“Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews, and this wave of terrorist attacks – including murderous anti-Semitic attacks – is expected to continue […] But we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: Israel is the home of every Jew.” – Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 15, 2015.
Last Sunday, in the wake of the murder of a Jewish man by an Islamic radical at a Synagogue in Denmark and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in France, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the mass migration of European Jews to Israel and unveiled a $46 million (USD) plan to assist in the migration of Jews from France, Belgium, and Ukraine.
Bibi’s words are important not only because of what they actually call for, but because of their effect. When the Israeli Prime Minister (or any major Jewish leader) calls for Jews to leave Europe, it is a censure on Europe. Just look how the French and other leaders have responded: they are going out of their way to demonstrate solidarity with and care for Jews. I am not going to say that I am thrilled with French President François Hollande’s response (“I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and in France in particular.”) because he attacked Bibi’s words rather than the desecrators and murderer, but nonetheless visited the cemetery, and that is an important symbolic gesture for Jews. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France would protect French Jews from “Islamo-fascism.” It is huge for a leader to acknowledge that and actually use the phrase “Islamo-fascism” (take note President Obama) and he went on to add, “A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone,”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel 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.” Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, “My message is that all of Denmark feels with you. This is not the Denmark we want. We want a Denmark where people freely can choose one’s religion.” This kind of desperate rhetoric is directly forced by Bibi’s words. Just by saying what he said, he has advanced the safety of Jews around the world.
Bibi is also holding these countries accountable. European leaders know that it’s not good PR for their countries to be criticized by Netanyahu, and of course these leaders also don’t want the rich and successful Jewish population abandoning their already struggling economies. And Netanyahu’s words will indeed inspire many Jews to migrate. According to the Israeli Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption last year, more than 20,000 Jews left Europe for Israel.* This number includes 6,658 French Jews. Compare that with 2013 when half that number of French Jews left France for Israel and Europe in total saw 8,000 less European Jews fleeing the continent for Israel. In 2009, the Ministry reported that just over 10,500 Jews left Europe for Israel, including 1,846 from France. The numbers of European Jewish expatriates are clearly growing from year to year.
With that said, it is fortunate that the Jewish people have the solace of the nation of Israel to turn to in these times. If European anti-Semitism and scapegoating led to the atrocities associated with the Nazis, it is reasonable to be apprehensive of a similar environment. If we are to prevent a repeat of history, we must take lessons from it.
Countries with significant increases in the number of Jews emigrating to Israel over the past 6 years:
Year – # Emigrant Jews
*The Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption does not provide English versions of their immigration information. Thus, the statistical data from the tables used in this article was obtained through Griffwood Post’s own translation of the Ministry’s documents and we hold full responsibility for the information transcribed.