French PM condemns Netanyahu call for French Jewish emigration to Israel
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has pleaded with his country’s Jewish community not to leave France for Israel following the defacing of hundreds of Jewish tombs in the country.
"My message to French Jews is the following: France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave," Valls said.
He also dismissed calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his country’s Jews to flee to Israel, stating that “the place for French Jews is France.”
"I regret Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks. Being in the middle of an election campaign doesn't mean you authorise yourself to make just any type of statement,” he said, referring to a general election set to take place in Israel on 17 March.
Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Jews in Europe to make "aliyah" (migrate) to Israel following a series of anti-Semitic attacks in recent months and years, including an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris in January which left four people dead.
Local French media reported that 200 grave stones were knocked down and daubed with swastikas and a Holocaust memorial smashed in a cemetary in Sarre-Union, near the German border.
Though the cemetary has been targeted before, the scale of the vandalism has shocked France and politicians have been quick to condemn the attack.
“France is determined to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism and those who want to attack the nation's values,” said French President Francoise Hollande in a statement following the incident.
Jewish and Muslim religious symbols are often the target of attacks in France, both frequently defaced with swastikas and other far-right symbols.
The killing of a Jewish man at a synagogue in Copenhagen on Sunday morning has further raised fears among European Jews that their safety is not guaranteed.
The rising popularity of Marine Le-Pen’s far-right Front Nationale, whose members have been accused of holding Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views, has further added to feelings of insecurity among France’s ethnic minorities.
Speaking to the right-wing Arutz Sheva TV channel, Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennett pinned the rise of anti-Semitism on the growing “Islamisation” of Europe and called on fearful Jews to come to Israel.
“We’re seeing a growing anti-Semitism and violence against Jew across Europe – we’re seeing growing Islamisation and radicalisation of Europe. I’m profoundly worried about the Jews,” he said.
“The message is very clear, Israel is there for you.”
He also argued that much of the rise of anti-Semitism could be attributed to hatred of Israel.
“The new anti-Semitism is cloaked in anti-Israel, but it’s the same thing, it just looks a bit different,” he said.
However, rabbis in Europe have condemned the pleas by Israeli politicians for European Jews to leave.
Denmark's highest Jewish authority, Rabbi Jair Melchior, on Sunday said he was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s call for Danish Jews to emigrate, stating that "terror is not a reason to move to Israel."
It follows a similar rebuke by Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, who criticised the Israeli prime minister for calling on Jews to emigrate in the wake of the Paris kosher supermarket killings.
“Anyone familiar with the European reality knows that a call to Aliyah is not the solution for anti-Semitic terror,” he said, according to the website nrg.co.il.
He said that the "reality is that a large majority of European Jews do not plan to emigrate to Israel” and that “the Israeli government must recognize this reality and also remember the strategic importance of the Jewish communities as supporters of Israel in the countries in which they live."
Israel's government "must cease this Pavlovian reaction every time Jews in Europe are attacked," he said.
Over 7,000 Jews moved to Israel from France in 2014, more than double the previous year.
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.