French PM Manuel Valls believes French Jewry should remain and vows to fight for their future, but Israeli leaders call on European Jews to move to Israel. Hundreds of French Jews attended an aliyah fair on Sunday.
If Jews flee from France in the wake of the wave of anti-Semitic terror, the French Republic will be judged a failure and “France will no longer be France,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told The Atlantic last week. This was even before a bloody terror attack by an Islamic terrorist on a kosher supermarket on Friday that left four Jews dead.
Valls said that if French Jews were to flee in large numbers, the soul of the French Republic would be at risk. “The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens. To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.”
“If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure,” Valls asserted.
A New Anti-Semitism
Valls has become an outspoken voice in defense of Jews. “There is a new anti-Semitism in France,” he told The Atlantic. “We have the old anti-Semitism, and I’m obviously not downplaying it, that comes from the extreme right, but this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”
“It is legitimate to criticize the politics of Israel. This criticism exists in Israel itself”, Valls explained, “but this is not what we are talking about in France. This is radical criticism of the very existence of Israel, which is anti-Semitic. There is an incontestable link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Behind anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
Valls believes that French Jewry still has a future in his country. “The Jews of France are profoundly attached to France but they need reassurance that they are welcome here, that they are secure here,” he said.
“The issue is that the government cannot protect every Jewish person and Jewish institution,” Valls acknowledged. “There’s always more to do, but they can’t do everything. Even if they did all that needs to be done – counter-radicalization, education, making sure that imprisoned people don’t become radicalized, and so on – there’s always more to do. We have a very, very profound problem.”
Jews Belong in Israel
Valls may hope that Jews should stay in France, but Israeli leaders believe that they belong in Israel.
Speaking to the Times of Israel last week after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky said that he expects 10,000 French Jews to make aliyah (immigration to Israel) in 2015 and 250,000 over the next 20 years. “This particular tragedy is a very tragic and powerful reminder for Europe that time is running out for them – not for European Jews,” Sharansky told TOI. “If France and the other Western nations will not fight quickly and strongly for reestablishing the civilization of liberal nations, Europe is in danger. The exodus of Jews, as many times in the past, is the first harbinger, a warning of where it goes.”
“To all French Jews, and to all European Jews, I would like to say: The State of Israel is not just the place to which you turn in prayer. The State of Israel is also your home,” Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu stated after the terror attack at the kosher store. “This week, a special team of ministers will convene to advance steps to increase immigration from France and other countries in Europe that are suffering from terrible anti-Semitism. All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state.”
Hundreds Attend Aliyah Fair in Paris
Hundreds of French Jews attended a Jewish Agency for Israel aliyah information fair on Sunday under tight security in central Paris, the Government Press Office in Jerusalem stated. The fair had been planned in advance of the past week’s tragic events.
“The Jewish Agency embraces the French Jewish community at this difficult time and is extending its full support by helping provide for the physical security of Jewish communities across France, increasing our assistance to any individual who wishes to immigrate to Israel, and working to ease immigrants’ integration into the Israeli workforce and Israeli society,” stated Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of the Agency.
The year 2014 “saw a dramatic increase in aliyah from France with the arrival of 7,000 new immigrants, more than double the 3,400 who arrived in 2013 and triple the 1,900 who came in 2012,” according to Agency figures. The French Jewish community is the largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world (after Israel and the United States), with some 500,000 Jews.