At the start of its “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” the French National Assembly” (1789) declared: “All men are born and remain free and equal in rights … No person shall be molested for his opinions, even such as are religious, provided that the manifestation of these opinions does not disturb the public order established by the law”. Two years later, in 1791, the same body explicitly acknowledged the Jews as full citizens of the Republic, and, subsequently, in territories where the French Revolutionary armies proved victorious ghetto walls fell and the Jews were liberated in the name of the ideals of the French Republic. In 1806 Napoleon – reflecting the widespread contemporary continental view that Jews were benighted followers of an atavistic creed – convened a so-called Assembly of Jewish Notables, sometimes dubbed the Paris Sanhedrin, in order to satisfy himself, through their replies to a number of questions posed to them, that France’s Jews could adapt to modernity, were capable of assimilating (in the integrationist sense), and therefore merited equality.
Many if not most of Elder’s readers will, of course, be well aware of this episode in modern European history, but for those who don’t, or need reminding, let’s run through a few those questions – there were a dozen in all – and the answers given.
Question One: Is it lawful for Jews to marry more than one wife?
Answer: It is not lawful for Jews to marry more than one wife; in all European countries they conform to the general practice, marrying only one. Moses [the Lawgiver] does not command expressly to take several, but he does not forbid it. He seems even to adopt that custom as generally prevailing, since he settles the rights of inheritance between children of different wives. Although this practice still prevails in the East, yet their ancient doctors have enjoined them to refrain from taking more than one wife, except when the man is enabled by his fortune to maintain several. The case has been different in the West; the wish of adopting the customs of the inhabitants of this part of the world has induced the Jews to renounce polygamy. But as several individuals still indulged in that practice, a synod was convened at Worms in the eleventh century, composed of one hundred rabbis, with Gershom [of Mainz] at their head. This assembly pronounced an excommunication against every Israelite who should in future take more than one wife. Although this prohibition was not to last forever the influence of European mores has universally prevailed.
Question Two: Is divorce allowed by the Jewish religion? Is divorce valid when not pronounced by courts of justice by virtue of laws in contradiction with those of the French Code?
Answer: Repudiation is allowed by the Law of Moses, but is not valid if not previously pronounced by the French Code. In the eyes of every Israelite, without exception, submission to the prince is the first of duties. It is a principle generally acknowledged among them that in everything relating to civil or political interests the law of the state is the supreme law. Before they were admitted in France to share the rights of all citizens, and when they lived under a particular legislation which set them at liberty to follow their religious customs, they had the ability to divorce their wives, but it was extremely rare to see it put into practice. Since the Revolution they have acknowledged no other laws on this head but those of the Empire. At that juncture when they were admitted to the ranks of citizens, the rabbis and the principal Jews appeared before the municipalities of their respective dwelling places and took oaths to conform in everything to the laws and to recognize no other rules in all civil matters.
Question Four: In the eyes of Jews, are Frenchmen considered as their brethren? Or are they considered as strangers?
Answer: In the eyes of Jews Frenchmen are their brethren, and not strangers. The true spirit of the Law of Moses is compatible with this mode of considering Frenchmen. When the Israelites formed a settled and independent nation their law made it a rule for them to consider strangers as their brethren. With the tenderest care for their welfare, their Lawgiver commands to love them, “Love ye therefore the strangers,” says he to the Israelites, “for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” …. A religion whose fundamental tenets are such – a religion which makes a duty of loving the stranger … must surely require that its followers should consider their fellow-citizens as brethren. And how could they consider them otherwise when they inhabit the same land, when they are ruled and protected by the same government and by the same laws? When they enjoy the same rights, and have the same duties to fulfil? There exists, even between the Jew and Christian, a tie which abundantly compensates for religion – it is the ties of gratitude. This sentiment was at first excited in us by the mere grant of toleration. It has been increased these eighteen years by new favours from government, made to such a degree that now our fate is irrevocably linked with the common fate of all Frenchmen. Yes, France is our country, all Frenchmen are our brethren, and this glorious title, by raising up our own esteem, becomes a sure pledge that we shall never cease to be worthy of it.
I mention these particular questions, and their answers, because the scrutiny then applied to Judaism starkly contrasts with the attitude of “liberals” in France, and for that matter “liberals” elsewhere in Western Europe, regarding the large and growing Islamic presence in the continent. Just last week, French academic Guy Mollière – a warm and outspoken admirer of Israel – observed in a typically thoughtful and cogent article (http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6721/muslim-invasion-europe) – please read it! – that ‘Cultural identities in Europe have been eroded to such a point that saying that Europe is based on Judeo-Christian values has become controversial. Any criticism of Islam in Europe is treated as a form of racism, and "Islamophobia" is considered a crime or a sign of mental illness. Islam has not melted into a smooth multiculturalism; it is creating increasingly distressing problems that are almost never brought to light.’
The Gatestone Institute’s publications contain many examples of such “distressing problems” that European elites prefer to ignore, not only problems that impact adversely on Jews, Christians, and state welfare systems themselves, but on women. The Swedish journalist Ingrid Carlquist, for instance, has written often of the blind eye turned by her country’s authorities towards sexual crimes against Swedish women committed by Muslim immigrants. A recent article (http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6753/germany-migrants-demands) describes, inter alia, the despicable, male supremacist contempt for German women, including professionals trying to help them, displayed by Muslim arrivals in Germany.
As for polygamy, what Napoleon was not prepared to tolerate in Jews is being tolerated by supine governments throughout Western Europe, so long as it’s only Muslims who have more than one spouse. These polygamous unions, with all that they portend for the demography of the continent (some Muslim men in Britain, and no doubt in other foolish lands, have 20 children!), are made possible by the welfare payments paid to ostensibly single parent households (the households of the surplus wives). In Britain, several members of the House of Lords are currently warning of the horrendous effects of polygamy and of the discrimination suffered by Muslim women by sharia courts. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11952163/Muslim-men-having-20-children-each-because-of-polygamy-peer-claims.html).
“The Influence of European Mores Has Universally Prevailed”. O, the bitter, bitter irony!
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