hoare develops the challenges and paradoxes of this endeavor. Like most Western countries, Austria has seen a resurgence of antisemitism in recent years, and is governed by a party associated with the far right. How can we ensure the long-term stability of Austrian Jewish life at a time when the war in Gaza is setting tempers alight in Europe?

In this latest instalment of our series on antisemitism in Europe, produced in partnership with DILCRAH, Liam Hoare looks at Austria’s strategy for combating hatred and prejudice against Jews. In this first part of his investigation, which will be concluded next week, he focuses on the desire to ensure the continuity of Austrian Jewish life, notably through an educational policy. But how does this fit in with Austria’s history of collaboration in the Nazi crimes?

This text was written in a different context from that which emerged after October 7. It did, however, anticipate a double question precipitated by this event: that of the specificity of antisemitism within the logic of racism, and that of what, in contemporary societies, makes the potential victims of racism sometimes bearers, paradoxically, of antisemitic arguments.

Philip Spencer, author of numerous texts on modern anti-Semitism and the Shoah – and more particularly on the problems raised by their treatment on the left – is now a member of the new London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, founded by David Hirsh. In his interview with K., in which he discusses his own political career, he looks back at the reactions to 7 October in England, going through the history of the undigested legacy of the British mandate over Palestine and the history of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

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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.