On Friday 23rd December the UN passed a resolution demanding a stop to Israeli settlement in the occupied territories as, in a shock move, the US refused to veto the resolution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploded, calling it a 'declaration of war' (having recently been granted a $38 billion military aid package by the US), and Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israel's approach to the peace process. But with Trump tweeting that Israel should 'stay strong' until his inauguration, progress still seems unlikely.
Verso presents a list of books from Israeli, Palestinian, and anti-imperialist authors, to explain the conflict and provide some perspectives on the future.
Esther Benbassa, director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and Green party senator (Val-de-Marne) responds to the burkini crisis: "After this, no one should be surprised about France becoming the laughing stock of the foreign press. Indeed, however ridiculous this fever is, it cannot but be rather worrying. For a lot of politicians – on whatever side – there is a decidedly strong temptation to instrumentalise some people’s anger, and the fears of very many people, in the purely tactical attempt to strip a few votes from the Front National at the next elections, not allowing identitarian laïcité to be the preserve of that party alone."
Originally published in Libération and translated by David Broder
From the ban against wearing the burkini to the proposed nomination of the non-Muslim Jean-Pierre Chevènement as head of the French Foundation for Islamic Works, arguments on both Left and Right are diverting us into senseless rows, making France the laughing stock of the foreign press.
Verso author Esther Benbassa is a Franco-Turkish-Israeli member of the French senate and a leading voice in comparative histories of minorities. Below is a translation of her discussion of the turmoil in the Middle East and the response of Europe, original published in Le Huffington Post.
The last issue of the Jewish Quarterly features an insightful review of Esther Benbassa's Suffering as Identity: The Jewish Paradigm by Devorah Baum. The book, she writes, is "invaluable for both its political deconstruction of victimhood and its recollection of the lesser known, non-lachrymose history of the Jews."
In the review, Baum touches on the key points of Benbassa's book: the idea that shared suffering can be a powerful catalyser of collective identity; the emergence of a collective narrative of Jewish history as "lachrymose" that has also become a "model to imitate" for other oppressed groups; the relationship between Jewish historiography and religion; and the influence of the Christian tradition on the self-representation of Jewish communities:
this influence has only increased in the modern period, particularly post-war when Jews have often appeared in Jewish and Christian responses to Auschwitz as a martyred people whose martyrdom has been consistently compared to the figure of the suffering of Christ.