Jewish French lawmaker: Accept French degrees or I will act to prevent aliya

French MP slams the unnecessarily-difficult accreditation process that forces French academics to "wait tables or work in call centers in order to earn a living."

A French and Israeli flag are seen during a 2001 demonstration in Paris. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A French and Israeli flag are seen during a 2001 demonstration in Paris.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
French Jewish lawmaker Meyer Habib threatened that he would call on French Jews not to make aliya to Israel if the state does not fully recognize French academic degrees.
“If there is no tangible progress on the matter within three months, I will recommend to French Jews to postpone or cancel their aliya,” said Habib.
“As a Zionist, saying this is very difficult for me but I cannot remain silent in the face of the enormous difficulty faced by new immigrants in their absorption in Israel,” he said.
On a visit to Israel this week, Habib met with some 150 French academics that had recently immigrated to Israel and heard firsthand the barriers they face in integrating into the Israeli system.
“New French immigrants come due to Zionism and a genuine desire to be absorbed in Israel. It is not clear why there are so many obstacles, in stark contrast to the State of Israel’s messages to olim,” he said.
“Many are disappointed and frustrated, and some even return to France. Each time representatives of the State of Israel repeat that the place for Jews is in Israel. This is true, but in reality they do nothing in order to ease the absorption process,” he said.
Currently, French Jews immigrating to Israel confront numerous bureaucratic hardships and face difficulty in getting certain academic and professional credentials recognized by Israeli authorities.
As such, doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professionals are required to take extensive exams in order to receive work permits.
“Immigrants from France deal with real anxiety that Israel will not recognize their degrees and that they will not be able to make a living in the country. The process is tedious and for many of them, takes years until they receive a work permit, causing a large part of the [Jewish] French public not to immigrate to Israel,” he said.
Despite learning for years and holding higher education degrees from some of the most prestigious universities in France, new immigrants are often forced to wait tables or work in call centers to earn a living, according to Habib.
He said that immigrants should be permitted to pass a language test as well as undergo practical internships for a few months to get work licenses. “These are acceptable and reasonable demands,” he said.
However, France’s higher education system is considered one of the best in the world and, therefore, there is no logic in requiring that French immigrants take tedious exams, he added.
Habib said that in practice only 10 to 15 percent of academics passed the exams, “not because of their low level but probably because the questions are designed so that many will fail.”
Late last year, the cabinet approved a new initiative to reform the bureaucracy involved in integrating accredited members of white collar professions into the labor market.
Doctors, physiotherapists, architects and other professionals will have easier transitions, the government announced last November, although the results have yet to be seen.
In February, it was decided that the Economy Ministry would conduct an inquiry into recognizing the French BTS higher technicians’ degree, but the ministry has not yet presented any results.
“I know that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to advance the issue and even initiated a government decision last year on the subject,” Habib said.
Habib placed the blame on other government offices that are maintaining these barriers. He singled out the Health Ministry, saying, “Medical associations have a big influence.”
“Only personal intervention of the prime minister will be able to resolve this issue, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that I will not have to fulfill my words in a number of months,” he said.