Simone Weil’s “Tormented Flirtation” with Catholicism and Her Shameful Silence about the Holocaust

Born in 1909, Simone Weil developed a reputation as one of France’s most influential philosophers only after her untimely death at the age of thirty-four. Her older brother André, by contrast, lived to the age of ninety-two and received many accolades for his contributions to theoretical mathematics. While the two were raised in a thoroughly secular Jewish Parisian home, both had a markedly mystical bent in their thinking: André was fascinated by Hindu thought and particularly by the Bhagavad Gita, and spoke often of the beauty of mathematics; Simone’s twin philosophical occupations were radical politics and questions of faith rooted in what one reader termed her “tormented flirtation with Catholicism.”

Reviewing an unorthodox, semi-fictional biography of the two siblings, David Guaspari comments on Simone’s theology:

To some, [Weil’s religious thought] is a challenging mysticism—to others, mystification. There is no doubt that Simone honestly attempted to live [by her religious ideals], and her writings attempt to elaborate it in ways often surprising or paradoxical. For example, Gravity and Grace, mined from her notebooks, says: “Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith; and in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be an atheist with that part of myself that is not made for God.” This passage is often quoted on atheism discussion forums. Also from that book: “There are people for whom everything is salutary which brings God nearer to them. For me it is everything which keeps him at a distance.” Yet Weil is also quoted in the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Prayer is nothing other than attention in its purest form.”

As for her relationship with her fellow Jews, Guaspari writes that it is what is “most problematic” about her life work—despite the fact that she escaped from Paris moments before the arrival of the Nazis, and was involved in the French resistance:

Leave aside her fierce hostility to the Old Testament, which counted among her heresies; this crusader for justice was virtually silent about the Holocaust. And when Vichy’s anti-Semitic laws touched her directly, by blocking her appointment to a teaching position in Marseille, her response was not to denounce them but to play the clubhouse lawyer with a lengthy explanation of why she shouldn’t be classified as a Jew.

Read more at New Atlantis

More about: Catholicism, French Jewry, Holocaust, Mathematics, Philosophy, Vichy France

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security