The Jewish communities of the ‘Old Continent’ in crisis

There is a rare window of opportunity for a substantial wave of aliya of near half-a-million Jews over the next decade

Eiffel Tower Paris France 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Eiffel Tower Paris France 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Over the past six years, at least six factors have contributed to the alarming deterioration of the situation of France’s Jews, this against the background of a growing crisis for European Jewry in general.
1) The emergence, now completely “normalized,” of openly anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist speech (which comes to the same thing) in the media, in public debates and in certain intellectual circles.
2) The junction of these anti-Jewish circles with the French “lumpen-proletariat” and the dissatisfied: unemployed persons, holders of insecure and temporary jobs, disenfranchised and frustrated people; the typical profile of the admirers of the comic Dieudonné M’bala M’bala and the pseudo- intellectual Alain Soral.
Made possible thanks to the Internet and social media, this junction – which the French Republic and its laws cannot prevent – brings with it the possibility of a grave increase in anti-Jewish violence, and even of mini-pogroms.
3) The the hardening Islamist politico- religious identity of significant segments of the young Muslim immigrant population (from Maghreb and Africa), the most extreme of whom are currently fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These young fanatics have become dangerous instruments via which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the other Middle East conflicts “overflow” into the heart of Europe.
4) The political progress of the xenophobic extreme Right in most of the countries of Europe, and particularly in France with the unheard-of success of the National Front, which took away the European elections of last May 25, becoming the first party of France with over 25 percent of the votes.
The unprecedented victory of this racist party could herald one of the worst future scenarios for the Jews of France, or even of Europe: a possible “green-brown-red” political alliance between the ecologists, the extreme Right and the extreme Left, who together would form a very dangerous and archetypal anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli axis.
5) The legal challenging – at the French and European level – of the numerous advantages the Jews obtained after 1945 which allowed them to be “happy as God in France”: Kashrut, circumcision, Jewish squares in cemeteries, freedom of worship, etc.
In France, president Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-prime minister François Fillon began wide-ranging dialogues (associative and legal) with the aim of limiting Jewish ritual slaughter for this “liberal” country.
6) Tangible results: The sharp rise of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist attacks – the largest part of which are not declared (such as for example threats and thefts against young Jews in schools) – which are committed against individuals as well as institutions.
Two strong indices: While 76% of those asked during last year’s survey on anti-Semitism conducted by the Human Rights Committee of the European Union in its main states (published in autumn 2013) indicated that anti-Semitism had deteriorated in the past five years in the respondents’ home countries, 66% of young French Jews declared their intention to leave France.
This is why there is currently – on a more global level – a rare window of opportunity for a substantial wave of aliya of near half-a-million Jews over the next decade from several countries, like France, England and the US, and also from Ukraine, Russia and Hungary. But to avoid missing this historical and historic Zionist appointment, which could reinforce significantly the economic, social, cultural and political development of Israel, an effective and pro-active aliya policy requires clear and non-equivocal financial and structural strategic decisions on the part of the Israeli government. The government needs to do more than “encourage” aliya from these countries, it needs to appoint several dedicated task forces and expert teams specifically in service of these noble goals.
The author is an Israeli French-speaking journalist and lecturer, and former chief editor of The Jerusalem Post’s French Edition.