Ni patrie ni frontières
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About Maxime Rodinson and his collection of essays : Cult, Ghetto and the State : The Persistence of the Jewish Question(1983)
Article mis en ligne le 17 septembre 2023

After reviewing Jean-Paul Sartre’s Reflections on the Jewish question , I will deal here with the articles collected in Cult, Ghetto and the State : The Persistence of the Jewish Question ? not with the main text (Israel, a colonial settler-state, published separately by Monad Press, 1973) which is included in the French original version of Peuple juif or problème juif ? that I used to write this text. I am not interested here in dealing with Rodinson’s criticism of Jewish nationalism (Zionism), Israeli governments and colonialism. His critiques are carried out in a particularly incisive, subtle and thorough manner in this book, and today, many left anti-Zionists should draw inspiration from his attitude.

My point is different : I want to show to what extent French intellectuals as well as left and far left activists (including Maxime Rodinson) have always had difficulty in understanding antisemitism and the so-called « Jewish question », in contrast to other countries where at least some left scholars and activists have succeeded in going beyond the simplistic Marxist discourse on antisemitism and in providing us with theoretical weapons to fight this scourge.

The journal Ni patrie ni frontières and the website npnf. eu have already published several translations to illustrate this theoretical and political gap between France and other countries, featuring contributions by Marcel Stoetzler, Stephan Grigat, Werner Bonefeld, Keith Kahn-Harris, Spencer Sunshine, Thomas Haury, Steve Cohen, Olaf Kistenmacher, David Hirsh, Camilla Bassi, Andreas Peham, Eric Krebbers, Martin Thomas and Francesco Germinario. Further translations into French will follow...

One can totally agree with left « anti-Zionists » when they denounce Israel’s war crimes, the exploitation and discrimination suffered by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs ; one can support the right of the Palestinians to have their own state, wish for a bi-national state, a socialist Federation of the Middle East, or (even better) the abolition of all existing states in this region and elsewhere. But one must also condemn the willful blindness of many left anti-Zionists to antisemitism (an antisemitism which has been particularly deadly in France since the long torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006 ), and their blindness to the antisemitic viruses that abound in so-called « anti-imperialist » discourses.

This article therefore aims to underline the numerous ambiguities of Maxime Rodinson on what he calls the « Jewish problem », ambiguities that can be found among many left and far left militants or sympathisers today.