Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Jews' Rights in France after 1789 Revolution

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Jews' Rights in France after 1789 Revolution

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The traditional concept on human rights, that of French Revolution, is based on the postulate that all human beings have the same rights, that these rights are equal for everyone, transcending particular quality. Law ignores these qualities and rule's universality is the pledge of equality. Reality is less simple and one can observe that, during certain periods, not only that Jews have been appreciated according to race, but also they can be considered as such nowadays, in times of no oppression or persecution.

Keywords: human rights, fondamental freedoms, historical approach

1. Introduction

From the beginning, joining 'rights' and 'Jews' might surprise, even shock. There is naturally the tendency to think that from French Revolution which made Jews citizens, like everyone else - as an example, Vichy period, this 'black period' in Republic's history - law has nothing to do with the quality of Jew, to which it would not know to attach judicial consequences.1

Law is and it should stay 'blind' as far as the differences: of origin, religion and race are concerned.

The traditional concept on human rights, that of French Revolution, is based on the postulate that all human beings have the same rights, that these rights are equal for everyone, transcending particular quality. Law ignores these qualities and rule's universality is the pledge of equality.

Reality is less simple and one can observe that, during certain periods, not only that Jews have been appreciated according to race, but also they can be considered as such nowadays, in times of no oppression or persecution.

Under the old regime, Jews framed a singular group, endowed with a separate and discriminatory judicial statute. Once their emancipation, granted by the Constituent Assembly in 1791, half a century was needed for the discriminations related to them to disappear.

This hard conquered equality did not make the prejudices and attacks thrust at them to stop: Dreyfus business acknowledges on one hand, the successful integration of the Jews -Dreyfus became an officer in the French army - and on the other the virulence of the anti-Semitism.

Once the republican equality was restored in 1944 and anti-Semitic Vichy laws were abolished, the term 'Jew' was removed form texts once again.

Still, Jews would reappear in law - first, as potential victims of the antiSemitism when the legislator decides to enforce repression of the racism, then in the specific fight against negationism. Then, as Vichy victims, authorized to obtain symbolical and material rehabilitation, when many years later, acknowledgement of the specificity of the crimes against Jews intervenes. Finally, as practitioners of a minority religion which claims, based on the liberty of conscience, exceptions to the common law when this is not compatible with the restraints of the Jewish religion.

As a consequence, Jews' visibility in stipulations, in law, does not meet today the will to keep them aside or in an inferior situation. It should be updated as the result of awareness the potential discriminatory effects of equal enforcement of the rules, when this, by its rigidity, prevents certain individuals, in virtue of the membership to a minority group, to effectively exercise rights accredited for everybody.

In order to achieve the universal ideal and to guarantee the equality of the rights for all individuals, despite their differences, in order to protect them against direct or indirect discrimination, law should consider these differences, with the price of giving up formulation of universality as a rule.

2. Jews under the Old Regime

For centuries the situation of the Jews as a kingdom was precarious dictated by the alternative expulsion measures decreed according to reigns' whim and financial needs. So, Philippe Auguste, after ordering confiscation of their goods (1881), banished the Jews out of the kingdom (1182) then he called them back 16 years later. …

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