Few Jews today should have missed the lessons of the Dreyfus affair a century ago. Dreyfus, a French Jew, was a captain in the upper ranks of the French military. In 1895 he was convicted of being a spy, though he vigorously denied it. Systemic anti-Semitism and his being the only Jewish officer at his rank both played a huge role in his conviction. Despite evidence that another officer was in fact the spy, at a second trial in 1899, Dreyfus was again convicted. Jailed for years on the remote Devil’s Island, he became a broken man both physically and emotionally. Leading French intellectuals, artists and writers (including Emile Zola) rallied to his cause and protested Dreyfus’ convictions. In 1906 he was finally freed, and exonerated.
There are some similarities between the Dreyfus Affair and the case of Hassan Diab. Canadian Hassan Diab is finally free – in part thanks to many individuals and advocacy groups that worked for years to demonstrate the flaws and inconsistencies in the evidence against him, and that demanded a halt to his extradition to France. Diab’s six years of house arrest and three years in a French prison were outrageous injustices meted out to a man who had committed no crime.