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Jewish Assimilation

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The Jewish people in France have had a history intimately intertwined with the events in that country’s history for centuries. Apart from being the largest community of Jews in Europe, it was the first to gain emancipation after the French revolution. Despite the emancipation, anti-Semitism has been a part of the French society over a long time before and after the French revolution. Before the revolution, the Jews were persecuted and expelled during the crusade period, inquisition and during the reign of different French kings and emperors. After the expulsions, other kings and emperors recalled them or the ones that expelled them sometimes were persuaded to change their minds (Bowen 57). After emancipation, the Jews started being assimilated into the French society. Though they gained acceptance into the French mainstream, their cultural identity as a community started disintegrating. Additionally emancipation did not mean the end of anti-Semitism. A part of the French society still viewed the Jewish society with suspicion as a threat to the secular republic ideals of France. Despite these remnant anti-Semites, members of the Jews community integrated and excelled in various  sectors of the French society such as medicine, journalism, the art world, science, commerce and many other sectors. Although anti-Semitism has not been eradicated in the French society, the level can not be said to be rabid, with a majority of the French population considering the Jews as part of French citizens (McIlwain and Caliendo 91).

The history of anti-Semitism and Jewish assimilation into France has similarities to the contemporary anti-Muslim discourse, but up to a point. Before emancipation, the treatment the Jewish population got from the French society in terms of suspicion, discrimination and oppression are similar to the experience of the contemporary Muslim population in France. The Jews were considered to be a threat or blot to the French ideal secularist republic just the same way the Muslims are viewed by the French society. The Jewish religious practices and customs aroused ridicule and resentment among the French the same way the Muslim practices and custom is rubbing the French the wrong way. The unique identity of the Jewish community as a group was considered outside their French identity as compared to criticism of the Muslim identity. (History and Ourselves 41).

According to Wallach Scott, Le Pen and Eugene Cheniere have used the ‘Muslim problem’ to advance their political careers, which have indeed been boosted by their anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant rhetoric (Joppke 34). The U.S politicians have similarly used the anti-immigration rhetoric as a strategy to gain votes. The ‘immigration issue’ has been a major debating point in the U.S political campaigns in the recent past. From the national to the state level politicians have used the citizens’ fear about employment and security to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments. The recent presidential campaigns have seen discourse on whether the federal government should enact a comprehensive immigration law and who has the responsibility enact these laws; federal or state government (Portes and Rumbaut 25).

The states bordering Mexico have seen a flurry of political activities based on concerns on Mexican immigrant laborers. There are worries about jobs being taken over by ‘foreigners’, the welfare system being overwhelmed security and anti-social behavior. However, genuine these concerns might be, they are underpinned by covert racism about the changing profile of these states’ citizen face. The Arizona state recently enacted a law that was, however, rightly repealed, giving the local police the right to stop and demand official papers proving status of anyone they suspect to be an illegal immigrant. This law was seen as targeting people of Mexican descent. This law was the politicians’ way of assuaging what they believe is the citizens’ resentment of immigrants (Mcllwain and Caliendo 21).

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