ALTHOUGH it has stirred widespread controversy, Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for Europe’s 1.4 million Jews to consider a “mass migration” to Israel is hardly surprising. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts it, 70 years on from the Holocaust Jews are being “murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews”. They are targeted in a rising tide of anti-Semitism seen across the continent. Murderous attacks have been seen in Paris, Brussels and even in Copenhagen which, like so many cities, hosts a hotbed of jihadist militancy spurred by the evil appeal of Islamic State to migrant Muslim communities.
European leaders have expressed resentment over Mr Netanyahu’s call. So, too, have European Jewish leaders. French President Francois Hollande has pledged to protect all his country’s citizens, warning that anti-Jewish sentiment threatens his country’s foundations and telling Jews: “Your place is here in your home. France is your country.” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has insisted: “The Jewish community is a large and integrated part of Danish society.” But what both ignore is that the sense of profound unease overtaking Europe’s Jews runs far deeper than the recent terrorist attacks. Its roots lie in the years of demonisation of Israel by European intelligentsia and political leadership starkly demonstrated in a single day recently when the European Court of Justice incomprehensibly removed Hamas from its list of proscribed terrorist organisations just as the European Parliament resolved to support a Palestinian state.
It is little wonder Europe’s Jews feel so unsettled when, following the Charlie Hebdoattacks, France made it plain Mr Netanyahu would not be welcome at the march of solidarity, even though Jews were killed and flown to Israel for burial, away from the French cemeteries that come under anti-Semitic attack. No similar attempt was made to keep Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas away and the Israeli leader was right to defy Paris and attend anyway. The incident underlines a failure of leadership. There is concern among far too many European leaders to pander meekly to the Palestinian cause and portray Israel as the villain in the Middle East, a stance that often spills over, as it sometimes does here, into anti-Semitic posturing. More of Europe’s leaders should follow the lead of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who, in a remarkable address, has denounced the evils of “Islamo-Facism” and warned of the dire consequences for France if its Jewish community continues to suffer.
It will be a tragedy if Europe’s Jews conclude they have no alternative but to leave. Statistics show 7000 French Jews migrated to Israel last year, twice the number in 2013. “Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” Mr Netanyahu said after Copenhagen’s attack, giving expression to the ideal in his country’s 1948 Declaration of Independence that pledges it will always be “open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles”.
Instead of resenting this, European leaders must deal more forcefully with anti-Semitism. They need to follow Mr Valls’s powerful lead. Europe’s Jews must be assured of their security, not left hanging by weak political leadership. Europe would be the big loser if they felt they had no alternative but to take Mr Netanyahu’s advice.