Maud Mandel – "Muslims and Jews in France: A History of Conflict"



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Maud Mandel discusses how Muslims and Jews in France have related to each other as former residents of French North Africa, as immigrants competing for limited resources, as employers and employees, as victims of racist aggression, as religious minorities in a secularizing state, and as French.

it is my great pleasure to introduce Maud Mandel who is professor of history and director of Judaic Studies and Brown University professor Mandel received her undergraduate degree in English from Oberlin College and her PhD in history from the University of Michigan as demonstrated in her first book entitled in the aftermath of genocide Armenians and Jews in 20th century France president Dale's field of expertise focuses primarily on the impact of policy policies and practices of inclusion and exclusion on ethnic and religious minorities in modern France in her fascinating new book that Jonathan just alluded to and they were going to hear thoughts about Muslims and Jews in France history of a conflict professor Mandel to quote professor today can get behind the headlines and examines the two largest communities of both Jews and Muslims living in Europe in contextualizing the history of how the narrative of sworn enemies eric insoluble differences in rising anti-semitism has consolidated over time professor Mandel investigates the key role post-colonial France has played in creating or denying new pathways for its former colonial subjects please join me in giving professor Mandela and Warren bro's welcome they dress and I can't attach my mic to the dress so hoping to hold the remote in my hand as I wander around so first let me just thank Jonathan and Sharaf for the warm welcome and to thank all of you for coming out it's really a wonderful opportunity for an author to have a chance to talk about her research with an interested audience and I'm really looking forward to your questions and comments after the lecture as well so I'm going to begin where my story in some ways ends and that is in autumn of 2001 Muslim and Jewish relations and France captured national and international headlines as a result of the dramatic spike in anti-jewish violence that started to take place in the urban working class neighborhoods of France largely the work of working-class Muslim youths often very young people these events scared print the French Jewish community very much and raised alarms that anti-semitism was rising dramatically in France and that new ethno-religious conflict was beginning to break out and for those of you who read the newspaper you know that there have been rather periodic periodic very dramatic cases of bloodshed since then my talk is actually not going to be about the last 10 years it's going to be sort of explaining us how we got here but this these events have kept the story of Muslim Jewish relations in the headlines in France and in the United States and other places as well so as journalists and public commentators and sometimes scholars have begun as they do to try to figure out why this is going on and there have been a number of suggestions and interpretations for why this is everything ranging from sort of since the time of the Quran Muslims and Jews have been in conflict or elationship or radical Islamic fundamentalism has turned the Muslim population in Europe against Jews some people have argued that and are you and you'll see this kind comes up a little bit as I talk today have argued that social inequities particularly lack of opportunity and economic blocks facing Muslims use have youth have led to sort of bursts of outrage some of which have been directed as Jews and then a very very common argument which you'll hear often in this country as well which is that it is a result this conflict is the result of the transportation of the mid of the Middle East conflict to France or wherever wherever Muslims and Jews live they hate each other and that's because of Israel and Palestine and the conflict that exists there so when I first start out to write the book project that I'm gonna be talking to you about today I was most drawn to the point that I knew deeply to be true which is that the language of polarization was the wrong language that actually most Muslims and Jews weren't in conflict and I think my first title for the book was beyond anti-semitism and then some post : Muslims and Jews in France something like that and the reason I was so convinced about this was because after all a fairly significant proportion of the Muslim Jewish populations in France come from the same place they come from North Africa the first generation of Jewish migrants spoke Arabic for the most part they shared the same cultural norms some even religious practices oddly not the literal liturgy of course but some of the traditions were shared in both cultures they often settled in similar neighborhoods they were ate the same foods and spent time in the same cafes and so I was I sort of set out to write that story but I'm a historian and not an ethnographer and one of the things about historians is that historians find their evidence largely an archives not entirely there are different kinds of historians but I'm the kind of historian who goes into archives and one of the things you realize when you go into archives is the only story first of all it's hard to find anything topic as such it's it's a little bit like needle in the haystack there's not sort of files on Muslim Jewish relations right so so I would go through police reports and all kinds of other files of organizations and minutes of meetings and when I would find traces of Muslim Jewish relations surprise surprise what I found is conflict now that's not necessarily because Muslims and Jews were perpetually in conflict it's because they only show up in archives the only time anybody cares about the relationship is when it's a conflict one right police write reports after a right that's when you get police reports you find articles and newspapers when people are responding to a moment of conflict and and so I started to follow these sources and with this my research really evolved from a straightforward challenge of the narratives of Jewish and Muslim conflict into an examination of how these narratives emerged and how as they emerged they helped produce the conflict itself sort of the more you say that there's conflict the more people start to believe they're actually in conflict with one another and that's sort of the direction the book took and so my talk today is going to draw from this research on the evolution of the political meaning of conflict and consider the processes through which the category of Jew and I'm going to put this in quotes and Muslim became political symbols even as actual Muslims and Jews rarely came into conflict with each other throughout much of the time that we'll be talking about and in fact the very word Jew and Muslims is problematic in some ways because it implies heterogeneity to what we're in fact very diverse I'm sorry home homogeneity to what we're in fact very diverse heterogeneous communities and I'm not going to sort of detail for you all the heterogeneity today right now in the talk you just sort of have to take my word for it but if you want during the question and answer period I can tell you a little bit more about the diversity that actually makes up both of these categories but what I will be talking about is how in some ways heterogeneity was irrelevant it was irrelevant to the hardening of the political binary Muslim Jewish that we're going to be talking about and the core of this story as you'll see if I go forward is going to be France itself I'm gonna focus on France so I'm not gonna talk all that much about the Middle East it's not that the Middle East was irrelevant global developments mattered and people talked about them a lot but the nature of the mobilization around the Middle East who was involved how rhetoric was employed around this issue very often sort of came about because of a set of political and social and economic and cultural realities in France itself and so the impact of the Middle Eastern wars and developments in the Middle East were never actually very straightforward and I'll just read you one quote here that sort of captures this this was a an Algerian Jew who was interviewed by an ethnographer in the early 1990s and she said when we say the Arabs I feel hatred but those are Middle Eastern Arabs I'm not talking about the Arabs who live in France because they don't do us any harm they work they earn their living they have children and families like us a la francaise that's fun so well the reason I read you this citation right now is to point out that to focus solely on the Middle East only on the Middle East really misses or overlooks the way in which other aspects of the story are more important in my opinion and consistently overlooked so again this is not to remove the Middle East from the equation I won't never talk about it but I'm going to talk about it the way the global the national and to a certain extent the local work together to bring about the state of affairs we find ourselves in by 2000 the book I will say parenthetically talks a lot about the local it spends a fair bit of time talking about the city of Marseille I'm actually not going to talk about that too much today because I can't the books for sale you can go by I can only cover so much in one lecture but there is a strong sort of focus on also how particular spaces in Frantz end up bringing out certain different aspects of this tension and relationship over time okay so just to make really clear then as in all historical projects really at base my goal is to make things more complicated to complicate simplistic understandings of the problem before us to challenge notions of inevitability and to force us to ask why and how the past took the shape that it did or to say differently to put a push us against mana causal explanations that is the idea that because Muslims and Jews fight in the Middle East ergo they fight in France it's in some ways it's that although many of us accept that as fact is actually sort of nonsensical when you think about it most of the Muslims or many of the Muslims we'll be talking about who came to France weren't even Arabs they were Berbers and kin and from there are many different kinds of ethnic groups in Algeria from where many of them came the Jews in France for much of the certainly first half of the century were actually hostile many of them were hostile to Zionism so the idea that they're sort of inevitably become polarized around the Middle East even if the Middle East was the central reason they are now polarized which I'll sort of argue against I don't even argue that they're entirely polarized but we have to explain why that happened it didn't it wasn't inevitable okay so to do this I'm going to focus on three moments in French political history that interest me in the book one is the decolonization of North Africa the second is going to be the student uprisings that took place in 1968 in the radicalization of youth political life and the third is going to be experiments in 1980s French multiculturalism and I just realised I need to take my watch off so I can keep track okay and we're going to go through each of these very quickly so that I can give you a sense of and for me I want to talk like this I could have just picked one to give you a kind of one chapter or one theme of the book that I really trying to give you a broad overview of the argument and how each layer builds on the layer before it and so hopefully in giving you a little brief taste of each of these segments of the argument you'll get a sense of of how the broader argument that I'm trying to make okay so my story begins then with the Frances decolonization of North Africa now this starting point may already surprise a book on Muslim Jewish relations in France I suspect at least some of you would think it would start in 1948 with the founding of Israel if that's what we're thinking if we're thinking about Middle East and conflict or maybe even prior to that when there are as already struggles in Palestine between Jews and Muslims in the 1928 late 1920s and early 1930s but actually in France in 1948 there's very little conflict it's sporadic but most Jews and Muslims in France are largely unaware of each other's presence and they really don't spend any time in a significant degree of what one might call conflict or polarization or disagreement about the Middle East in part this is because they're very different from one another so most of the Jews in France in this period are what we would call Ashkenazic Jews Jews from European Jews from from France some of them are native-born some are from Eastern Europe and Poland and the Muslim population in this period is largely an Algerian born migrant labor population working in the unskilled trades they live overwhelmingly in different places they don't interact all that much and in addition to that where they do interact there are Jews coming from North Africa even in this period when they do interact their relations are largely convivial they settle in similar neighborhoods they speak a similar language they share certain cultural similarities from the places from which they came and so there's very little conflict in this early period world war two of course proved extremely disruptive primarily for French citizens Jewish citizens and subjects but really for everybody in some ways and by the time it ended Jews and Muslims had one simple way to put this was more to worry about than each other Jews are rebuilding from the very traumatic World War two period when seventy-five thousand Jews were deported and the remaining community had been very unsettled Muslims in France are swept up in post Cola and colonial struggle against independence struggle excuse me against France that stretches from after World War two until all of the North African countries breakaway over the course of the 50s and 60s and they're so they're they're sort of swept up with other things now it is true that the French Jewish community moves in a much more pro scientist direction in this period not surprising in some ways after World War two we can talk more about that if you want but there sian ism is fairly muted they tend it tends to be private and talking talked about inside communal conversations it's an internal conversation it's not a publicly outwardly express Zionism and there are some Muslims who are start to become more interested than the Algerian nationalist movement for example starts to take some interest in Palestinians but overwhelmingly their interest is focused on breaking away from front the French and so there's actually relatively little conflict in this period as well and so it's only with French decolonization when which pushed ever larger numbers of North Africans both Muslims and Jews to France that these dynamics slowly begin to change in two ways that are crucial to my story first was the way the Jewish out migration that accompanied this process led to new conceptualizations of national belonging for those who left and those who watched them go and second was the very different conditions of integration that Muslim and Jewish migrants met when they arrived in France and let me lay these out so first I talked about the decolonization how it sets many Jews moving most Moroccan and Tunisian Jew most moroccan jews went to israel about ten percent went to france about half of tunisian jews went to israel and half went to france and about 90% of algerian jews went to france and only about 10% to israel and a few other places i'm simplest simplifying it here and there are a lot of things that pushed people to choose to leave north africa a lot of it was Wars of decolonization themselves it was a very violent and unsettling moment there was economic upheaval pretty substantial poverty it was a very difficult time in all of these countries to imagine a future so there were a lot of reasons that Jews chose to leave in these years but if motivations were diverse departures very often came to be understood as Jewish for many of those with a vested interest in the region and I've argued in this book that actually the whole category North African Jew was sort of invented in this moment there really really is nobody really ascribed in the 1950s and 60s to the category North African Jew I'm a North African Jew it wouldn't have been a category that they would say but the category itself sort of gets invented by various political actors at the time as they start to think about this population as a sort of a homogeneous bloc that's in disagreement with those around it so who's doing this who are the political actors who are creating the category North African Jew there are I think you could break it into three sort of groups of people to help us understand this the first are French officials French administrators really worried about instability in a period of rising nationalism and who start to see any kind of sign of disruption as really problematic for their Imperial hold and they so they start to talk about anytime there's a small problem and there are between Muslims and Jews on the ground and their various political Holdings they start to sort of think about it in more global terms particularly because of what's happening in the Middle East a second group that gets very interested in the plight of the plate and I'm put the word in quotes as you'll see for a reason the plight of North African Jews in the 1950s and 60s our international Jewish agencies who are mostly focused on European Jewish refugees in these years of settling them and helping them after World War 2 very bad things have happened to Jews as a result of the war they're very upset largely and they're committed to saving Jews for the future most of them had not didn't know very much about North Africa or North African Jews prior to this time but as a result of what happened in Europe and as a result of the war of Israeli independence in 1948 they start looking at Jews everywhere to say you know what can we do to save and help Jews everywhere and when they look at North Africa what they see they they sort of see through the glasses of the Holocaust they see the violence and upheaval of World War two as a sort of inevitable story that's going to happen everywhere and so they start talking about Jews in North Africa again at this kind of category North African Jew as endangered so I just want to read you here a citation from this is a just an example of many I could give you in 1950 by from a woman who worked for the Joint Distribution Committee which was a Jewish welfare agency after the war and she argued for this is her quote there is a certain danger and in the source danger is all in capitals there is a certain danger which menaces this Jewish minority of a half million souls lost in a mass of about 20 million Arabs who scorned and hidden hostility toward the Jew has been transformed to open hate since the establishment of the State of Israel now for those of you listening you might just say oh yeah of course that's what was happening but actually just if you read the source closely you'll note in the line that I read you lost in a mass of 20 million Arabs well there were Arabs in North Africa but there were other Muslim ethnic groups as well and the idea that Jews are polarized against Arabs loses the differences between Morocco and Tunisia and Algeria between cities and country between wealthy and poor and it so you can see a simplification going on it's not that there wasn't tension sometimes there was but it was the reading of the tension through this idea of lost and oppressed minority who you had to save and how these Jewish agencies called to save these Jews was through migration to Israel not always it's not the only thing they did but they start to make the case that the only answer to really save Jews in the region is by out migration and so this they begin emphasizing a discourse of Jewish alienation alienation and exclusion from the entire Arab world and then a third source for this north african jew and north african jewish problem are the the algerian Tunisian and Moroccan Muslim North African Muslim excuse me nationalist movements themselves which were very careful most of the time not to do that they tried very hard to argue that Jews are indigenous peoples to the region like Muslims they should join us in the fight against the French so Algerian Jews are algerian moroccan jews are moroccan first Tunisian Jews are Tunisian first that they that they are that they must join us in fighting the colonial oppressor but the more Jews who left more that that argument seemed to take a bit of a beating and there were people in all of these movements not always the mainstream speak spokesman's for the movements but there were individuals and all of them who start to blur the boundaries between Jews and Zionists between the shared indigenous positionality that we owe that they all felt they had that they were the case they were making that they all shared versus the idea that Jews were somehow outsiders to these nationalist movements so the combined voices of French colonial administrators international Jewish organizations and nationalist activists meant that by the end of decolonization there was a North African Jewish story to tell a story and this is really the point that rendered less visible the diverse ways in which Jews and Muslims interacted on the ground and alternative political visions of Muslim Jewish cooperation so it's not that there wasn't conflict sometimes there was but that conflict was just one way of interacting and this becomes starts slowly to become the only way of understanding these relationships but the impact of decolonization as I suggested was more than discursive that is to say has tens of thousands of Jews and Muslims migrated to France in the wake of decolonization the Jew juridical and social inequalities of French colonialism make their way to the Metropole with these Jewish migrants so what do I mean by that colonialism itself French colonialism itself differentiated among the different indigenous populations that came under French control and right from the beginning of French colonial control particularly in Algeria and remember I told you that 90% of Algerian Jews go to France fairly soon after Algeria France conquers Algeria they grant full equality full civil rights to Jews in the French nation-state this happens in 1870s in the CREM you decrease had the impact of doing and this is a long and complicated story but it juridically cut off Jews from most other Algerian that is to say Muslim subjects and while this process of naturalization didn't happen in Tunisia and Morocco there was a similar sort of understanding that Jews were more assimilable into European society than Muslims and a greater access was given to used for French education jobs opportunities and the like and again this varied among the three North African countries but in all of them there were inequalities built into French colonialism that then went with Jews and Muslims to France what does that mean well if you're a when at the end in 1962 when France pulls out of Algeria they collapse Jews into the categories of Europeans who are leaving so Jews are Europeans and therefore citizens which means in their new home they're gonna have access to houses subsidized housing they're gonna have access to better jobs REE REE REE classmen tanned French professional life whereas Muslims became immigrants they had been citizens of there were at least said prolonged on subjects of the French Empire briefly citizens at the end and then suddenly now immigrants and they also come in large numbers but as immigrants largely unskilled they end up in poorer neighborhoods often quite terrible shanty towns the least skilled jobs and with more difficult pathway to integrating into the French nation-state in addition Jews arrived to an established trenched Jewish community that helped that helped them there was plenty of tension between the native French Jewish community and the immigrant community the Algerian North Moroccan and tunisian Jews who came but nevertheless there was an established infrastructure among French Jews to welcome these newcomers and who helped them with resources housing religious support social communal institutions Muslims had very little of that kind of infrastructure in place and therefore were much more reliant on French welfare services which were spotty and not very welcoming to them because after all they had just fought a bloody war of decolonization against the Algerians in particular in Tunisians and Moroccan 's and so and so we're sort of sort of less open to them so I'll just read you here this is what one Jewish observer noted in 1962 describing this is an Algerian Jew arriving from Algeria and describing the scene in a quarter of the airport someone installs a small counter with stools the seats are cramped and the signs touch each other Catholic Relief Services Jewish social services students Algerian gas and electric employees and other with more mysterious signs each comes to find his own only the Arabs have no right to any sign in particular having disengaged they are part of our past and as such we abandoned them to the good heart of the Red Cross and so you can just see there an example of metaphoric or paradigmatic I guess a better way of putting an example of what these different groups were facing it wasn't the same kind of experience and so this combined impact of asymmetrical integration and communal development processes was not invisible to the people coming at the time as the example I just suggested and actually I'll just read you I'd like to read you just one other source this is from an Algerian Muslim who had arrived in the early 1940s and had been and this is in the city of Marseilles for a period of time the complaints he writes a letter to the mayor complaining about housing inequalities going to two different people so his own Co nationals from Algeria have to wait for a long time for adequate housing while North African Jews were given preferential access and so in his words he says this practice is not only revolting for its injustice but Tikrit particularly for its separatism and for all the hatred it creates and so you can see that at least some of them start to see the ease of Jewish settlement as a stinging reminder of their own second-class status and of ongoing French willingness to favor some citizens over others so I just read a little more from his letter I believe that it is the obligation of a politician doubling as an administrator to ensure equality between all citizens so that public services are really used by all and do not favor one fraction of the privileged so you can see he's framing this as we are all we are equal newcomers in the French state we are all subjects or citizens of this of the French polity and he's complaining about inequities so decolonization then meant both the new discourses of political binaries between Muslims and Jews hardened while at the same time Jewish North African were incorporated as Europeans into the French state and there were not necessarily immediate conflicts between Muslims and Jews right away in fact in places where they do end up settling in the same neighborhoods relations were largely convivial again because they share a lot they share more than divides them when they first come but it's also clear that these two indigenous North African populations were on very different trajectories that help us understand later conflicts okay so that's decolonization now I'm going to move to 1968 so I'm jumping ahead that doesn't mean nothing happened in between but but I'm trying to get to the the juicy bits as they say so so why 1968 in May and June 1968 there were widespread student revolts in France anarchist Trotskyist Mao its groups initiated an upper set of uprisings that led to the largest general strike in French history now here too you might be surprised in a book on Muslim Jewish division that I'm not talking about 1967 usually we talk about 1967 because 1967 was the year of the so-called six-day war when Israel first occupied some sigit significant additional Palestinian territories but most notably the Gaza Strip in the West Bank but actually that moment had rather little impact on Muslim Jewish relations in France in 1967 French Jews become one scholar is called it the Zion ization of French Jews they become and it's not just in France but it was very notable in France very public activist about their Zionism they march in the streets they raise a ton of money some Jews go to volunteer to go to Israel to fight the war they don't make it because the war ends before they can get there but they volunteer at least there's great there's great energy and enthusiasm in the Jewish community to support Israel but in fact this actually has very little impact on Muslim you know I should just say actually I'll just add to that that they're also highly critical of the Arab states they were if you read newspapers of the time you read very aggressive framings of the Arab States but they say almost nothing virtually nothing I could find hardly anything I'm the Muslim population in France at the time which had grown enormously this is not 1948 now it's grown by leaps and bounds it's much bigger and it's if they're as if they're not there choose the French Jewish population despite this which if you if you buy my argument isn't surprising because much of what ends up happening hasn't happened yet but but if you're looking for 1967 as a turning point it's sort of surprising from a present issed perspective of why there isn't more conflict in this moment and in fact in part this is because so the Jewish community has hardly hardly notices there are Muslims there and the Muslims for their part algerian tunisian largely algerian tunisian moroccan north africans laborers hardly talk about palestinians at all they're not swept up for the most part in the struggle in the Middle East despite some effort by some of their organizations to try and convince them to me so one police report from the period for example wrote such efforts that is efforts to mobilize algerian laborers around the palestinian issue such efforts have failed to mobilize the algerian masses in france to aid and support the palestinian resistance the Algerians for the most part are not concerned with a Palestinian matter and while this may have overlooked maybe the police didn't have a great sort of access into the arabic conversations going on in cafes or in families it certainly captures the different level of political mobilization so Jews are highly mobilized in 67 Muslim Algerians are not and they're not largely talking about this issue there's only one place in 67 where we start to find some beginnings of what one might call about conflict around the Middle East it's really the beginning and that's on campuses and it's very sporadic very very little bit occasional disagreements nothing very notable but I think the fact that it begins there helps us understand the far more fundamental shift that occurred in 1968 and here you can see what my argument is where my argument is heading I'm gonna argue it's a major shift in French political culture actually that activates some of these differences so the Middle East begins to play a role for a reason I'll try to help you understand you'll have to bear with me because I have to explain a little bit of detail to you in order for this to make sense but you can see why then 68 ends up being what I consider to be a major turning point in 67 much less so so why then does 1968 take student radicals do why did 1968 student radicals start talking about the pilis Palestinians and why did North African Muslims who haven't been talking about them in 67 start to become politically mobilized around this issue let me try to explain that so you I don't know how much you know about France in 1968 but like many places in 1968 there are protests and their tremendous strikes that bring to attention many issues on the social margins of society prior to that time feminism sexual freedom gay rights anti racism and a big part of this is anti-imperialism and third-world ISM a lot of the political leftists of the day are talking about these issues and particularly various radical groups the Maoists the anarchists the Trotskyists while they all differ in strategy and ideology from one another they express a broad sympathy for a wide range of anti-imperial struggles including for that of the Palestinians but and here's where things are interesting their focus on the Palestinians is not just ideological it's not just that they are drawn to the issue because it's an anti imperial struggle they start using the issue as part of a political strategy to win North African Muslim laborers to their causes they many of these groups feel like they don't have enough support they want more support in French society the Communists for various reasons follow their own path and these very left-wing groups that I mentioned on the fringes of the political left are seeking to have a greater impact and so they literally during the riots they literally go into the urban working class neighborhoods where these Muslims live they learn Arabic they try they offer French lessons they offer literacy lessons as a way to try to win over some of these workers to their causes and a focus on Palestinian nationalism becomes central to these efforts as some French radical groups linked the struggle for immigrant rights to their wider anti-imperial and anti-capitalist campaigns now there was one group and I'm not going to go into a lot of the detail here but there's one group that was very famous for this Legault school Italian which was a Maoist group and in 1970 it cooperated with some Algerian Tunisian Moroccan Syrian and Lebanese students to form the Palestine committee of Montana notaire was one of the working-class suburbs that I talked about so why did these North African students that I told you didn't care much about the Palestinians why do they start why do they join this committee and help found it these are student activists they're young like many of you here often radicalism tends to find its home on campuses of all kinds radicalism on the left and right and these students are drawn to radical movements more generally because of their commitment to social justice their criticisms of their home governments they're very these group these students tended to be very critical of Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia governments and their interest in pro Arabic causes more generally but what they do and here's where they meet up with go shifts with the with the Maoists on the French Left they start to fuse the issue of immigrant rights in France with the issue of the Palestinians and and Palestinian issue therefore became comes to play a determinative role in the political generation and the political thinking of a generation North African activists so they link the Palestinian revolution to the struggle of all Arab peoples to liberate themselves from exploitation Imperial oppression labor exploitation as a way to win over North African Muslims in France to the cause so I just want to read you here a citation from one of the pamphlets that they put out in the working-class neighborhoods in Paris so in the working districts of France we have organized meetings with for the first time since Algerian independence 800 immigrant and French workers have come together to support the Palestinian revolution so there's already something funny happening here it's since the first time since the Algerian revolution that they've come together to support the Palestinians it's it's an odd move particularly since I told you nobody had been talking about the Palestinians so and according to the tracts authors Algerian Muslims should care about the palestinian plight because it mirrored their own struggle to escape Western domination and so in this way the Palestinian cause was linked to anti-racist campaigns and France and efforts to better working conditions so as one Minister of the Interior report who's studied well not really studied the best sources for immigrants in France are usually police who spied on these different working-class communities of immigrants but as one report noted as the committee mixes the very real complaints of the people in the neighborhood with those concerning the Palestinian issue they make it necessary to accept or reject both issue as one block so you sort of if you want to fight against injustice in France and you join one of these committees you also sort of had to become a supporter of the Palestinian movement they went together now all evidence suggests that despite these efforts most North African Muslim laborers and France had no interest still in the Palestinian issue so one after North African Muslim activist who was active in one of these PAP pro-palestinian committees wrote later talking about it that he would confront criticism from fellow Muslims in the commune who would say to him you speak to us only of Palestine us who live in who is going to defend us so you can see there's there's certainly some pushback there but nevertheless the alliance between French radicals and North African Muslims students brought the Palestinian issue to the French public in very public ways and made politically active Muslim students interested in it what does this have to do with Jews well at the very same time on the very same campuses there are Jewish radical students who are engaging in a similar private process thanks to French political culture at the moment a very intensive radicalization some of them go very far to the left some of them however become highly Zionistic and those groups and I'm not gonna I don't have time to go through the examples I can do it later I can give you examples if you want but engage in very visible conflict on college campuses around this issue and when I say visible I mean they're beating each other up they're throwing red paint at each other blood you know fake blood they're squirt and it's both ways it's not just Muslim of students attacking Jews it's happening both ways and I can again give you examples we're talking not about everyone right it's a handful of student radicals but you can imagine if you're reading the newspaper and this is what you're reading the idea that Muslims and Jews are in conflict starts to become part of French discourse around this period in much new and surprising ways and so the VAR the publicly visible and at times violent confrontations between Muslim and Jewish youth in 1968 result in an increasing polarization around Middle Eastern politics but and here's where the story gets interesting to my mind these very divisions and the tumultuous environment also created really unexpected alliances and I don't know how many people in the room were going to be surprised to know probably only some of you that the leader of Lagos proletarian that Maoist group that created the community Palestine was Jewish and in fact that was not rare at all many of the French rat leftists in the Maoist Trotskyist and anarchists movements a very disproportionate number although certainly not all were in fact Jewish and this cooperation reminds us that Jewish Muslim polarization around the Middle East was not a predetermined outcome of ethnic transnational allegiances rather when polarization did emerge it did so as a product of the political space created by late 1960s French radical culture which both made room for a new generation of Muslim activists who have infused their pro-immigrant politics with the Palestinian issue and pushed france's jewish population and particularly its high school and university students away from traditional affiliations on the left and towards a more combative politics and the result of this was both that in the public sphere the issue of Muslim Jewish polarization sort of entered French national conversation with a certain sense that it was inevitable that that widespread conflict was henceforth presumed and secondly and maybe more interesting to me by the mid-1970s Muslims and Jews had begun to see each other as competitors in some ways in the French public square and I hear I read you a quote I found so fascinating and by one of the Jewish communal leaders in this period so this is like again the mid-1970s so he said our only weapon is public opinion in this country where we number hardly 1% less numerous than the Arabs who do not have the right to vote but ballots a last count for little and they can strike which we cannot so although these remarks underscored the Jewish insider position as citizens against Arab foreignness it portrayed them as pitted against each other in the court of public opinion and in the 1980s which is my last little chapter here a new generation of French born Muslim citizens came of age which rendered these kinds of distinctions between citizen and foreigner increasingly meaningless and yet as a new generation of Muslim activists strove to assert their place in the polity equal access to all the benefits of French became a new domain of Muslim Jewish contestation so this brings me to my third moment and I will cover this briefly of the story and that is the 1980s the 1980s were a really interesting moment in France which at least initially seems to dispel entirely any straight line of an inevitability intensifying Muslim Jewish conflict because in these years which were marked for those of you knows French history in the beginning of the decade by the election of metropolis the Socialists as a socialist president of France on a platform of multiculturalism Dwolla difference the right to be different and a sort of an embracing of what sounds like a kind of American multiculturalism multi-cultural idea that how we if we are all different but we all bring something to the to become to the national conversation and this is a really to really simplify complex historiographical arguments in France the model that everyone heard that phrase and you know it's we used to say in this country we were a melting pot and then we moved to we are a salad bowl these are all idealized ways of thinking about it but right melting pot means we're amalgamating as one salad bowl means we all keep our difference right so the United States at least on paper likes them likes the salad bowl the French like the melting pot this is really really really gross simplification but the French model has been a melting pot model except in the early 80s when the middle grounds government said no no we're multiculturalism good it's right to be different is important it creates a moment when certain groups start to make the case that they can assert their difference while working together in what they call a pleura cultural struggle where different groups can work together to create a just society and they create a very very famous anti-racist movement those of you who know France and the 80s know an organization called SOS classism which is formed very famous powerful attracts lots and lots of youth mobilization have big concert say their way of fighting racism is kind of funny actually they hold concerts it's different and it's trying to mobilize the youth vote that has the socialists are trying to pull in but what people often don't know about SOS classism is it was run it was led by second-generation Muslim born French citizens now those children of Algerian Moroccan and tunisian north africans that I mentioned earlier it's their children so they're French their citizens and Jews there's a major the fringe equivalent to Hillel it's not called Hillel in France as a Jewish campus organization but that organization is one of the co-founding members of SOS season and for the early years in the first two years of that organizations work they're talking all the time about we're not going to fight the Middle East war on the banks of the sin this becomes one of their slogans precisely the Middle East doesn't matter to us what matters to us as we are French and we have problems to solve in French society together the Jews who participated in this organization write a lot of articles about how there's so much similarity between Muslims and Jews and France that they're fighting common struggles it's a joint anti RIS so it's sort of a harmonious picture that emerges in these years by the end of the 1980s this alliance collapses and it collapses because the French political moment that I described that celebration of multiculturalism bursts and it bursts because the far-right political party the fro nacio now starts to win large percentages of the vote in France so something like fourteen percent and one of the highest elections in so what you're saying well what's that got to do with anything well in response to voter attraction to the far-right both the French Center and the French left go back to the melting pot and it's very obvious in their policies they start to say the only way to be French is for us all to in the public sphere to be like one another we have to do away with difference and this is mo Thevenin in the first disc Owens it's perfectly with the first headscarf controversy that breaks out in France in 1989 when some young girls are expelled from their school for wearing that headscarf and a big major debate breaks out which doesn't get settled for some period of time but this shift in French political culture leads some jews who support difference in the public schools and difference in print society come out on the side of the headscarf they say we should be able to wear our difference in public but a lot of Jews who start to read the tea leaves and see that the melting pot is back start instead of stressing the similarities between them and Muslims start talking about their differences and in the Jewish press you have a shift to what we are we're citizens we are French they are not they're immigrants they're having trouble assimilating and more division comes up I'm really simplifying my the story of the 1980s for your purposes here but the main point then that should be clear is that again it's French political culture and shifts in it which foster alliances and then break those alliances down in very dramatic ways and in fact by the first Gulf War SOS racism the Jewish leadership from SOS crises and quits they walk away and say we can't be part of this organization anymore and and there are lots of reasons why that happens but this is really the major reason okay so let me just move to some concluding remarks here by the end of the 1980s then the much celebrated efforts across ethnic cooperation had given way to distrust bitterness and fears of Muslim Jewish conflict began to take center stage by the 1991 Gulf War journalists government officials and religious leaders predicted widespread Muslim Jewish conflict response to unfolding events in the Middle East the fact that these fears never materialized is one of the paradox I've hope begun to explain for you indeed whatever their links to the Middle East and these ties were never homogeneous or frozen in time Muslims and Jews related to each other also as former residents of French North Africa immigrants competing for limited resources employers and employees victims of racist aggression religious minorities in a secular state and of course a citizens these multiple and complex interactions were often lost however as a narrative of polarization took root when chase tracing the way Muslim Muslim Jewish has become shorthand for a rigid opposition politics that has obscured a more complex inter-ethnic landscape I've sought to trance both the multi-faceted origins of the charged political landscape and to underscore his powerful impact while language of conflict may not accurately describe the daily interactions of most Muslims and Jews throughout the period under study the emergence of this political landscape shaped the parameters of public discourse and narrowed the range of choices available to those representing communal life the marked rise in anti-jewish violence in 2000 emerged from this history of narrowing political categories and also helped solidify them meaning that whatever the diversity of social life on the ground Muslim Jewish conflict is likely to remain a salient feature a French political life for the foreseeable future thank you very much so I'm gonna field questions for anyone who has them I realized that was a lot to take in I have tried very hard to figure out ways to talk about this whole book and it sometimes leads to a lot of detail but I'm happy to flesh out points that weren't clear and of course to answer anything I left unanswered and to argue with you if you think I'm wrong because that often happens when talking about this subject as well there tends to be people with different points of view which is totally fine that's what the Academy is all about so I'm really happy to hear your feedback and questions yeah that's a really good question and it gets to that early point I made about heterogeneity right so and and it's a huge problem in fact they're early readers of the manuscript always said well how can you even talk about Muslims and Jews because these are not categories that make any sense first of all the French officials and the individuals in question didn't even call themselves these things for a large period of particularly the Muslims they were most often called in French documents at the time of the early period Arabs indigenous North African they're Algeria and you know the cold lots of different things and so language is problematic and so I'm gonna first skirt your question and then try to answer it so I'm gonna skirt it by saying that the that over time I started to think and I was trying to reflect this here the diversity didn't matter very much because actually most West Africans are not I think caught and this is now me trying to answer a question not much caught up in the story that I'm talking about here except now insofar as we're talking about a social inequity issue that is moved throughout these working-class communities that I alluded to but the way of thinking about the problem erases the difference so when people talk about Muslims and Jews in France they're not talking about heterogeneity they're talking about two polarized groups who you know not surprisingly really when you talk about any political conflict most people aren't involved right it's it's handfuls of politicized people who are involved but and this is the maybe the more sociological conclusion of the book that that sort of doesn't matter because in the process of becoming political categories that diversity is erased so you know you could even turn your question on its head and say well what about forget what Stefan what about most Algerian Moroccan and Tunisian Muslims who may like or not like Jews I don't know what that matters but who are not engaged in political conflict with them and most Jews who you know spend their life hardly interacting with Muslims it doesn't matter in some ways to this this story that I'm telling does that answer your sort of answering your question you know I didn't purposely because of this issue break down each subset because it just ends up being a kind of a meaningless way of explaining where we got yeah Wow well so one thing I will tell you is historians are terrible predictors of the future and one of the reasons I ended this book in 1991 actually was that because everybody the first question is well okay that's all well and good but all we care about is the last 10 years when you stopped right when it was getting good right why did you do that and one of my answers is that historians care a lot about periodization when do things begin and end and it was while it was clear to me that something changed in 2000 it's not clear to me where it's headed or what's going to happen next and so I felt like I would end up not being able to defend the claims that I made about and also methodologically it sort of hard for historians to study the contemporary moment having said that everybody asked me so and I would say the answer is complicated my prognosis is pretty gloomy and it's it's pretty gloomy largely because I think people believe the binary that got created that I have it so and they believe it's so dramatically that Jews are leaving France and large numbers actually for Israel and the United States also but and if you go to Israel now you'll find big North African Jewish French communities they're not leaving because they were targeted on the street they're leaving because they know maybe somebody who was but also because this is what everybody's talking about now right so that's the way these kinds of things work they're often also not leaving they're often buying a second home and they go there for the summer and then they say we're going to retire there and so there's this idea that there's kind of one foot out the door but that is that's back to my point that once you make that move and then tell it as a story of we have leave then more people believe they have to leave right the other piece I would add to that is why I'm not terribly optimistic this actually doesn't come so much from my own research but there's a book that's recently come out by a scholar named Kimberly Arkin who did some Scott research on Jewish private schools in France in the more recent period and what she shows in that book is a she's not talking about all French cheese she's really talking about Tunisian and Moroccan Jew descendants of Teresa Tunisian and Moroccan Jewish migrants but who send their children to private schools to private Jewish schools in very large numbers and in those schools she traces something that's hardly ever talked about in the press which is Jewish racism towards Arabs we have plenty you know and I'm not saying there's not Muslim anti-semitism towards Jews right very clearly exists but nobody ever talks about the other side of it and what this book makes clear is that both I don't like to use the word community in this case but both populations have bought into the binary so both of them are now talking about each other in these ways not all of them but enough that this story's kind of gloomy having said that there are counter narratives there are groups that are working very hard to on joint education endeavors on pointing out that actually you know in all kinds of neighborhoods people get along just fine that that the violence when it happens tends to be between teenagers you know that we have to put this into perspective and but you know that's not usually what gets the headlines there are the questions yes yeah yeah actually this same study am i suggest among Jews and you can make the same case among Muslims and and anthropologists have studied Muslims in France have done so that when the moment of but for my simplicity purposes when the salad bowl collapsed that both the young people since significant subsets of both population for lack of a better word turned inward and one of the ways they turned inward was to more highly well let's just say more religious communities and again this has been traced on both by ethnographers of both populations and and so in fact there has been a growth of interest in Islam among young people and a growth in Judaism among some of the Jewish populations I'm talking about I'm a little millat of Jews in France who wouldn't fall into that category but they're but many of the children of Ashkenazi and those european jews i talked about for them it's not so true but among the descendants of these north african jewish migrants that turn inward they you know if i can link that to my larger argument are responding to the failure of french society to create its own salad ball and in response our turning inward and away from each other away from the french state and towards their own religious communities having said that i wouldn't want you to walk out of the room and think radical fundamentalism right i mean there are people and in fact that's sometimes where the violence comes from we know but that doesn't mean that most people are radical fundamentalist that's by any yes yeah so very good question that is something I talked about in the book I didn't have time to talk about here but when you think back to what I was saying about the different paths of D after decolonization so of course there are many more Muslims than Jews in France and but if you were to study them systematically you would see that overwhelmingly Jews are middle class there were the Moroccan in Tunisia Jews did worse than the Algerian Jews because they weren't citizens but they still had better access because of the frenchification that they came with to the kinds of opportunities that Muslim unskilled laborers didn't have and that beginning sort of never levels out so there are Muslims who have moved into the middle class absolutely out of these neighborhoods that I described but but far fewer and so in terms of access to higher education in terms of access to better jobs skilled jobs middle class they're very different access and that of course is also a big part of the story it's that's it begins with French colonialism it carries through decolonization and that's an ongoing problem in the 21st century any other questions I can answer well then I think we've solved the problem thank you very much for having me

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