Dreyfus’s great-granddaughter ‘horrified’ at comparison by Netanyahu supporters

Yael Perl-Ruiz rejects attempt to draw parallel with PM’s corruption trial, which ‘cheapens the symbolic significance’ of the Dreyfus affair

Yael Perl-Ruiz,  the great-grandaughter of Alfred Dreyfus gave an interview to i24News, May 26, 2020. (Screen capture: Facebook)
Yael Perl-Ruiz, the great-grandaughter of Alfred Dreyfus gave an interview to i24News, May 26, 2020. (Screen capture: Facebook)

The great-granddaughter of Alfred Dreyfus on Tuesday expressed outrage at the comparison some supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including his son, have drawn between the premier’s corruption trial and the anti-Semitic show trial of her famous ancestor at the turn of the 20th century.

On Sunday, the day Netanyahu’s trial opened at the Jerusalem District Court, his son Yair tweeted: “Today the Dreyfus trial begins!”

Later at a rally in support of the prime minister, some demonstrators held placards and wore face masks comparing the two trials as well.

Yael Perl-Ruiz told i24 News that she was “horrified” by the comparison. “As far as historical facts are concerned there is no place to compare the Dreyfus affair and what is happening in Israel,” she said.

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrate outside the Jerusalem District Court before the start of his trial on graft charges, May 24, 2020, with one of them holding a poster showing Netanyahu and Alfred Dreyfus. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Perl-Ruiz said collating the two trials “cheapens the symbolic significance” of the Dreyfus affair.

“Every time there is a murder or a corruption trial, or a political affair, the comparison to Dreyfus comes up. You have to remember that Dreyfus was tried and convicted for a crime he did not commit. Dreyfus served five years in prison on Devil’s Island after being tried by a military tribunal. I really can’t see where the comparison is,” she said.

The Dreyfus Affair was one of the seminal anti-Semitic events of modern times, an explosive political and military scandal whose reverberations were felt beyond the borders of France and throughout the entire Jewish world.

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.

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

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.

Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, as well as bribery in one of them.

Perl-Ruiz, who lives in Paris, added that “the Dreyfus family is not interested in getting involved in internal Israeli political affairs.”

She said loved Israel very much and that Israel is very important to her, but that she is “very worried” about the divisions in Israeli society, which she said is split over values “that are not the moral values of those who established the state.”

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