Pierre-André Taguieff

Philo-Semitism Is Philo-Semitism an Antisemitism? Publication date : February 2, 2022

Pierre-André Taguieff is a political analyst, sociologist, historian of ideas, a figure in French intellectual life since the end of the 1970s. He is honorary head of research at the CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique - French National Centre for Scientific Research].

“Can we escape antisemitism, and how? This is the question raised in the present work. It leads to a questioning of ‘philo-semitism,’ a term by which one usually designates, in relationships between Christians and Jews in the Western world, a shift from hostility to dialogue, from contempt to respect, and from aversion to esteem.”

Pierre-André Taguieff investigates this reversal of antisemitism, which has given birth to a “philo-semitic” counter-tradition. He undertakes an in-depth examination of the wavering between a hatred and a defense (or love) of Jews. With a concern for precision, because it is crucial to name things correctly: Judeophobia and antisemitism have nuances, anti-Zionism is not the same as antisemitism, etc.

This work is a treatise on pro- and anti-Jewish arguments and postures as they have been developed by a selection of authors and public figures, from Michelet to Yann Moix. It also looks at the Enlightenment – with Spinoza and Kant. The book looks especially at antisemitism in the Nineteenth Century (following the Dreyfus Affair) and in the beginning of the Twentieth Century. We encounter Mirabeau, Michelet, Clemenceau, Zola, Leroy-Beaulieu, Barrès, Bloy, Bernanos, Blanchot, several popes, Nietzsche, Céline, Alain, Sartre, Simone Weil, and Yann Moix. Their writings and their ambiguities on the Jewish question are closely examined through a selection of judiciously chosen and remarkably analyzed quotations.

Here Taguieff, without concession but without excess, presents a portrait that one might prefer not to see and which has echoes in current events.

In hindsight, that portrait might appear wholesomely old-fashioned and even trivial, at least for everything that preceded the 1930s, if it hadn’t led to the abominations of the Twentieth Century, and if we weren’t again seeing, with a distressingly foreseeable constancy, here and there, in France as elsewhere, the same sinister theater of hatred, so quick to end in tragedy. One can find reflections of it in the rebirth of a phraseology that recalls the pre-war verbal violence, in contemporary discourse in which people are accused lightly of communitarianism, Islamism or Islam-leftism, of neocolonialism, and of all sorts of “-isms” with vague and vindictive ideological undertones supported by frustrated or triumphant identitarianisms.