Michel Viviorka, sociologist: “Jews are scapegoats for excellence” | thoughts

Part of this French sociologist’s family died in the Holocaust. For him, anti-Semitism is not an abstract thing: it is history and family memory. But Michel Wieviorka (Paris, 77 years old) was fortunate to grow up in a secular and progressive, cultured and republican environment in another era, the post-war period, and “almost never” throughout his life, he personally Had to face hatred towards Jews. When asked what place his Judaism holds in his identity, he says: “In general, it’s not what comes to mind first, but I don’t hide it, I don’t minimize it. “

We spoke in an office at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences, its academic home, a place steeped in history. Intellectual history: Fernand Braudel and his teacher Alain Touraine, among others, taught here. And just history: the building was built where the Cherche-Midi prison was located, which was used by the Germans during the occupation. From the window you can see the Lutetia Hotel, where Jews who escaped from the Nazi camps returned.

The experienced intellectual has just published in Spanish Anti-Semitism was explained to the youth (Libros del Zorzal, translation by Agustina Blanco) and, in French, The last Jewish joke. The Golden Age and Decline of Jewish Humor, This February 22 he has a meeting at the French Institute in Madrid and the next day he will attend a symposium at the Culture Forum in Valladolid.

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Ask. Has new anti-Semitism spread since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7? An increase in anti-Semitic acts has been reported in France and other countries.

Answer. I wouldn’t say this is a new anti-Semitism, but the anti-Semitism that already existed has been heightened.

Why. What has happened?

R. This has given sectors of the left the opportunity to allow what I would call negativism to manifest. Tender, buried. This is not denialism that says gas chambers did not exist. This is denial to such an extent that there are people who say: ‘I am silent about what happened on October 7, it is not important, it is not worth commenting, and Hamas are resistant, fighting for freedom. ‘ It is not blatant anti-Semitism that says: ‘I want the Jews dead, I want them destroyed.’ This is anti-Semitism to the extent that an extremely violent, criminal, terroristic act is covered up in silence.

Why. It is surprising that anti-Semitism, once associated with the extreme right, is now also found on the left.

R. The classical left is very weak in France. On the other hand, the left, which is far more radical, is strong, and it tries to convince leftist voters to turn away from immigration, often Arab, but not necessarily, often Muslim, but not necessarily. In this universe, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is viewed differently than in other universes.

Why. And the far right denies anti-Semitism.

R. This is a contradiction. The institutional far right presents itself as the enemy of anti-Semitism. Marine Le Pen has taken a clear stand in this regard by saying that she rejects the existence of anti-Semitism in the political sphere.

Why. Good news, right?

R. While this is good news, it doesn’t mean it’s completely true. Furthermore, the party forms alliances with other far-right parties in Europe in which anti-Semitism is more active or visible. It’s a delicate situation, and we may wonder what lies beneath. And secondly, it doesn’t stop the far right from happening there skin headNeo-Nazis, anti-Semitic intellectuals…this is the political landscape.

Why. And beyond politics?

R. There is a basic political scenario of violence and hatred. The violence is anonymous and we must partially and with great caution blame the world coming from Arab-Muslim immigration. Anti-Semitism exists in this universe in the form of prejudices and anti-Semitic acts. On the other side of the board, but across a basic political board, are those who desecrate graves in Jewish cemeteries. This is the scenario. To which we should add one last thing: They are people with this idea that Jews want to control the media and control opinion, and limit freedom of speech.

Why. One slogan used in pro-Palestinian demonstrations since October 7 and the start of the Israeli offensive on Gaza has been: “From the river to the sea.” The idea is that there should be a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and, therefore, Israel should disappear. What do you think?

R. When speaking of the disappearance of a state recognized by the United Nations, something different is said than when criticizing a political regime. I hate Netanyahu. If I just say that I hate Netanyahu and that I hope Israel changes its government and policies and pursues a path of peace, that’s great. I think so too. But if I say that the problem is not Netanyahu, but the existence of the State of Israel, with or without Netanyahu, then I fall into anti-Semitism, the idea that there cannot be a state because it is Jewish. If I say to you, “There should not be a single Jew left in this part of the world from river to sea, this state should disappear,” that is anti-Semitism.

Why. How do you define yourself? Zionist? Not a Zionist?

R. I like the word I once heard (former Green congressman and May ’68 youth leader) Daniel Cohn-Bendit say: a Zionist. I am not interested in debating whether I am for or against the existence of the State of Israel. Present. Seeking to destroy it is out of the question. That’s it. This does not mean that he will defend Netanyahu’s policies. Having said this, I will explain something to you. I feel a bit like Camus during the Algerian War. One day he wrote a letter to his friend Jean Senac. I told him: “I will keep quiet, I can’t talk anymore.” He felt torn. Well, I feel torn in this conflict. I cannot support Israel 100% and I cannot defend Hamas. What can I do? Most of the people I see around me are in one camp or the other. I don’t want to live in a field, I want to live with people who want peace. It is not easy. That’s why I don’t say much.

Why. Was October 7th a massacre?

R. It had dimensions of genocide, it had logic of genocide. But not only this. There was also a military logic to this. The massacre had no military purpose. They included throwing spears at the population in a city to kill the Jews; In general, in Central Europe there was a more or less clear agreement between power and the population. But it was not for military purposes. Here’s a mix.

Why. How have you experienced what has happened since that day?

R. I am one of those people who find the way Israel is waging war today shocking. shocking. I cannot defend this war. Even less so because it causes thousands of victims on the Palestinian side and, moreover, because it is Israel’s repudiation of the principle to which its citizens feel attached: “Everything for the hostages.”

Why. Anti-Semitism began at least two millennia ago. Will it never end?

R. becomes. In fact, the term anti-Semitism is a late 19th century term. First there was anti-Semitism. It is true that the Jewish people are the only people who know what 2,000 years of persecution, hatred, destruction has produced, as well as the capacity for resilience, resistance, and humor. Will anti-Semitism be renewed? Unfortunately, I think so, and what we are experiencing right now encourages it.

Why. What does it mean?

R. The behavior of the Israeli military and government breeds hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews, whom many people (Jews around the world) consider allies of this government. But this government action does not give rise to anti-Semitism. Find in it what to feed. You can hate a government without hating the affected population, especially when it is not dependent on it, as is the case with Diaspora Jews.

Why. Anti-Semites do not require Israel to do everything it does to be anti-Semitic.

R. no way. Anti-Semitism grows out of context, but it is irrational, it works by scapegoating. There is no society that does not, at one time or another, seek explanations for its misfortunes or its difficulties or its crises, and the Jews are formidable because it can always be said that they plot, that they act in the shadows. . They are the scapegoat for excellence and unfortunately, there is no reason for it to disappear.

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(TagstoTranslate)Arab–Israeli conflict(T)antisemitism(T)Zionism(T)Palestine(T)Hamas(T)Benjamin Netanyahu(T)Gaza Strip(T)Zionism(T)Fernand Braudel(T)Alain Touren(T) Freedom of expression

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