In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French military was accused, tried, convicted and sentenced to serve a life prison term on Devil’s Island by the French government, on the grounds that he was spying for the Germans. In later years, he was absolved of all charges and declared innocent, and free to go.
In reality, Dreyfus was convicted, not for spying; but, rather for being a Jew. The evidence against him was so flimsy, that the only strength the government had in its argument was the fact the he was Jewish, and given the anti-Semitic mood of France; that was more than enough.
What turned the tide for the acquittal of Dreyfus, was not a soul searching by France, or the officials responsible for this travesty of justice, but; a French writer whose passion was for civil rights and liberties wouldn’t allow this desecration of civil liberties and justice to be ignored.
Emile Zola, who himself was temporarily exiled to France for angering the wrong elitists, was relentless in his attack against this miscarriage of justice.
Zola’s unflagging defense of Dreyfus, in his many letters, specifically, the now famous letter titled “J’accuse”, and his many commentaries and editorials finally forced the government of France to reopen the case.
A case which eventually became known internationally as the Dreyfus Affair.
Because of Emile Zola’s untiring battle for rights and truth, France found itself on trial for racism and anti-Semitism; more so, than the judicial appeal of the Dreyfus case.
The reasons why Dreyfus was accused, tried and convicted were two fold. First: he was a Jew. Second: the majority of the “good” people of France had very little interest in knowing the truth.
This is what is happening today in regards to Israel and the Arab Middle East. One has to ask ourselves. Are we like the majority of the people in 1894 France who didn’t care about the truth? Or, are we like Emile Zola, who wouldn’t accept lies as the truth?
There is absolutely no question that the Middle Eastern Arab World is a combination of thugocracies. There is no civil right freedom, in any part of the Arab Middle East that is not at the whim of a dictator. And there is no question that the Middle Eastern Arab world supports suicide bombers and terrorism in general.
Yet; we choose to close our eyes to these truths. Is it because we don’t want to see? Or, is it because we don’t care? Or, is it because not much has changed in the world since the days of Dreyfus?
The world is heading towards yet another day of reckoning, where we will not be able to run, much less hide. And the more we see it coming, and prepare ourselves for the event, the more likely, we will be able to be victorious in limiting the damage.
Let us all be more like Emile Zola. The alternative is not acceptable.
Your article today on Values is very pertinent and timely, since we in Quebec have just gone through a stressful period of introspection and self-examination during the traumatic Quebec election campaign and the Charter of Values debate. It has forced us to think about what are our really important values, about what the real meaning of “secular” is in our today’s society. The debate has also opened my mind to reconsider some of my own private prejudices.
Quebec is back in Canada! Ole
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