Silver lining

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?

3 Replies to “Silver lining”

  1. Robert,
    Much of the UK blogosphere is not motivated by WORLD events, so much as the feeling that the UK political scene in particular is going adrift.
    To this extent, 9/11 has absolutely nothing to do with most UK blogs. If nothing else, the explosion in blogging goes back only a few years – only a handful existed prior to 2003.
    One might make a case for 9/11 spawning the “War on Terror” and/or the Iraq invasion and this led to some change in the political landscape whose wider effects lead to increased politicisation, but it is at best a third order effect.
    For me, it is the relentless dumbing down of politics, the mindless political correctness (with or without your statutory quotes), the culture of spin and the concentration of politicians into an entirely meaningless fluffy centre-ground that refuses to engage with any serious policy issue that caused me to start blogging.
    Oh and the EU constitution – that was what really opened my eyes to the gap between the MSM and the detailed analysis and reporting available in the blogosphere.

  2. Hi Robert
    I didn’t hear the the Rabbi’s talk, but from what you’ve said, I feel that you may have the wrong end of the stick. It was not so much the Holocaust that caused Jews to band together, but the 2000 years of relentless antijudaism that preceded it.
    As for the explosion of political blogs, I feel that the growth of political correctness has spawned a vertiable underground of anonymous political dissent. If many people express unfashionable views secretly, as so many of us do, they will become malignant tumours that will destroy our society. These days people feel free to attack me as a Jew, using Israel as a rod with which to beat me. This, though infuriating, gives me the opportunity to argue my case. In these cases, hopefully, reason will be the winner, and even though I might not convince my critic entirely, I hope I will at least have given them food for thought.
    There are however some sections of society whose actions and statements may not be challenged. They are wrong to allow this to happen as the result must be resentment and misunderstanding.

  3. Yes, I may have been confusing the act of persecution in the Holocaust, with antijudaism in general. But in general, does the point not remain? The culture may have been different without the persecution, but that does not necessarily mean it would have died or been better or worse (if you could use those words with regards to culture), yet this is what the Rabbi was implying. Hence my suggestion he was being rather solispistic.

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