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Europe, the Jews and the Book1 Jean-Franfois Lyotard I N UNIFYING ITSELF, Europe also unifies its hatreds. Amongst them, it is indispensable not to confound racism or xenophobia with anti-Semitism. These are two different types of hatred. Both of them can go as far as cold-blooded murder, lynching, arson, ransacking of households, destruction of communal edifices. By setting anti-Semitism apart, it’s not a question of neglecting, of trying to forget (“ swallowing up” ) the almost regular murder of North African children, adolescents or adults in France. The desecration of the graves and the display on a stake of a corpse torn from its coffin in the Jewish cemetery of Carpentras say something specific: it’s that, after the Shoah, the Jews don’t have the right to their dead nor to the memory of their dead. The desecration of Jewish ceme­ teries has a long tradition in Europe. The “ final solution” tortures and kills millions of Jews, without a political reason, but it also makes them disappear and it tries to efface the traces of that annihilation. I say that the Jews represent something that Europe does not want to or cannot know anything about. Even dead, it abolishes their memory and denies them burial in its ground. All of that happens in its uncon­ scious and doesn’t have the right to speak. When the thing is publicly carried out, Europe is seized for an instant by the horror and terror o f seeing its desire. Towards foreign immigrants, especially if they are themselves Euro­ pean, the nationals of Europe behave like rich relatives with poor cousins. The violence of passions, the blindness, the multiplicity of criminal acts are those of family affairs. Every tragedy is a family affair. But the Jews aren’t part of the family, even though they’ve been “ set­ tled in,” as one says, for more than a millenium at Carpentras, for cen­ turies at Prague, at Budapest, and in the Rhineland. The Jews aren’t a nation. They don’t speak a language, their own. They don’t have any roots in a nature, like the European nations. They appeal to a book. Does one have something against books, against their book, against the readers of this book, to the point of violating their sepulture so as to kill their dead? In principle, nothing at all. Europe is enlightened, the scholars and the learned are respected there. In fact, yes. Nothing is as 158 Sp r in g 1991 L y otard slow, difficult, scarcely profitable as learning to read; it’s never finished. In a society avid for performances, profitability, and speed, it’s a devalued exercise, and along with it the institution which provides for it. General teaching crisis, scorn for professors, ambient anti-intellectualism , right up into the media “ cultural professions.” But, should the Jews be the “ men of the Book,” that nevertheless doesn’t explain the desecra­ tion of their cemetery. What begins to explain it is what their book says. For, it’s that which Europe, Christian first of all, then Republican, today rich and permis­ sive, doesn’t want to or cannot know anything about. This book, which is at the base of its whole culture, remained excluded within it. It’s an old story. It begins with the Epistles that the apostle Paul addresses to the Romans and the Hebrews. Forgive me for making a long story short, that is, for misrepresenting. The Book of the Jews says: God is a Voice, one never has access to His visible presence. The veil which separates the two parts of the temple by isolating the Holy of Holies can­ not be crossed (except once a year by the sacrificant, designated by God). Everything that presents itself as divine is an imposture: idol, charismatic leader, supreme guide, false prophet, Son of God. The law of justice and peace cannot be embodied. It doesn’t show us an example to follow. It gave you a book to read, full of history to interpret. Don’t try to come to an agreement with it. You belong to it, it doesn’t belong to you. Yet, Paul says...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 158-161
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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