Ethan B. Katz


On his book The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France

Cover Interview of November 15, 2016


What I hope many readers will take from The Burdens of Brotherhood is several things. First, the book tells not only a set of big stories about national and international politics and conflicts, but also many small stories – about coffeehouses and musicians and neighborhoods and political alliances and conflicts and even romances between Jews and Muslims. These stories illustrate how so many ordinary Jews and Muslims have interacted in ways that far escape the definition of their encounters as simply “Jewish-Muslim” relations. These encounters cut against the grain of contemporary reports that repeatedly reduce Jewish-Muslim relations to inevitable conflict or claim that they are based solely or even primarily on religion and ethnicity. Secondly, the way that this is specifically a French story may surprise many readers who expect to read about a variation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This book attempts to show how vital the role of the French state has been in creating both opportunities and obstacles for inclusion for Jews and Muslims that have played a fundamental role in the two groups’ relations with each other. Finally, given the crisis that France faces today, where conflict between religious and ethnic groups has taken center stage, I hope that the book can serve as a resource for citizens, interested observers, and maybe even a few policymakers to begin to understand how we got to where we are today, and how the complexities and unexpected developments of the past should make us see not only dangers but also possibilities as we examine the present.