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

June 17 2020

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.

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Read more at New Atlantis

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

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy