Is Europe, Bereft of its Jews, No Longer Europe?

A number of leading European politicians have declared recently how important it is that the Jews keep residing in their various countries. Government leaders also claim that they will do the utmost to protect their Jewish communities against a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks.

The primary reason for such declarations is the rise of lethal attacks on Jews by Muslim Europeans. The most recent are the murders which took place in Brussels, Paris, and Copenhagen and other acts of anti-Semitic violence, perpetuated for the most part by Muslims, such as the attacks on synagogues and shops in France and England.

Yet another factor is the increase in the actual emigration of European Jews, mainly from France, combined with a greater interest in meeting with Israeli aliyah officials.

Another influence is the prevailing discussion regarding whether or not Jews have a future in Europe.

Finally, there are the calls from various Israelis including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, that Israel is the natural home of European Jews.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has been the most outspoken of the European leaders who believe that Jews should remain in Europe. Jewish filmmaker Claude Lanzmann wrote an article titled, “France without Jews would not be France”, which Valls referred to after the Paris murders in a major speech at the French National Assembly.

Valls said, “Claude Lanzmann wrote a wonderful article in Le Monde, yes, say it to the face of the world, a France without Jews is not France.” 

French President François Hollande said,“Jews have their place in Europe, and France in particular. It is for us to ensure for all Jews of France, more broadly all citizens of France, security, respect, recognition and dignity."

There was a crucial admission lacking in all of these statements. No one said: “France is no longer France, since it let in, non-selectively, millions of Muslims from countries where anti-Semitism is rife.”

These include immigrants from Algeria where 87% of those polled by the ADL expressed anti-Semitic views, Tunisia where 86% of respondents held anti-Semitic views, and Morocco, where 80% polled were anti-Semitic. One reaction to this mass Muslim immigration is that the extreme-right National Front is France’s leading party, according to many current polls.

And there is a second point. Hypothetically, even if the entire Jewish community were to leave France, how much of an impact would that actually make on French society? The positions of the departing lawyers, doctors, journalists, politicians, philosophers, shopkeepers, artists, and so on would be filled up quite rapidly. We saw a macabre precedent for such a phenomenon in Europe during the German occupation.

Still, such a massive departure of Jews would have a great symbolic impact on France’s image and add an additional dimension to France’s character as a failing democratic republic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also came out on the subject and said, “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again, and we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today.”

The psychological importance of the Jewish presence in Germany – comprised mainly of immigrants from Russia – is far greater in that country than in France, even though they make up a much smaller percentage of the general population. The presence of Jews serves as a major image-enhancer that today’s Germany is not only different in nature from Nazi Germany, but that it is a healthy democracy.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that the Jewish community in Austria should grow. “We have to do everything to guarantee their security, so that Jews should not be forced to emigrate. Europe without Jews is not Europe.”

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, following the lethal February terror attack at a Copenhagen synagogue, that, "the Jewish community has been in this country for centuries. They belong in Denmark, they are part of the Danish community and we wouldn't be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron limited himself to saying that Britons should be “incredibly vigilant,” and implemented increased security measures .

Several of these statements by the European leaders were direct reactions to Netanyahu’s calls for European Jews to immigrate to Israel. Netanyahu had said, “This wave of terror attacks can be expected to continue, including anti-Semitic and murderous attacks. We say to the Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel is your home and that of every Jew. Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”

One may wonder whether it was wise of the Israeli Prime Minister to make such a statement. Perhaps Israel should not contribute to the discomfort of many Jews residing in Europe. It would be enough to say that those Jews who want to come to Israel are welcome.

Various Jewish leaders have declared that their community members have no intention to emigrate and that their natural place is where they presently live. This is broadly true to the extent that whatever emigration there will be, as far as numbers are concerned, only pertains to a small percentage of the local Jewish populations.

The Europe of today is far from being the Germany of the 1938 Kristallnacht. At that time, the government was behind the anti-Semitic violence. Current European governments want to prevent anti-Semitic violence, however may only be moderately capable of doing so. And the remarks of the European leaders are welcome, despite their being, for the most part, exercises in rhetoric.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.He has written over 20 books and his newest, soon to be published, is The War of a Million Cuts:  The Struggle against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism.


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