Thursday, July 06, 2006

IHT Looks Back At The Dreyfus Affair

IHT: Entr'acte: Dreyfus Affair - Over, or under a new name?

One hundred years ago this month, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish army officer who had spent five years on Devil's Island for high treason and an additional seven years trying to clear his name, was absolved by France's Supreme Court. A few days later, he was reinstated into the army, promoted to lieutenant colonel and given the Légion d'Honneur.

The Dreyfus Affair, which deeply divided France and sparked a vicious wave of anti-Semitism, was finally over. Or was it?

I know I have a sizable French crowd that pops in from time to time. I would be interested what they (and others that have knowledge of the subject) have to say about this article/essay.

So, what say ye?


superfrenchie said...

All I have to say is this: I'm tired of that stupid stereotype that the French are still antisemite. They were, certainly. But no longer.

As a matter of fact, they are markedly more tolerant of Jews than any Western country (except presumably Israel). And yes, more than Americans.

See here for the details.

And yes, even the French Muslims are tolerant of Jews than say, the Russians or the Spaniards. They're also more tolerant of Jews than Americans are tolerant of Muslims.
See the chart below the one I linked to for that.

Shouldn't the IHT/NYT go after Spain, for a change? Look at their numbers! And there's no reason not to: they're no longer in the coalition of the willing!

superfrenchie said...

I would also add that the Brits should look in the mirror before writing that kind of stupid articles.

Not only are Jews better appreciated in France (86% to 74%), but the positive numbers in France have been climbing over the last 3 years (from 81% to 86%) while they have been declining in GB (76% to 74%).

LASunsett said...


You know how I feel about polls, even from unbiased sources. I don't think that they always measure accurately. But this Pew poll is probably fairly accurate. I say that mainly because it is consistent with the numbers Chirac pulled in against Le Pen, in the second round in 2002.

That said, I will say that many times, perception is almost everything. You can have the polls on your side, but if the perception is to the contrary, then you have a problem.

The problem I see here is that the French government is perceived as being anti-semitic. This is for many different reasons, but the one I would highlight right at this point in time, would be the upcoming presidential election.

Knowledge of the French election system is severely lacking in other parts of the world, here and Britain are certainly included. In countries other than France and it's closest neighbors and allies, the people remember that Le Pen was able to make the second round, last time around. And quite frankly, I feel this is the primary reason for the anxiety, among Jews and others.

Just do a search on France and anti-semitism and articles from a variety of sources. You will see what I mean by the perception problem. Le Pen's name almost always shows up. It doesn't matter what the facts may or may not be, this is what many in the world are worried about.

Now I know you say that Le Pen slipped in as a fluke, becaue there were some people that registered a "protest vote". But if that is true, why Le Pen? Why not others? Why the Pat Buchanan of France?

I think that much could be done on the part of the French government to ease some of the fears that others in the world, may have on this issue. But the perception is that the government is worried that such goodwill gestures that would inflame the anger of French Muslims. And frankly, I am inclined to believe that too.

I have a hard time believing that there are many Muslims that truly respect Jews as people, and that includes French Muslims. Some downright hate them to the core. Others may not hate them that much, but they do not have much use for them.

superfrenchie said...

Lasunsett: /Now I know you say that Le Pen slipped in as a fluke, becaue there were some people that registered a "protest vote". But if that is true, why Le Pen?//

It really has little to do with his antisemitism. People who vote for him do so because of his anti-immigration, France first, law and order stance. They simply look past his antisemitism. In that sense, the analogy with Buchanan is very appropriate. I don't think that people who voted for Buchanan (in the primary) did so because of his antisemitic position. They did so because of his anti-immigration, America first, law and order stance.

Don't get me wrong: I deplore the fact that people would so easily look past such antisemitism. But to deduct from that fact that those same people are antisemitic themselves is quite a step, IMHO.

LASunsett said...


I would also add that the Brits should look in the mirror before writing that kind of stupid articles.

Remember, you used a poll as the basis for one of your recent posts and it was taken by many of these same Brits.

But, as for your Le Pen/Buchanan analysis. I agree with you on that. But it's important to note that while forces may not have supported these two because of their anti-semitism; other forces went against them, because they were.

Once again, perception was nearly everything, in that respect.

superfrenchie said...

LASunsett: //I have a hard time believing that there are many Muslims that truly respect Jews as people, and that includes French Muslims. Some downright hate them to the core.//

Well, I have to disagree with you.

For one thing, many French muslims are of North African origin. Those countries have many jews to begin with. Not majorities to be sure, but often sizable minorities that have been integrated for centuries. Think of sephardi Jews in Morocco, for example.

Further, French muslims are relatively well integrated in France and few are extremists.

Here are some stats from a poll of more than 1,000 second- and third-generation French citizens of North and Sub-Saharan African and Turkish descent.

* While a total of 80% said they fasted during the month of Ramadan, and 77% said they never consumed alcohol, only 21% of young Muslims said they go to mosque “at least once or twice a month”

* 56% say that they have no problem practicing their religion in France.

* 81% consider secularism to be a “positive value” and the same number consider that there is no conflict between being integrated and being Muslim.

* 84% say they have a positive opinion of the Christian religion, which is higher than in the French population as a whole (72%)!

* 59% said they are in favor of forbidding the veil in public schools

* Just 5% said they would send their children to a private Islamic school

* 65% said they would have nothing against their own daughter marrying a non-Muslim (which is forbidden by the Koran). And that’s only 16% fewer than in the French population in general, where 19% would disapprove of their daughter marrying a Muslim (19%, the same as Le Pen score in 2003…?)

I know, you'll tell me about the riots. But the riots really had nothing to do with Muslims, and further, while they made a lot of noise, it was only a few thousands youths, while France has 6 million muslims.

L'Amerloque said...

Hi LASunsett !

/*/So, what say ye?/*/

Amerloque thought about this while driving back from Normandy. It's one of those apparently simple questions which could take pages and pages to answer. (smile) Before doing so, he would like to post his standard statement:

In his years on this Earth, Amerloque has learned that when discussing subjects such as this, one must be very careful indeed not to slide down the slippery slope of "racism" or "anti-semitism".

When Amerloque (raised a Catholic) was going to University, he rented a room in an old Victorian house … which was itself rented in its entirety from the owner by … 11 Jewish students. During the school year he spent with them, Amerloque, a "goy", was able to learn much about the Jews, Judaism, Zionism, and other associated issues. (smile) These fellows were "Reform" Jews (as opposed to "Conservative", "Orthodox" and, to a far smaller extent, "Reconstructionist"). There was quite a bit of dicussion as to whether "Israel" was even a good idea for "worldwide Jewry". The entire spectrum of opinion was represented: from 100% pro-Zionists to 100% anti-Zionists, with varying degrees of opinion in between. Amerloque learned that viewing "the Jews" as a monolithic entity is obviously quite erroneous: it just isn't true.

Amerloque would like to share, very briefly, other things he learned those many, many years ago:

Not all "Jews" believe the same things in their personal "Judaism" as other "Jews" do.
Not all "Jews" are necessarily "Zionists".
Not all "Zionists" are necessarily "Jews".
Not all "Zionists" are necessarily in "Israel".
Not all "Israelis" are necessarily "Jews".
Not all "Jews" agree with the policies of the "Israeli" government.
Not all "Israelis" agree with the politicies of the "Israeli" government.

So Amerloque has looked for a way to offer his comment on this in an easily digestible form, i.e., relatively short and sweet. Here is the outline:

The Messenger

The Message
"Antisemitism", before 1948
"Antisemitism", since 1948

It is necessarily in almost summary form: Amerloque apologizes if he refers to events and issues which might be unfamiliar to readers who are themselves not too knowledgeable about France.

The Messenger

It's Alan Riding of the New York Times; for many years he has been the cultural correspondant for Europe; He takes a cultural issue, does "research" by consulting the local press and making some phone calls, and repackages what he learns in a form palatable to NYT's readership. In this case it's "antisemitism in France", a Loch Ness monster type of issue that surfaces at regular intevals. (Just why it comes back so regularly is in itself an issue, as a matter of fact.) Suffice it to say that Riding, Amerloque feels, is quite out to lunch overall: this article is no exception.

Riding simply doesn't mention the complete range of opinions about "anti-semitism" in the press and in the public. Dreyfus in the Pantheon, for example ? Come off it: the Pantheon is for people who did things, not for people who had things done to them. Chirac said "non" to Dreyfus' burial in the Pantheon. It was a foregone conclusion. Riding should've known that.

Riding, for all his alleged experience of Europe, knows very little of France. The Halimi case he speaks about was indeed shocking and blatantly antisemitic and was roundly condemned. However, Riding didn't talk about the rabbi who stabbed himself a while back and cried "antisemitism" or the Jewish girl who last year said she was raped by "Arabs" in the suburban commuter train … and then admitted she had invented the whole story … after it had been the absolute top news story for a week. (sigh)

Obviously two wrongs don't make a right: Amerloque simply points to those two stories out because they took up as much space in the French press as the Halimi affaire did, yet there is no mention of them in an article which pretends to deal with "antisemitism" in France. The article is biased.

The Message

Yes, there is some antisemitism in France. There seems to be about as much now as there was 10 years ago, in Amerloque's view. (SF has some stats which can give the lie to Amerloque … -smile-). In daily life, Amerloque hears far fewer references to "the Jews" than he did in the 1970s and 1980s, and even the early 1990s. The French equivalent of the Anti-Defamation League takes complaints, and some years there are more than others.

"Antisemitism", before 1948

This is the "classical" antisemitism: blood libels and that sort of trash. There are dozens of books and websites that speak to this issue. The Dreyfus affair that Riding refers to was a shameful episode in French history – but Jews in France weren't on a one way street by any means. For example, the Cremieux Decree granted French citizenship to all Jews in North Africa … on October 24, 1870. Yes, during the Nazi occupation of France, thousands of Jews were sent to the extermination camps … but many were saved by their French neighbors and civil servants. Not enough, of course, but one cannot say "all the French" sent "all the French Jews" to the camps. In addition, one must not visit the sins of the fathers on the children, right ?

"Antisemitism", since 1948

France was the colonial power in North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Since the foundation of the State of Israel, France has attempted to maintain what it considers an evenhanded policy in the region. One has only to look at the Suez affair in 1956, for example, or the affair of "the frigates" under DeGaulle. Things began changing in the 1970s (as they did in the USA, to some extent … ): France did not appreciate what was being done to the Palestinians and in Lebanon in the name of "Zionism". Furthermore, France has refused to allow the interests of Israel to predominate in its Middle Eastern policies – and has made no bones about it. This has attracted enmity from some quarters.

Since the 1980s, accusations of French "anti-semitism" appear, in Amerloque's humble view, to have been hurled with relative abandon at regular intervals. The same issues that Norman Finkelstein (and others) speaks out about in the USA happen here in France, too: "anti-Zionism" is considered "anti-semitism" by some people and it's back to square one. There is a big difference between the two.

Of course France has a large population of Arab extraction. There are something like 5 million Muslims in France (not all "Muslims" are "Arabs", of course, and not all "Arabs" are practicing "Muslims" … sound familiar ?). Certainly some of them are not able to see (or simply do not want to see) that the Jewish community is as diverse as their own: hence a degree of antisemitism. What happens – or doesn't happen - in the occupied territories and on the West Bank – both of which are shown on the French news, almost every day – has great influence upon their thinking, too.

Finally, the Jewish Agency has poured quite a bit of time, effort and money (especially since 9/11) into persuading French Jews that its time to make their aliyah and become olim. (There are stats on this, but Amerloque doesn't have the time or energy to ferret them out … SF ?) This, in Amerloque's view, is one of the reasons that the recent anti-semitism charges have come around like clockwork: now that immigration from the ex-Soviet bloc is apparently drying up, other immigrants are needed. There have been quite a few articles in the press and several books on this in France. Emigration to Israel peaked a few years ago, Amerloque seems to remember, and last year saw interviews with some French yordim in the news.

What is particularly vicious in all these charges of "increasing French anti-semitism" is just how patently untrue and unfair they are, in Amerloque's view. There are Jews at every level of society here, just as in the USA and England. One has only to look around – honestly, with no preconceived political agenda.

Certainly France takes the recurring accusations of anti-semitism – especially those originating in the USA - seriously, indeed. Isn't the French ambassador to the USA (Jean-David Levitte) of Jewish extraction, after all ?


LASunsett said...

Hello Amerloque,

As always, it's a pleasure to read your take.

Thank you sir, for your input.

superfrenchie said...

Amerloque: //Finally, the Jewish Agency has poured quite a bit of time, effort and money (especially since 9/11) into persuading French Jews that its time to make their aliyah and become olim. (There are stats on this, but Amerloque doesn't have the time or energy to ferret them out … SF ?)//

Yes, I got them:

In the 6-year period between 2000 and 2005, 11,148 Jews have made Aliyah from France.

That amounts to 1,858 per year, or 0.3% of the French Jews. Moreover, many are now returning. All of that, as Amerloque said, in spite of a vigorous campaign from Israel to ask them to leave, going all the way to Sharon publicly asking them to do so.

By comparison, about 3,000 Americans made Aliyah last year (that's smaller than France in percentage).

superfrenchie said...

Another thing the critics always forget when talking about French anti-semitism:

* Leon Blum, a Jew, was the Prime Minister of France three times: from 1936 to 1937, for one month in 1938, and from December 1946 to January 1947 (that's when Prime Minister was the most preeminent job under the 4th Republic)

* Pierre Mendès-France, a Jew, was a minister in various departments between 1943 and 1956.

* Laurent Fabius, a Jew, was Prime Minister between 1984 and 1986.

See here for a list of prominent politicians who are Jewish.

But of course, since it doesn't fit the agenda of the IHT, you never hear about them.

And why don't they bring up the fact that no Jewish person has ever achieved as prominent a political role in the United States?

LASunsett said...


But of course, since it doesn't fit the agenda of the IHT, you never hear about them.

And why don't they bring up the fact that no Jewish person has ever achieved as prominent a political role in the United States

Sorry SF, I just cannot resist. I tried, but this one just fell into my lap and I had to do no work at all, to get it ;)

Weren't these your words on a previous thread?

I must say I am always flabbergasted when I hear all that criticism of the NY Times. It is by far one of the finest papers in the world, along with the Washington Post, and is much respected abroad.

The IHT is now run by the NYT. I have said many times that the NYT is not the pillar of fair journalism that it once was, many, many years ago.

And it stands to reason that if it has an agenda as far as France is concerned, it can have one as far as America is concerned. They may not always point out instances of anti-semitism here, but their spin, their bias about other topics, is way off base too.

Overall, I feel they are a very irresponsible newspaper. And now after you read this story, I would think you would think the same thing, too.


superfrenchie said...

LA: Fair question!

I also said in that thread that 1. I did not read the IHT regularly and 2. that I was questionning the actual links between the NYT and the IHT besides ownership: for example, do they share writers, editorials, a board?

I do not know the answer to those questions, but because this particular article has also appeared in the NYT, maybe they do share a lot.

I have also said that when judging a US media organization, I tried to make abstraction of its French-bashing agenda. I have already acknowledged the French-basher residents of the NYT, namely Tom Friedman and David Brooks. But unlike say Bill O'Reilly at Fox News, French-bashing is not part of their routine business. It's just something they do from time to time to make sure they also cater to the bigots that read them.

Once I have made abstraction of the occasional French-bashing in the NYT, I fail to see the obvious agenda. Especially after they backed up the war in Iraq so enthusiastically. did they have an agenda when they backed up the war, or when they waited until after the 2004 election to reveal the spying program, or is it just when they are criticizing Bush?

LASunsett said...


1. Yes the NYT and the IHT do share stories, editorials, but the board? I am not sure.

2. Yes the NYT was more on board with the iraq incvasion at the time, it began. But so was John Kerry and John Murtha and many others that have now turned against it, for political expediency.

3. My main point is, in your view they screwed this up. What else do they screw up? If they do it here in this article, they can and do screw other things up too.