On a beautiful spring afternoon, about 30 people gathered in a Walter Library conference room, on the University of Minnesota campus, to hear Elhanan Yakira, theÂ Schulman Professor of Philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Yakira spoke Thursday onÂ “The Holocaust and the Jewish State.” His talk touched on some of the material in his most recent book,Â Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust: Three Essays on Denial, Forgetting, and the Delegitimation of Israel (Cambridge).
The book is comprised of three separate essays, which have been published for the first time in English. In the first essay, YakiraÂ investigates the phenomenon in France of left-wing Holocaust denial, which he happened to encounter in the person of Pierre Guillaume, proprietor of La Vieille Taupe (The Old Mole) in Paris, a book store and the main publisher of French Holocaust denial books. He defines the views of Guillaume and his ilk as “ideological perversion.”
- Prof. Elhanan Yakira (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
The second essay deals with Israeli anti-Zionists, who comprise what Yakira refers to as the “community of opprobrium.” In his talk at the U of M, he said that these Israeli academics are supported by like-minded journalists and academics around the world. He mentioned Ilan Pappe, a Haifa University professor now living in England, as example of the coterie of anti-Zionist critics who “are completely marginal in Israel,” but find support abroad. “They talk to the outside, they don’t talk to us,” Yakira commented.
He said that academics like Pappe talk up the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israel and its cultural and educational institutions, then return to their Israeli universities, which provide them with a comfortable living. Yakira said that the “call for BDS is outrageously wrong, morally wrong.” He charged that the BDS proponents outside of Israel are guilty of “moral bankruptcy,” for the way they use Israeli anti-Zionists to deligitimate Israel. He mentioned that there are “many Jews in [the BDS] campaign.”
The third essay in Yakira’s book concernsÂ Hannah Arendt, and the views she expresses about Zionism and Israel in her works, and in her book,Â Eichmann in Jerusalem, which have been exploited by anti-Zionists.
Yakira also discussed the popular reception for Shlomo Sand’s book, The Invention of the Jewish People, which he said has sold about 40,000 copies, despite it being “such a mediocre book.” Yakira dismissed Sand’s thesis that there is no actual “Jewish people”; and remarked that in Western Civilization there is an “a priori… tendency to accept every nonsense, every lie, everything stupid about the Jews.” Since anti-Semitism is considered to be impolite, the calumnies previously directed at Jews are now aimed at Israel, according to Yakira.
In his preface to Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust, the philosophy professor writes that the three essaysÂ “share a single concern: theÂ use of the Holocaust to advance anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli claims. Anti-Zionism has recently gained momentum and become a powerful ideologicalÂ adversary of Israel. Beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, the occupation,Â Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and so on, what is at stake inÂ the anti-Zionist campaign is the basic legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state,Â the right of the Jews to self-determination, and the fundamental moralityÂ of a Jewish polity.” — Mordecai Specktor