A record number of western European Jews are immigrating to Israel as a result of a spike in anti-Semitic attacks, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Citing the Jewish Agency, the AP wrote that 9,880 western European Jews immigrated to Israel in the last year, with some 8,000 of them coming from France, where an increasing number of anti-Semitic assaults “has shattered the sense of security of the world’s third-largest Jewish population.”
This week, a Jewish teacher was attacked by a teenage supporter of the Islamic State with machete in the French city of Marseilles. The incident prompted a local Jewish leader to ask men to stop wearing their skullcaps or yarmulkes in public. A day after the attack, French Jewish politician Alain Ghozland was found dead in his apartment with stab wounds.
“That a record number of European Jews feel that Europe is no longer their home should alarm European leaders and serve as a wake-up call for all who are concerned about the future of Europe.” But he also saw their choice of destination as a tribute to Israel,” said Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency. “At the same time, the fact that Israel has become the number one destination for European Jews seeking to build a better future elsewhere is a tribute to the appeal of life in Israel and the values the Jewish state represents.”
In recent years, Jews have been increasingly targeted and killed in Denmark, Belgium and France. In one high-profile incident that occurred a few days after a brutal attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, a terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic state took hostages in the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket elsewhere in the city, killing four people and injuring nine others.
France’s Jewish community numbers about 500,000 and is the largest in Europe. Though Jews make up less than one percent of France’s total population, they were the target of more than half of all racist crimes in the country in 2014, according to French officials.
In the wake of last year’s attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket, Tower associate editor Benjamin Kerstein praised French Prime Minister Manual Valls for being one of the few major European politicians to speak out against anti-Semitism:
But perhaps Valls’ most pointed statement was also the simplest. “Without its Jews,” he said, “France would not be France. … When the Jews of France are attacked, France is attacked, the conscience of humanity is attacked. Let us never forget it.”
From another politician, such a statement might seem maudlin and empty. But Valls has put his money where his mouth is. This is not the first time he has denounced anti-Semitism in such terms; he has pursued hate speech prosecutions against prominent French anti-Semites; he has publicly stated that, since the Paris atrocities, “France is at war against terrorism, jihadism, radicalism”; and he was almost alone among French politicians in attending a local memorial service at the Hyper Cacher market.
But this speech may be his most important act yet. Because in it, he at last gave voice to a truth Europe has long silenced: The continent that gave us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modernity itself now stands at a crossroads. It has a choice between the civilization it has painstakingly built, or a new barbarism of which anti-Semitism is an essential part. And it is by no means clear which choice Europe will make.
Prime Minister Valls’ speech was potentially epoch-making. But he is only one man. Thus far, no other major French or European politician has made a statement of such purpose and ferocity.
[Photo: Guy Assayag / Flash90 ]