Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
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This paper revisits the fabled yet substantially neglected public exchange between Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem in the wake of Arendt’s publication of the book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Analyzing the central concept of the correspondence, Ahabath Israel, the paper investigates what may be considered two diametrically opposed constructions of Jewish identity and politics. Scholem’s particularistic “politics of continuity” is analyzed in terms achieving continuity or even unity between past and present, the sacred and the secular. This construction is supported by his ultimate dividing line being between the Jewish and non-Jewish, where his correspondent’s place is constructed outside the boundaries of the group. In turn, Arendt introduces the rigidly universalist constitutive categories of post-Enlightenment liberal democracies, where the firm demarcation is drawn exactly between the sacred and secular, the religious and the politics. Consequently, the intrusion of a religious tradition is understood by her as an attempt by Scholem to render otherwise earthly objects beyond the limits of criticism, manifesting not only a racist but a downright totalitarian tendency. Having presented these radical positions — Occidentalism and Orientalism, respectively —, the paper will conclude with pondering the possibility of their reconciliation.


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