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Israel expects 10,000 French Jews to migrate after Paris attacks

Netanyahu has faced criticism for 'opportunistic' statements encouraging French Jews to migrate after targeting of Paris kosher supermarket
Netanyahu gives a speech at a memorial service in Paris's Grand Synagogue (AFP)

Israel is expecting a huge surge in the numbers of French Jews migrating, after last week’s attacks in Paris killed four people at a kosher supermarket.

Since the killings on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the French Jewish community to consider the move – but some have accused him of “opportunism” in the wake of attacks that have left the country reeling.

“The state of Israel is your home,” Netanyahu said in a statement addressed to Jews in France and throughout Europe on Sunday.

His government will be setting up a special task-force to help encourage migration to Israel from France and “other countries in Europe that are suffering from terrible anti-Semitism”.

Anti-Semitic attacks and incidents in France more than doubled during 2014, according to figures from the French Ministry of Interior.

In the wake of Friday’s attacks, security has also been stepped up at Jewish schools and other “sensitive sites” in France.

France currently has the largest Jewish population of any European country, but migration to Israel is on the increase.

Some 7,000 Jews moved to Israel from France in 2014, up from 3,300 the year before.

Natan Sharansky, head of an agency that promotes the migration of Jews to Israel, has said he expects numbers to keep rising, and now estimates that 10,000 French Jews will move to Israel in 2015.

After Netanyahu’s comments encouraging more French Jews to make the move to Israel, some have warned that the statements carry a dangerous message for European Jewish communities.

The European Jewish Association, the largest advocate for Jewish communities in Europe, said the campaign “severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are”.

The statement called on Netanyahu’s government to increase its efforts on strengthening “the safety of Jewish life in Europe” rather than encouraging Jews to leave Europe for Israel.

The group also urged the Israeli government to “remember the strategic importance of the Jewish communities as supporters of Israel in the countries in which they live”.

Commentator Allison Kaplan Sommer accused the Israeli government of “insensitive self-serving opportunism”.

Netanyahu’s recent statements about the urgency of migrating to Israel “send a message that the Israeli government…is glad that Jews abroad are threatened because it strengthens their raison d’etre,” Sommer wrote.

French officials, too, appear to be rejecting Netanyahu’s overtures to the Jewish community there.

Speaking at Sunday’s unity rally, a French embassy spokesperson stressed that Jews have a right to remain in France.

“The Jews of France…have a right to feel safe,” Gilles Pecassou told the assembled crowd.

“Without them France would no longer be France.”