January 19, 2009

Remembering the Older Forms of Renunciation

The State of Israel: Through millenia of persecution, the Jews held together for the sake of justice. Their rituals, marriage and circumcision, dietary laws ad holy days were moments of cohesion, of continuity. Jewry was not a powerful state but the hope for justice at the end of the world. They were a people and its opposite, a rebuke to all peoples. Now, a state claims to be speaking for Jewry, to be Jewry. The Jewish people in whom the injustice of all peoples has become an accusation, the individuals in whose words and gestures the negative of what is reflected itself, have now become positive themselves. A nation among nations, soldiers, leaders, money-raisers for themselves. Like Christianity once in the Catholic church, but with smaller chances for success, Jewry is now to see the goal in the state of Israel. How profound a resignation in the very triumph of its temporal success. It purchases its survival by paying tribute to the law of the world as it is. Hebrew may be its language, but it is the language of success, not that of the prophets. It has adapted to the state of the world. Let him who is free of guilt cast the first stone. Except . . . it is a pity, for what was meant to be preserved through much renunciation disappears from the world as a result of it, as in the victory of Christianity. The good is good, not because it is victorious but because it resists victory. It must be hoped that the national subjection to the law of the world not meet as drastic an end as that of the individuals did in Europe of Hitler, Stalin, and Franco, and as it may under their overdue successors.

--Max Horkheimer, 1961