I was interested to hear Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok on BBC Radio 4’s Start The Week yesterday, claiming that there exists a Paradox of anti-Semitism, in which the very fact of persecution has meant that Jewish people have grouped together to preserve their culture, something they may not have otherwise done.
He makes an interesting point, but I was not convinced that he is not simply stating a truism, or a solopsim, or both. To what extent is contemporary Jewish identity shaped by the Holocaust? if those events have now become a part of the Jewish culture or narrative then that does not mean that Judaism required a Holocaust in order to become whole.
1. Jewish culture is valuable;
2. Jewish culture includes a Holocaust; therefore
3. The Holocaust is valuable.
I’m pretty sure the logic is flawed there. Simply because Jewish identity was strengthened among those who avoided persecution, that does not mean that an alternative would not also have been strong. Indeed, one tragedy of the genocide is the lament for the ‘lost culture,’ the one that would have manifested itself had the Nazis not have perpetrated their evil.
On a related point, a friend of mine commented recently that the attacks of 11th September 2001 have made the world a more politicised place, with more people engaging in politics and in political dialogue. As a catalyst for this, 9/11 would therefore be a positive thing!
Again, I’m not sure one event can take credit for this politicisation, and in any case, the nature of politics is surely related to the idea of change… a response to events, a human desire to make things different. How big does the silver lining have to be, in order for us to tolerate the rain-cloud? In the case of the Holocaust, surely the cloud is so big and offensive, no amount silver-lining could cause any kind of ethical dilemma that Dan Cohn-Sherbok dubs a ‘paradox’.
I have yet to read the book however, so perhaps I am being a reactionary, psyco-analysing the book’s four word title.
The same friend cited the rise in people motivated to write a blog, as a manifestation of this increased politicisation. I wonder how other bloggers feel about this? To what extent have world events motivated them to write? How would political blogging be different if 9/11 had not happened? Would we have asked the same questions?