3. A COMMUNITY DIVIDED
The Jewish reaction was to dissociate themselves from Bernard Lazare. As a fellow journalist described:
"Bernard Lazare's attempt failed utterly and miserably...like others, he tried unsuccessfully to put a religious complexion on the Dreyfus question. The intelligent Israelites are the first to recognize that the court-martial took the right decision; they are unanimous in condemning the former captain's crime, and it is, moreover, easy to understand that at least to some extent, they are themselves victims of their co-religionist's treason... Thus they are the first to view Mr. Bernard Lazare's brochure as a remarkable blunder."
French Jews had no intention of championing someone they considered guilty, or, as Leon Blum put it: "The dominant feeling could be summed up along the lines of:
"This is something in which the Jews should not become involved."
French Jewry's complex feelings undoubtedly included patriotism, even a touchy patriotism, respect for the army, trust in their leaders, and a marked reluctance to consider them biased or fallible. But there was also (at best) a self-centred, timid caution: they did not want it said that they were defending Dreyfus because he was Jewish, or their attitude ascribed to any race-based distinction or solidarity. Above all, they did not want, by coming to the defence of another Jew, to provide any fuel for the raging fires of anti-Semitism. Daniel Halevy agrees:
"They turned a blind eye, and a cautious instinct recommended a continuing blind-eye policy. Sentence had been passed, it was considered correct. They believed in it, but quietly, because people were not used to having opinions. Probably, some Jews, more familiar with the blows of anti-Semitism, thought differently. They said nothing of this, sparing their friends, even close ones, the expression of an opinion which would have bothered or annoyed them. The Dreyfus trial was, by a very curious, utterly tacit agreement, excluded from these Paris conversations, which exclude nothing."
Lazare's brochure also unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism and triggered the accusation that the Jews formed an "espionage and corruption syndicate". Some highly placed officials were accused of being part of this syndicate, and suffered the consequences. Isaiah Levaillant, a staunch supporter of Gambetta and Paymaster of the Haute-Loire Department (Region), was accused of having wanted to prevent the bankruptcy of a Jewish firm. This incident sparked Levaillant's interest in community affairs, and he subsequently took over the running of the Univers Israelite newspaper, whose circulation he considerably improved. In marked contrast to the Archives Israelites, Levaillant did not ignore the Affair's impact on the Jews' social situation:
"Who among us has not suffered as a result? Which of us has not found that it has profoundly modified our social relations with our fellow citizens of other religions? Have not all of us, when we have come upon a group of people to whom things Jewish are a closed book, seen how the conversation falters suddenly, because they were talking about the Drefyus affair? Where is the officer or the civil servant who has not wondered whether the verdict on the former captain would harm his own career...?"