Is American unease with building the Ground Zero mosque the moral equivalent of anti-Semitism in France’s notorious Dreyfuss Affair over a century ago? Evangelical Left theorist David Gushee, writing for Huffington Post, thinks so.
“As a scholar whose first book was on the Holocaust, I hear echoes of the Dreyfus Affair,” Gushee ominously observed of the mosque controversy.
Gushee chairs the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which seems to have the patronage of George Soros. (The Partnership was recently founded by former National Association of Evangelicals lobbyist Richard Cizik while he was a senior fellow at Soros’s Open Society Institute.) Gushee penned the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a Global Warming scare manifesto, in 2006 and the Evangelical Declaration Against Torture, which attacked U.S. “torture” policies, in 2007.
The Evangelical and Religious Left now hail the Ground Zero mosque as a holy totem opposed only by the unrighteous. For Gushee, mosque skeptics resemble the notorious French anti-Semites who slandered and nearly destroyed a Jewish, French Army officer in the 1890’s. Major Alfred Dreyfuss’s false conviction and imprisonment as a German spy, defying the actual evidence, unpleasantly illustrated anti-Jewish attitudes by many French elites prior to World War I. The irony is obvious. Ground Zero mosque organizer Imam Rauf has refused to admit that Hamas wages terrorism and has sympathized with Iran’s theocracy. Given his stance towards these aspiring destroyers of the Jewish nation, the imam’s own views might merit further exploration. Instead, Gushee compared only the imam’s critics to the anti-Dreyfuss anti-Semites.
Gushee accurately recalled that Dreyfuss was framed by senior French military officers who forged spy documents to implicate Dreyfus before he could be acquitted. Dreyfuss was sentenced to life imprisonment on France’s notorious penal colony on Devil’s Island off the West African coast. Crowds before whom Dreyfuss was paraded shouted “Death to the Jews.” When exculpatory evidence emerged, many French elites still insisted on Dreyfuss’ s guilt, lest French institutions of state and culture be discredited. Better that one Jewish man suffer imprisonment unjustly than the French nation suffer a crisis of moral identity, they shamefully reasoned.
As Gushee wrote, French “demagogic media leaders stoked the fears and prejudices of the French Christian (primarily Catholic) majority throughout the conflict” over Dreyfuss at the turn of the century. Slanders about Jewish untrustworthiness were bandied about by Dreyfuss’s accusers. But eventually the evidence prevailed. Dreyfuss was released in 1899 after 4 years in prison. He eventually regained his previous French Army rank and, though Gushee does not mention it, maybe because of his own pacifist leanings, Dreyfuss served heroically in World War I. Age and ill health, partly due to his heinous imprisonment, did not impair his resolve to fight for France. He survived until 1935, mercifully dying before Germany’s occupation of France and widespread French collaboration with the Holocaust, which the Dreyfuss Affair in some ways presaged. One of Dreyfuss’s granddaughters died at Auschwitz.
Somehow, Gushee imagined the Dreyfuss story parallels the plight of Imam Rauf and his proposed $100 million mega-mosque at Ground Zero. “The limits of my comparison between the Dreyfus case and the mosque controversy are obvious,” Gushee sheepishly admitted, without specifying what the “obvious” differences are. But the “similarities” are the supposed “identification of an entire religious minority as a threat to the nation, the harmlessness of both Captain Alfred Dreyfus and Imam Abdul Rauf, the role of major media voices in whipping up frenzied national fears, and the questionable capacity of the nation to honor its own legal and moral principles.”
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