France’s Jews Have No Choice but Israel

There is great irony to Israel’s instinctive response to terror attacks on Jews in Europe — and the devastating attack last week on a kosher grocery store in Paris was no different.

Pack your belongings! Flee! Escape, Israel urges the Jews of France.

A government that never misses an opportunity to lecture the Western world about the pitfalls of surrendering to terrorism is proposing exactly that — surrender — to the Jews of France.

Surrender followed by immigration to Israel, where surrender is not an option.

“The state of Israel is your home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Jews of France, refraining from blatantly saying that they ought to leave and come to Israel as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested 10 years ago.

France’s Jews Have No Choice but Israel“If I have to advise our brothers in France,” Mr. Sharon said at the time, “I’ll tell them one thing — move to Israel, as early as possible.” President Jacques Chirac reacted furiously and declared Mr. Sharon persona non grata.

It’s clear why the French take offense. The call for immigration to Israel is a vote of no confidence in France’s ability to protect its own citizens. Mr. Netanyahu was careful in packaging his message last week, but the French still didn’t want him at Sunday’s huge march in Paris and they only reluctantly accepted his presence.

Members of Mr. Netanyahu’s government were, as usual, less diplomatic.

An Israeli deputy minister, Ofir Akunis of the Likud party, called on French Jews to “come home” to Israel. Deputy Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the Jewish Home party told them, “Your place is with us.”

The immigration option has become much more pronounced in recent years. Last year more than 6,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel, more than from any other country, and the potential for growth is significant.

They have their reasons. Anti-Semitic incidents have become a regular occurrence in France. The surge in attacks is well-documented, as is the declining sense of security of French Jews. And the French government doesn’t seem to know how to halt this destructive process.

Encouraging Jews from all countries to move to Israel is in Israel’s DNA, and Israel could greatly benefit from an influx of French immigrants. But Israeli leaders ought to pause before calling for a mass exodus of French Jews.

Does the Jewish state want to actively contribute to ending many hundreds of years of French Jewish history? Does it want to convey the message that yes, as the terrorists argue, there is no place for Jews in France? Does it want to imply that French efforts to protect Jews have been a failure? Does it want the world to see fearful Jews fleeing from Europe en masse yet again?

France is home to a great Jewish civilization, the third-largest Jewish community in the world — a Jewish community in a Western, liberal country that seems to be in great trouble.

And we now live in a world where in recent months people have brooded unemotionally, almost nonchalantly, over the question of whether the Jews “have a future” in France.

If not France, where? And if not a future, what?

Israel believes it has the answer. Jews can flee the terror of radical Islamists in France, to find shelter in a place where the terror of radical Islamists is as routine as baguettes and Bordeaux.

If these Jews come to Israel and face terror, they will be urged to stay, to demonstrate to the enemy the meaning of a stiff-necked people. Israel, in the narrative that is sold to French Jews these days, is where Jews make their last stand.

It is heartbreaking to witness a great Jewish community in a great country slowly losing its ability to thrive in a hostile and violent environment. And it is unfortunate that all the Jewish state has to offer them is escape.

At the end of Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to Paris, he attended a ceremony in a synagogue, where the crowd spontaneously broke into song following his remarks. But they weren’t singing in Hebrew; they were singing France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” One wonders what they were thinking when they reached the rousing chorus, “Aux armes citoyens!” And if these citizens one day take up arms to defend themselves, will they do so as French nationals or as Israelis?

On Sunday, France’s president, François Hollande, made quite clear how he views the situation. He reportedly vowed to Jewish leaders that he would take all necessary measures to defend them, including deploying the army.

But it is a devastating prospect that in 2015 the Jews of France might need soldiers to protect them from anti-Semitic violence.

For the four Jews who were killed at a Paris grocery store, Israel will be their final resting place.

If the only way for Jews to live in France today is behind barracks and guards with guns, perhaps it makes more sense not just for the dead to go to Israel, but also for the living to move to a place where we are the guards, we are the army and we are the government.

Shmuel Rosner is the political editor at The Jewish Journal and a fellow at The Jewish People Policy Institute.

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