On Wednesday, the Jewish Agency and the Immigrant Absorption Ministry released figures for aliya during 2014. The numbers show a 10-year high, with 26,500 new immigrants settling in Israel.
According to JA chairman Natan Sharansky, the statistics also constitute “a historic shift: For the first time in Israel’s history, the number of immigrants who came to Israel from the Free World is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress.”
Indeed, of the 26,500 total new immigrants, 3,870 are from the United States and 8,640 from Western Europe, mostly from France.
What Sharansky and other optimists failed to point out, however, is the dark side of this otherwise shiny coin. While it is true that more Jews are opting to leave affluent societies in the West to settle in Israel, they are not simply cheerful pioneers, packing their bags to join their fellow Zionists in the Holy Land.
No, what they are doing is fleeing countries of origin which are becoming increasingly hostile to Jews.
There is nothing wrong with this from an Israeli perspective.
On the contrary, the point of the Law of Return was to allow anyone considered a Jew – and persecuted as such by anti-Semites – to seek refuge in the homeland and state of the Jewish people. What is worrisome is the rise in the need for that refuge, including from countries in which Jews had been safe for decades after the Holocaust. But it was bound to happen, given the global climate.
The explosion of radical Islamism, coupled with Leftist apology for Third World barbarism on the one hand and fear of Muslim accusations of discrimination on the other has enabled old-style anti-Semitism to re-emerge in “polite society.” For a while, the only public form this took was Israel-bashing. By now, however, even that pretense has become unnecessary.
That home-owner insurance in many parts of Europe is higher for Jews who place mezuzahs on their doorposts (due to the increased the risk of vandalism) says it all.
Meanwhile, even the ideological assault on Israel – where chattering in French and English is heard in the streets as much as Hebrew, Russian and Amharic these days – is mainstreaming.
In 2005, when former president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the need to “wipe Israel off the map,” he created a firestorm. And at the time, the sentiment among Israelis was that it is much better for leaders like that to express their genocidal intentions openly than cloak them in seductive diplo-speak. (You know, like his successor, President Hassan Rouhani, has been doing.) The same applied to Hamas. Boasting about its aims made it hard even for would-be sympathizers to deny that it wanted to annihilate Israel.
Fatah, on the other hand, had adopted a different tactic: only telling the truth in Arabic, while tempering its message in English for international consumption and support. This worked like a charm, which is why the wolves in sheep’s clothing are especially jubilant about the 50th anniversary they are in the process of celebrating. As Palestinian Media Watch points out, the Intilaqa (Launch) of Fatah took place on January 1, 1965, when it attempted to bomb Israel’s National Water Carrier.
Today, after 50 years of successful terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis, it has no bones about posting on Facebook maps of “Palestine” that completely erase Israel. No need to hide. After all, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed on to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, in order to sue Israel for war crimes.
This is actually a positive turn of events. Abbas never meant to make peace with the Jewish state, in spite of all the Israeli, American and European efforts to solve the conflict through a two-state solution. This is not news to anyone with eyes and ears.
Far more newsworthy is the elimination of Israel – but not the “West Bank” – from the maps of a Middle East atlas recently released by publishing giant HarperCollins. Sold to English-speaking schools in the Gulf States, the atlas shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean.
When confronted by the international Catholic weekly The Tablet about this travesty, Collins Bartholomew, the publisher’s map-specialist subsidiary, explained that including Israel would have been “unacceptable” to the company’s target customers.
In response to the ensuing outcry, HarperCollins released a statement on Wednesday that it “regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense caused.” Nevertheless, the book was still available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes and Noble on Thursday.
Unlike the world’s genuine anti-Semites, HarperCollins is merely a business trying to make a few billion bucks. It thus tried to cater to one set of customers and subsequently backed down when another group threatened its reputation. But the very fact that such a big and savvy corporation could even consider doing such a thing in the first place is indicative of how acceptable it has become to treat Israel like a temporary and controversial entity.
This is why Israel is seeing a spike in aliya from the West – which is certainly no cause for the Jewish Agency to be pleased.
It is, however, a good reason to remember why Jews need and deserve a state of our own.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’