, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 181-200

Levinas, Israel and the Call to Conscience

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Abstract

This article argues that Gillian Rose’s critique of Levinas’s marriage of political commentary to his thinking on ethics is misplaced in that it fails to identify the nature and essence of his project. I demonstrate that Rose’s complaint rests upon Levinas’s refusal to contextualise his ethics, which she perceives as a betrayal of modernist philosophy. I reject this analysis and demonstrate how clearly it misses the mark when she takes Levinas to task for his supposed ‚exoneration’ of Israel. Levinas’s position on Israel is, on an initial superficial reading, ambivalent but within that ambivalence he has clearly identified the gap that exists between Israel as a political entity and Israel as a spiritual community. It is precisely the very diremption, to which Rose takes such exception, that opens up the possibility of calling the state of Israel to moral accountability.