How much does modern Jewry need anti-Semitism?

Joseph Dana, an American Jew with whom I spent considerable time recently in Israel and the West Bank, is currently living in Europe. He struggles, like many Jews, with the appalling use of violence meted out by Israel to the Palestinians.

His latest essay is an interesting examination of the desperate need for contemporary Judaism to react against anti-Semitism, real or imagined. Is it the glue that holds the Jewish world together?

The Zionist experience in Palestine has exposed the Jewish people to a number of modern experiences which were previously unknown. The governance of a state, the construction of an army and the maintenance of a civil society are but a few of the tasks which the Zionist movement has thrust upon the Jewish people. This exposure has come at the cost of state politics, class creation and, in the case of Israel, ongoing violent conflict. Perhaps the most taxing cost of the Zionist experiment is the creation of a new internal Jewish politics, one which does not tolerate challenge to its authority. In the past twenty years, the discourse surrounding the holocaust has reached a point in which any genuine challenge to its position as the single most horrific event in human history is met with attacks and dismissal from the official organs of the Jewish community…

So it is clear that Europe, while trying officially to be inclusive and ”˜multicultural’, still harbors classic anti-Semitic problematic among its population. What has been the Jewish response to this episode of modern European anti-Semitism and ultimately, targeted genocide? Unfortunately the response has not been a radical push for inclusion and continued emancipation in European society instead in many sectors of Jewish life there has been an internalization of anti-Semitic understanding of modernity. Take for example the attacks on liberal Jews who openly criticize the actions of the state of Israel in the West Bank. Amos Elon was often targeted as a ”˜rootless cosmopolitan’ because of his move to Italia and his political stance. To use another example, Tony Judt is often criticized for his views and the fact that he does not live in Israel…

The use of the holocaust by the Jewish communities in Israel and the United States is another problematic that has responded to the European model with internalization. Contemporary Jewish identity has been constructed around two opposites, which cannot function without each other, the holocaust and the State of Israel. The American Jewish community, one of the strongest and most secure in history outside of the German Jewish community before the holocaust, have elevated the events that transpired against European Jews to a level of their own identity in the United States. This can clearly be seen in the creation of the US holocaust memorial.

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