The French Revolution, Napoleon, and Life in a City Where Jews Needed a License to Reside

In 1424, at a time when such banishments were common, the German city of Cologne expelled its Jewish population, which had been there since at least the 4th century CE. Looking back on her research into the city’s Jews, which formed the basis of her first book, the historian Shulamit Magnus explains the anomalous history that followed:

Cologne, unlike most places, rigidly excluded Jews [after the expulsion, rather than] letting some back in only to re-expel and readmit, as happened in many Central European locales. In Cologne, there was no ghetto, no Jewish street—no Jews at all. In the rare event that political pressures forced permission for a (very wealthy) Jew to traverse the city en route elsewhere, he (I don’t recall reading any were women) had to be accompanied in the streets by a red-cloaked guard, proclaiming, “Jew! Jew!”

Then, in 1789, the French Revolution took place, and shortly thereafter was carried across the map of Europe by armies of the Revolution. Cologne, on the left bank of the Rhine, near France, was not just conquered, but annexed. . . . It is well known that the French Revolution emancipated French Jews and that Revolutionary armies then razed ghettos and imposed emancipation wherever they went. . . . It is less well known that Napoleon [who seized power from the Revolutionary government] was profoundly Judeophobic and that, as emperor, he severely compromised the emancipation the Revolution had extended and instituted discriminatory legislation that harked back to that of the ancien régime.

Under Napoleonic legislation, Jews were guilty until proved innocent. For Jews to engage in business, they first had to obtain a special “Jew-license” in addition to any regular license needed to conduct business. To qualify for this license, Jews had to prove that they had not engaged in usury or fraud and to bring a character testimonial from the local synagogue, implicating the organized community in systematic discrimination. . . . Napoleon’s anti-Jewish legislation remained on the books on the left bank of the Rhine until 1847.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, France, German Jewry, History & Ideas, Napoleon Bonaparte

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy