Inter alia, Gopnik, having derided Americans' devotion to and fierce pride in their country ("this illness"), writes:
"After 9/11, in the US we suffered from a plague of militarism of this kind, again mostly from sagging middle-aged writers who wanted to send someone else's kids to war so that the middle-aged men could feel more manly in the face of a national insult....'
"When I read well-intentioned people talking about the impossibility of assimilating Muslims in my adopted country of France ... I become frightened when I see that they are usually entirely unaware that they are repeating – often idea for idea and sometimes word for word – the themes of the anti-Semitic polemics that set off the Dreyfus affair a century ago. For those writers, too, believed not that Jews were eternally evil, but that Judaism was just too different, too foreign to France, and tied to violence against the nation and its heritage.
And indeed there were Jewish anarchists in Europe, as there are Muslim extremists now. But there was never a Jewish problem in France, any more than there is a Muslim problem now...."Let's take that analogy (I assume it's meant to be an analogy) between "Jewish anarchists" and "Muslim extremists" first. It's nonsensical.
There's no denying that there were in the East European revolutionary movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries anarchists who happened to be Jewish.
I say "who happened to be Jewish" advisedly. For these individuals, deracinated from Judaism, and as contemptuous of notions of Jewish particularism as Gopnik is of American "exceptionalism", were classic examples of what Isaac Deutscher famously characterised in 1958 as "The non-Jewish Jew". Socialist Rosa Luxembourg was an exemplar of their outlook, declaring in 1916:
"Why do you come to me with your particular Jewish sorrows? I feel equally close to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations in Putumayo, or to the Negroes in Africa .... ...I have no separate corner in my heart for the ghetto: I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears."To such people Judaism, like religion in general, was atavistic and irrational.
And if a few of them sought to kill, their targets were authoritarian rulers, not members of the general public, much less innocents en masse.
Contrast that outlook with the Islamocentric, proselytising, jihadist one of Gopnik's "Muslim extremists".
Now to the assertion that there was no "Jewish problem" in France. Of course there was not. The Jews of France, as elsewhere in Europe, did not seek to impose their religion on other people. They did not threaten the lives of other inhabitants of France or of any other country. They had demonstrated to Napoleon's satisfaction that their beliefs and practices were compatible with modernity, and accordingly that they deserved to be citizens of the Republic.
Questioned regarding a number of key issues upon which their right to emancipation rested (such as whether they practised polygamy and whether they felt loyalty to France and their fellow countrymen), they easily demonstrated that they merited emancipation, on equal terms with their non-Jewish compatriots.
Let's be honest. If the kinds of questions that Napoleon asked the Jews were posed today to Muslims in France, it's doubtful whether their attachment to the ideals of the Republic, to modernity, would be as consensual, and thus as overwhelmingly persuasive.
Observes Gopnik, stating the obvious:
"If we accept the Enlightenment values of tolerance, coexistence and mutual pursuit of material happiness, things in the long run work out."It's convincing everyone to accept "Enlightenment values" that's the problem.