Cosmopolitan States
“Truly contemporary states or countries are always cosmopolitan, per-
fectly indistinct in their identitarian configuration.” So writes Alain
Badiou in reply to his rhetorical question: “Israel: the Country in the
World where there are the Fewest Jews?” Unlike the “Jewish state,” truly
contemporary states, he continues, “assume the total contingency of
their historical constitution, and regard the latter as valid only on condi-
tion that it does not fall under any racialist, religious, or more generally
‘cultural’ predicate. Indeed, the last time an established state in France
believed it should call itself the ‘French state’ was under Pétain and the
German occupation.”1 Thus ignominiously linked with Vichy France, Is-
rael, sometimes characterized as the only democracy in the Middle East,
instead enjoys the distinction, in Badiou’s polemic, of figuring as a rogue
state. And yet, the polemic is nuanced enough that Badiou can acknowl-
edge, if only in passing, the fictionality of those truly contemporary,
cosmopolitan states from whose company Israel egregiously sets itself
apart. If Israel is “a country where there are ever fewer Jews,” this is be-
cause it exemplifies, with more painfully obvious irony than any other,
what Badiou calls “l’Antisémitisme essential des États”: their “hostility
to wandering, to minorities, to the universal, to revolutions.”2
For reasons this book has tried to explain, the United States would
have to come out near if not at the top of any current list of countries
with ever fewer Jews. Of course, it is not hard to imagine why, after
Auschwitz, Jews in any country might have wished to de-Judaize them-
selves: to stop being wanderers, minorities, representatives of the uni-
versal and of revolutions. What began, at any rate, in the immediate
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