Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:1-2 (Spring 2006)

Europe's Jewish Problem

Françoise Ouzan on
Les frontières d'Auschwitz:
Les ravages du devoir de mémoire

by Shmuel Trigano

In this book Shmuel Trigano, who teaches at the University of Paris X-Nanterre and is chairman of the Observatoire du Monde juif (an institute for research on anti-Semitism), has analyzed anti-Semitism's contemporary manifestations.

Trigano highlights a paradox: on the one hand, the memory of the Holocaust is exalted; on the other, the Jewish state is accused of Nazism and delegitimated. Regarding the Holocaust, Europe recognizes the victims in the abstract, "their Jewishness being suppressed." This, Trigano maintains, removes the genocide of the Jews from human history - leading, in turn, to a shift in terms of reference. Whereas Europeans are prepared to recognize Jews as victims, in the Israeli case they encounter the reality of soldiers.

Hence, Trigano asserts, Jews are condemned either to be victims or, if Diaspora Jews or Israelis side with Sharon, to fall into the category of Nazis. The discourse on the Holocaust has, therefore, distorted the relationship between Israel and the international community while also influencing the Israeli elite, which tends to reject such an identification with the government of the ostracized state. In this sense, the "obligation of history" condemns the Jews to be "prisoners of Auschwitz" forever.

The Delegitimation of Israel

Not only are the Jews the victims of this usage of memory; they are also accused of exploiting this memory for ideological and financial ends. Trigano concludes that modern Europe does not recognize the Jews as a people, even though it is Zionism that enabled their restoration as a nation. Is Israel, then, just a haven for refugees, or a sovereign state with both a historical and a political dimension? Europe's answer, Trigano suggests, is a denial of Israel's sovereign attributes.

Trigano makes a strong case for this view, recounting in detail, for example, how Edgar Morin, a well-known French intellectual of Jewish origin, criticizes Israel for "inflicting on the Palestinians the suffering it has endured from Europeans for more than a millennium." 1 Trigano denounces French, British, and American Jews who criticize Israel's politics in the name of the memory of the Shoah. He also discusses the United Nations becoming "one of the most important platforms of contemporary anti-Semitism." Similar misgivings about the European posture toward the Jews were expressed by the French philosopher Jean-Claude Milner in his book Les penchants criminals de l'Europe democratique.2

Trigano brilliantly reveals the "major falsification" that occurs in the context of the "obligation of memory": the compassion and goodwill that Europe granted after the discovery of the death camps has been transferred to the Palestinians, "victims" of the Nakba.3 For some, with the Israelis viewed as the culprits, the Nakba even replaces the Shoah. Trigano's accomplishment is to demonstrate that this sleight of hand is aimed at suppressing the postwar plight of Holocaust survivors in Europe whose impact on history was considerable, notably on the creation of the state of Israel. He also emphasizes another forgotten issue: that of the Jews expelled from Arab lands.

Relying on Israeli sources in Hebrew, Trigano also shows that the Oslo accords fostered the war that ensued. He thereby proves that, contrary to the European view, the Palestinians are not "passive marionettes of the theater of European memory," but "the effective agents of its [theatrical] production for their own ends."

Trigano does not hide the fact that he opposes the leftist Jews who tend to censure Israel in the name of the Holocaust. However, his objective is to prove that the state of Israel is neither a historical aberration nor a "parenthesis,"4 according to the idiom of French politicians.

In this passionate and crucial work, the author aims at alerting Jews and non-Jews alike to the danger of legitimating the moral condemnation of the state of Israel, which may become a prelude to its physical extermination. Trigano combats the denial of the Jewish people's right to live in peace in their state, and shows the ways in which the teaching of the Shoah is problematic in Europe. What is at stake is whether Europe intends to handle its problem with Israel in the same way it has dealt with the Jews in the past.

*     *     *


1. Le Monde, 4 June 2002, with Sami Na?r and Danièle Sallenave (French).

2. (Lagrasse: Verdier, 2004) (French).

3. An Arabic term for the 1948 war and displacement of the Palestinian refugees.

4. The term is used to imply that the founding of Israel only marked a historical interlude, and that its existence will end in the way a parenthesis is closed.

*     *     *

DR. FRANÇOISE OUZAN is associate professor (maître de conference) at the University of Reims, and currently an affiliated scholar at the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center of Tel Aviv University and an associate researcher at the French Research Center in Jerusalem (CRFJ).

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The above book review appears in the Spring 2006 issue of the Jewish Political Studies Review, the first and only journal dedicated to the study of Jewish political institutions and behavior, Jewish political thought, and Jewish public affairs.

Published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (, the JPSR appears twice a year in the form of two double issues, either of a general nature or thematic, with contributors including outstanding scholars from the United States, Israel, and abroad.

From the Editors - Manfred Gerstenfeld and Shmuel Sandler

Teaching Morality in Armed Conflict: The Israel Defense Forces Model (At issue) by Amos Guiora

John Paul II and the Jews: An Evaluation by Sergio Minerbi

A Psychoanalytic View of Contemporary Anti-Semitism by Avner Falk

A New (or Perhaps Revived) "Uninhibitedness" toward Jews in Germany by Andrei Markovits

The Politics of "Transmigration": Why Jewish Refugees Had to Leave Switzerland from 1944 to 1954 by Simon Erlanger

Deconstructing Memory and History: The Jewish Military Union (ZZW) and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Laurence Weinbaum and Dariusz Libionka

The Improvement in Israeli-South Korean Relations by Yaacov Cohen

Technology and Jewish Life by Manfred Gerstenfeld and Avraham Wyler

The Columbia University Report on Its Middle Eastern Department's Problems: A Methodological Paradigm for Obscuring Structural Flaws (At issue) by Noah Liben

Book Reviews:

Review Article
: Eran Lerman on Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism by Dore Gold, and Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude by Robert Baer

Herbert Eiteneier on Djihad und Judenhass: Über den neuen antijüdischen Krieg by Matthias Küntzel

Manfred Gerstenfeld on Deutsche Zustände by Wilhelm Heitmeyer (editor)

Nelly Sayagh on La Guerre d'Oslo by Joel Fishman and Efraim Karsh

Michéle Mazel on Arguing from the Constitution by Jeremy Rabkin

Shalom Freedman on Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

Chaim Waxman on Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future by Ben Shapiro

Isi Leibler on Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? by Manfred Gerstenfeld

Joel Fishman on La France, Israel et les Arabes: le double jeu? by Freddy Eytan

Manfred Gerstenfeld on Élèves sous influence by Barbara Lefebvre and Ève Bonnivard

Françoise Ouzan on Les frontières d'Auschwitz: Les ravages du devoir de mémoire by Shmuel Trigano

Michéle Mazel on Le dossier Lyon III by Henri Rousso

Manfred Gerstenfeld on Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany 1945-1953 by Jay Howard Geller

Manfred Gerstenfeld on De Drie van Breda: Duitse oorlogsmisdadigers in Nederlandse gevangenschap 1945-1989 by Hinke Piersma

Stephen G. Donshik on American Jewry's Challenge: Conversations Confronting the Twenty-First Century by Manfred Gerstenfeld

David R. Parsons on The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South by Eli N. Evans

Sarah Schmidt on Jews and Australian Politics by Geoffrey Brahm Levey and Philip Mendes (editors)

Jewish Political Studies Review


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