Universalism has acted as a stimulus for Jewish emancipation, that is, for civil, political and social inclusion. It has also been a source of anti-Jewish prejudice up to and beyond the classic antisemitism of the modern period. While the experience of Jews is by no means unique in this respect, one of the peculiarities of the 'anti-Judaic' tradition has been to represent Jews in some important regard as the 'other' of the universal: as the personification either of a particularism opposed to the universal, or of a false universalism concealing Jewish self-interest. The former contrasts the particularism of the Jews to the universality of bourgeois civil society. The latter contrasts the bad universalism of the 'rootless cosmopolitan Jew' to the good universalism of whatever universal is advanced: nation, race or class. This book explores debates over Jewish emancipation within the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, contrasting the work of two leading protagonists of Jewish emancipation: Christian von Dohm and Moses Mendelssohn. It discusses the emancipatory power of Karl Marx's critique of Bruno Bauer's opposition to Jewish emancipation and endorsement of The Jewish Question. Marxist debates over the growth of anti-Semitism; Hannah Arendt's critique of three types of Jewish responsiveness--assimilationism, Zionism and cosmopolitanism-- to anti-Semitism; and the endeavours of a leading postwar critical theorist, Jurgen Habermas are also discussed. Finally, the book focuses its critique on left antizionists who threaten to reinstate the Jewish question when they identify Israel and Zionism as the enemies of universalism.
supersede the prejudices contained within the Jewish question and to advance more
enlightened ways of thinking about the universality, particularity and singularity
of human beings. It has been a tougher struggle than one might expect.
In Chapter 1 we explore
debates over Jewish emancipation within the eighteenth-century Enlightenment,
contrasting the work of two leading protagonists of Jewish emancipation: ChristianvonDohm and
ChristianvonDohm whom she described as the ‘outstanding
advocate’ of Jewish emancipation in Prussia – put forward an idea of
emancipation that was ‘the source of a great deal of mischief’. 5 To illustrate what kind of
‘mischief’ Arendt had in mind, she quoted a passage from Dohm's 1781
text on The Civic Improvement of Jews :
It would be better if the Jews, along with their
prejudices, did not exist – but since they