anti-israel protest 88.
(photo credit: )
Quite a few children starting school this week in Jerusalem were surprised to discover groups of new kids in their classes - and they were all speaking French.
It's not only in the schools. Sit on a bench in almost any middle-class neighborhood park in towns like Netanya or Ashdod, and from the voices around, you might be able to imagine yourself in a suburb of Paris.
Slowly but surely, for the last few years, ever increasing numbers of Jews have been fleeing France. The numbers tell only part of the story. The Jewish Agency estimates that 3,500 French Jews will arrive this year, almost 20 percent more than last year. But this doesn't take into account thousands more who have bought homes and moved without becoming Israelis yet. French cafes are sprouting up, and the value of apartments in the preferred areas has skyrocketed.
The motivation for this migration is not only Zionism - there was never any shortage of that among French Jewry - but mainly the growing panic due to violent Islamic anti-Semitism. The physical threat to Jewish lives in France is now an open fact, despite years of denial by both the community leadership and the government.
Now the feelings of panic are beginning to cross the English Channel. The report that is to be presented to Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday will put an official stamp on what many British Jews have been talking about for years - only behind closed doors. It will disclose one of the main reasons that a stream of young British Jews, smaller than that from France but incessant nonetheless, is also finding its way to other shores, both Israeli and American. Many of those who are staying behind have taken the precaution of buying summer homes here, as possible bolt-holes in an uncertain future.
On the surface, British Jews have never had it so good. Many have attained previously unthinkable levels of affluence; their prominence in public life, the arts, media, academia and business is as high as ever. In the last elections, a Jewish member of Parliament led the main opposition party, and Jews noted with satisfaction that four out of five voters said they had no problem with a Jewish prime minister. But perhaps they should have been more concerned with the 20 percent who didn't want a Jew running the country, or with Labor Party campaign posters that showed Conservative leader Michael Howard and another Jewish colleague as pigs in the sky and dressed up as the anti-Semitic icon Fagin.
The report, compiled by an all-party parliamentary committee, admits to a much more brutal and overt type of hatred than the subtle, "edge of a remark," snobbish and particularly British type of anti-Semitism. In a rare departure from multicultural political correctness, the report attributes many of the anti-Jewish attacks to a "minority of Islamic extremists" who are busy "inciting hatred toward Jews."
The rise in levels of violence and abuse directed toward the Jews is what we've become accustomed to in dozens of similar reports, but this time there's a significant difference. For once, senior politicians in a European country, including a Muslim MP, are accepting the point that Jewish leaders have been making for years: that there is a direct link between extreme criticism of Israel and its policies and anti-Semitism.
Whether or not the acceptance of an equation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism also heralds a time in which Jew-haters will no longer be allowed to hide their true feelings behind the "respectable" pastime of Israel-bashing remains to be seen. But if this report receives wide dissemination and is acted upon by the British government - Prime Minister Tony Blair certainly has proven himself a strong friend over the last couple of months - then there is also a challenge here for Israel.
Supporters of Israel, including many Jews, have voiced their growing exasperation, especially during the Lebanese war, at the unwillingness of Israeli spokesmen to address anything save the immediate criticism of Israel's actions. They feel that there is a growing delegitimization of Israel's very right of existence, an argument that Israeli officials aren't willing to enter.
The various government agencies and politicians concerned with putting Israel's case to the world should realize that the link between anti-Israelis and anti-Semites goes both ways; it also places the responsibility on Israel to make a much more substantial and fundamental argument, not only to protect its own positions, but also those of Jews around the world.