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The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France

The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France

by Ethan B. Katz

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Headlines from France suggest that Muslims have renewed an age-old struggle against Jews and that the two groups are once more inevitably at odds. But the past tells a different story. The Burdens of Brotherhood is a sweeping history of Jews and Muslims in France from World War I to the present. Here Ethan Katz introduces a richer and more complex world that


Headlines from France suggest that Muslims have renewed an age-old struggle against Jews and that the two groups are once more inevitably at odds. But the past tells a different story. The Burdens of Brotherhood is a sweeping history of Jews and Muslims in France from World War I to the present. Here Ethan Katz introduces a richer and more complex world that offers fresh perspective for understanding the opportunities and challenges in France today.

Focusing on the experiences of ordinary people, Katz shows how Jewish-Muslim relations were shaped by everyday encounters and by perceptions of deeply rooted collective similarities or differences. We meet Jews and Muslims advocating common and divergent political visions, enjoying common culinary and musical traditions, and interacting on more intimate terms as neighbors, friends, enemies, and even lovers and family members. Drawing upon dozens of archives, newspapers, and interviews, Katz tackles controversial subjects like Muslim collaboration and resistance during World War II and the Holocaust, Jewish participation in French colonialism, the international impact of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and contemporary Muslim antisemitism in France.

We see how Jews and Muslims, as ethno-religious minorities, understood and related to one another through their respective relationships to the French state and society. Through their eyes, we see colonial France as a multiethnic, multireligious society more open to public displays of difference than its postcolonial successor. This book thus dramatically reconceives the meaning and history not only of Jewish-Muslim relations but ultimately of modern France itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Katz, an assistant professor of history at the University of Cincinnati, traces the interaction of French Jews and Muslims from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia from WWI to the present. He focuses on their different patterns of contact in Strasbourg, Paris, and Marseille, revealing how their relationship has really been a "triangular affair, with France as the third party." Early in this period, Katz shows that the French elites favored the generally better-educated Jews, who were seen as more ready to participate in France's "civilizing mission." With anti-Semitism widespread during the 1930s, the relationship shifted, and under the Vichy regime (1940–4) the situation was reversed. Beginning in 1948, the Arab-Israeli conflict impinged on the relationship, as did the 1954–62 French-Algerian war. Katz notes that only recently have Jews and Muslims become delineated categories in France, and that today Muslims are more often seen as France's "defining Other." There is a great deal of interesting anecdotal material, though the book lacks adequate sociological and historical data. Katz's prose can be ponderous, and he is prone to using idiosyncratic terminology. Still, this is generally a detailed, informative, and often colorful look at the ever-changing relationship between France's predominant non-Christian immigrant minorities. (Nov.)
Joshua Cole
This is a thoroughly researched and thoughtfully composed exploration of a challenging subject: the relations between French Muslims and French Jews across the turbulent and painful history of France in the twentieth century. Katz’s sensitive analysis is made possible by his deep engagement with new and provocative archival material and his broad familiarity with a wide range of published sources. His book exemplifies the best aspects of recent work on Jews and Muslims in Europe.
Daniel Schroeter
This courageous book addresses the very contentious debate on Muslim–Jewish relations that has divided both scholars and the wider public. Katz powerfully and convincingly challenges conventional understandings of the issue by proposing that there were multiple ways in which Jews and Muslims have interacted in France through the course of the twentieth century.
Times of Israel - J. P. O’Malley
A compelling analysis on the complicated—and often fraught—relationship of Jews and Muslims vis-à-vis France from the late 19th century to the present day… Katz’s narrative argues that Jews and Muslims may have spent a considerable portion of French history in constant opposition to each other. However, he also points out that they’ve fought side-by-side as soldiers in war, formed close bonding friendships, lived peacefully in the same neighborhoods, and even become lovers at times too.
Jewish Book Council (website) - Rachel Simon
Thanks to its broad view, rich and diverse sources, and the issues it tackles in depth, The Burdens of Brotherhood is an important and highly readable study.
Choice - J. Haus
Katz has written a compelling, important, and timely history of Jewish/Muslim relations in France since 1914 that investigates the ways and venues in which Muslims and Jews interacted in metropolitan France…This insightful, well-researched, and elegantly written book is mandatory reading for scholars of the subject and for those approaching it for the first time.
Haaretz - Lisa M. Leff
Thought-provoking…Katz has uncovered fascinating stories of interactions between Muslims and Jews in France and French colonial North Africa over the past 100 years that defy our expectations…His insights are absolutely relevant for understanding such recent trends as rising anti-Semitism among French Muslims, rising Islamophobia among French Jews and, to a lesser degree, rising rates of aliyah from France…If it’s the current crisis that is of interest, this book is more than worth your time…The Burdens of Brotherhood is an important book because it gives us new ways of thinking about Muslims and Jews in France, as well as for what it tells us about the French policies that, too often over the past century, stigmatized, excluded and triangulated in the name of secularism, democracy and social peace.
Lectures - Samuel Everett
[Katz] elucidates on subjects as sensitive as Algerian Jewish involvement in the Organisation d’Armée Secrète (OAS) and likewise sheds light on some retrospectively painful instances of North African Muslim-Nazi collaborationism—little known occurrences that make up a part of the two scars of Jewish and Muslim history that run deepest in France. He does this rigorously, giving deep context, and showing intellectual honesty, his work in no regard resorts to assumptions about what behavior a faith or a religious culture might dictate.
Global Urban History - Laura Wollenweber
Shed[s] light on the shared history of Muslims and Jews in France. [It] give[s] more complex accounts of their interaction than the mutual hostility portrayed in the news would suggest…[Katz’s] frequent use of pictures and maps enables the reader to visualize the everyday life of Muslims and Jews in France.
Forward - Robert Zaretsky
Katz’s book offers not only a powerful counter-narrative to the story we now tell ourselves about Jewish-Muslim relations in France, but also a reason to hope that other narratives might still unfold.
Jerusalem Post - Melanie Takefman
[Katz] draws gracefully on colorful stories far from the headlines and textbooks to capture the real people who lived history…Katz’s interpretation is engaging and eye opening. He unearths history that has been forgotten or ignored, or is simply unknown, especially to a non-French audience.
Marginalia Review of Books - Rachel Schley
Ambitious…Katz illuminates a world of shared spaces and experiences that defy the rigid divisions often ascribed to Muslims and Jews…The rich and varied tableau of Jewish and Muslim coexistence that Katz presents is not only a remarkable contribution to the study of France and its empire, but also to the shared history of these two communities under French governance.

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Meet the Author

Ethan B. Katz is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati.

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