German, refugee, Holocaust survivor, and later, an American citizen, she was at times Zionist and at other times anti-Zionist, an author who celebrated Jewish culture but was later attacked by many Jews for her controversial views—e. This vitriol can perhaps be understood in hindsight, and in light of her wartime experiences. Born and raised in Germany, Arendt was the student of some of the greatest philosophical minds of the twentieth century, including Edmund Husserl , Karl Jaspers , and the more controversial Martin Heidegger , with whom she had a romantic relationship. Their connection was not enough to protect her not that she sought it , and she was forced to flee Nazi persecution in She took refuge in Paris for a few years, where she began working for an organization that helped Jewish children emigrate to Palestine an activity she would later continue.

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Edited and with an Introduction by Ron H. Grove Press. Ron H. Feldman, the editor of The Jew as Pariah, has undertaken a difficult task, the vindication of the late Hannah Arendt to the many Jews and non-Jews who found her stance toward things Jewish—especially in Eichmann in Jerusalem—offensive and outrageous.

He has collected fifteen of her pronouncements between and on themes similar to the one she sounded in that notorious volume. Unfortunately, it is not all that easy to get past the tendentious introduction of some thirty-odd pages. He deserves praise for his forthright advocacy of Hannah Arendt, but not for his exaggerated insistence that she was excommunicated by the Jewish community, however much she herself might have courted this martyrdom. Finally, and probably unintentionally, he even does Hannah Arendt a disservice by insisting on the left-wing thrust of her thought.

Some committed suicide the year was ; others toadied to their new country of residence; all lacked the strength that only the author herself seemed to possess, the courage to be conscious pariahs.

Though one would never guess from this piece that thousands of German Jewish refugees were managing to lead dignified lives as dignified Jews in a free country, there is no denying that Miss Arendt stated her case—one might almost say her condition—with considerable eloquence and flashes of brilliant wit.

So far so good, but two problems emerge at once. It would seem that the merit of being an outcast depends mainly on who is doing the casting out.

Miss Arendt, however, glorified the pariah and tried to show that the mere fact of being excluded, in and of itself, conferred special privileges and even nobility. But the second problem complicates the issue, to say the least. A Jew simply cannot be understood solely by looking at those who exclude him. To be a Jew, after all, means to belong to the Jewish people, and for many Jews the special privilege of that belonging was and is far more precious than the creative tension that may be engendered by exclusion.

For Miss Arendt, however, the truest Jew was estrangement incarnate; he was despised not only by other people but by his own. The final example was Kafka. If there is a God who dwells above, then wanting to ascend to the castle becomes a rational activity and being an outcast is hardly the kind of special grace Hannah Arendt desired it to be.

But then, as the editor makes clear, Miss Arendt was forever engaged in the labor of distinguishing between Judaism and Jewishness, accepting the latter while rejecting the former. She fought for a Jewish homeland but against a Jewish state. And how she fought! Priding herself on her sense of political reality, she nevertheless argued for such chimeras as a bi-national state in Palestine, or a federation with the Arabs, or a confederation with the whole region, or a UN trusteeship.

When the Zionist movement not only opted for a Jewish state but attained one, she began to write almost as one who felt personally betrayed. She refused to see any significant difference between Ben-Gurion and Begin; she invented a host of missed opportunities for cooperation between Jews and Arabs; she voiced scores of dire predictions and was less than perfectly graceful when these predictions almost always proved wrong.

A Jewish state was an absolute necessity; nationalism did not disappear merely because Miss Arendt declared it obsolete, and there was no compelling reason why a people with a state could not remain a people unlike other people in all decisive respects.

Both the extraordinary love and the extraordinary hate Israel has provoked since have proved as much. All her work bears traces of a will to overstatement, but in regard to the Eichmann trial she compounded her errors by refusing to acknowledge them.

When Jewish organizations—many of whose leaders are the special target of her considerable talent for venom—began to respond to her wild charges, she saw it all as an attempt to discredit the greatest Jewish loner of the century—herself. The latter attacked her not so much for what she said in Eichmann in Jerusalem as for the tasteless and heartless way in which she said it.

She said she never loved any people, and that since she was Jewish such love of the Jews would be suspect. One paragraph later she admitted that wrongs done by Jews grieved her more than wrongs done by other people. All this could no longer be seen by the outcast Hannah Arendt. She had at long last become a living refutation of her own contentions, by showing that a conscious pariah is just as easily led to delusion as to truth.


The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age



Rereading Hannah Arendt’s “The Jew as Pariah”


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