ukraine for israel 298.8.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
European Jewish leaders visiting Israel said the Jewish state has enjoyed unparalleled support from their native countries in the wake of Hizbullah's cross-border attack.
They attributed the backing to the nature of the confrontation - an unprovoked attack across an internationally recognized border - as well as the post-9/11 reality which has brought home the risks of Islamist terror and more sympathy for Israel following its withdrawal from Gaza.
"For the first time there is a full understanding between the French and Israeli governments," said European Jewish Congress President Pierre Besnainou, who lives in France.
Even though France has emphasized its solidarity with Lebanon in the crisis, Besnainou attributed that stance largely to its historic ties with Lebanon and stressed that the more important indicators were France's appreciation that Israel was attacked and that it had pushed for the UN resolution calling for the disarmament of Hizbullah.
Lena Posner Korosi, president of the Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, said that even her nation "in this particular case" was generally supportive of Israel.
"Surprisingly, Sweden publicly said that Israel is under attack and had the right to defend itself," she said while on a trip to Haifa Monday as part of a European Jewish Congress solidarity mission.
But Korosi noted that she didn't expect the good favor to last.
She said that the climate toward Sweden's 20,000 Jews had become increasingly hostile since the violence with Hizbullah flared. She said there had been two serious bomb threats on a synagogue in Malmo, and that Shabbat services were moved to another location after police said they would be unable to guarantee worshipers' safety as a large anti-Israel demonstration would coincide with the prayer service.
"We're concerned," she said. "We will take all the precautions we can from a security perspective as a Jewish community."
The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that Hizbullah had activated its "sleeper" cells operating against targets abroad and that Israeli and Jewish organizations worldwide had been instructed to raise their level of awareness concerning possible attacks.
Most delegates on the EJC mission, which comprised 24 European nations, reported that no specific threats had been received and that they already had security measures in place.
But many did indicate that they planned to step up lobbying efforts to harness European backing for Israel in its fight against Hizbullah, support which some have suggested is showing signs of strain.
"We Europeans, for the first time, are about to play a role to influence the European governments," Besnainou said, speaking in Haifa soon after a siren warning of incoming Katyushas sent him and those with him into a bomb shelter. "European Jewry can play a role in the European Union as American Jewry is playing a role in America."
Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the policy council of the World Jewish Congress, who also came on the trip, went further.
"This delegation is far more important than the American delegations," Singer said of solidarity missions American organizations are also organizing this week. Currently, the United Jewish Communities and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations are in Israel.
"They don't have a job to do," Singer charged. "[US President George] Bush doesn't support Israel because these people come to Israel. Bush is supporting Israel because [of] his own democratic, religious and political reasons."
In contrast, he said, "The Europeans have a big job."
But Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the presidents' conference, dismissed Singer's assertion.
"There's no country as important to Israel as the United States. It's not something you can take for granted," he said, adding that the purpose of the Diaspora missions was at any rate to show solidarity with the people of Israel and not engage in "one-upsmanship."
He welcomed the more stepped up activity of European Jewry. "We've been waiting for them to play a more active role and mobilize their governments."