France rejected on Monday the comparison made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman of the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Paris to the Dreyfus Affair, one of the seminal anti-Semitic events of modern times.

Liberman earlier Monday branded the summit, set for January 15, a “tribunal against the State of Israel.”

“This is a convention whose sole aim is to harm the security of the State of Israel and its good name,” Liberman said at the opening of his Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday

Paris said in response that the conference was organized to “re-affirm the international community’s commitment to two sides, living side by side in safety and security and to re-emphasize how crucial the [two-state] solution is,” officials in the French Foreign Ministry said, according to Israel Radio.

Israel has refused to attend the July 15 gathering, with officials insisting that only bilateral negotiations will lead to a peace arrangement. The Palestinians support the French initiative, which will see representatives of some two dozen countries convening in a bid to jump start peace efforts.

According to a report by Israel’s Channel 10 Sunday, Netanyahu fears that the Middle East Quartet — the US, UN, Russia and EU — will coordinate their positions at that summit, and that they will then turn to the Security Council in the very last days of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In his comments Monday, in the wake of a UN Security Council resolution Friday condemning Israeli settlements which the US did not veto and thus enabled to pass, Liberman echoed these fears: “We are talking about the modern version of the Dreyfus trial, except that this time instead of one Jew in the defendant’s chair, the whole nation of Israel is there,” he said.

The Dreyfus Affair, as it has come to be known, was an explosive political and military scandal whose reverberations were felt beyond the borders of France and throughout the entire Jewish world.

Alfred Dreyfus in the Villemarie Garden, Carpentras 1899-1900. (photo credti: Dreyfus Family Collection)

Alfred Dreyfus in the Villemarie Garden, Carpentras
1899-1900. (photo credti: Dreyfus Family Collection)

In 1894, French officers learned that a high-ranking staff member had been slipping secrets to the German military, and they pointed the finger at Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French artillery officer, who was convicted, stripped of his uniform, and sent to Devil’s Island, an isolated penal colony off the coast of French Guiana.

The case was widely denounced as a miscarriage of justice, most notably in “J’accuse,” an open letter by Emile Zola published in 1898 on the front page of the newspaper L’Aurore. In 1899, Dreyfus was pardoned by the French president and released, and in 1906 a military commission officially exonerated him.

J'Accuse, by Emile Zola, in the Dreyfus Affair (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

J’Accuse, by Emile Zola, in the Dreyfus Affair (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Theodor Herzl is said to have been spurred into writing his great treatise on Zionism, “The Jewish State,” after covering Dreyfus’s trial as a newspaper correspondent and hearing the crowd scream out “Death to the Jews!”

Since a peace summit in June in Paris officially kicked off the French initiative, three groups have been tasked with examining avenues to propel the peace process forward, according to a report in French newspaper Le Monde.

One group has looked at building the institutions needed for the establishment of a Palestinian state; another has studied the economic incentives peace would bring for those involved, in particular for the European Union; while a third group worked on enhancing the participation of civil society in the process.

The proposals of the three groups will be examined during the summit, the report said. Paris is also reportedly examining avenues for conveying the findings to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, either on the sidelines of the summit or by sending representatives to Ramallah and Jerusalem.