Many French Jews have noticed with discomfort that the “Je suis Charlie” campaign has gathered far more hashtags and demonstrators than the “Je suis Juif” one. Yet both the Charlie Hebdo journalists and last Friday’s Jewish shoppers were murdered because they were decreed enemies of Islam, and therefore legitimate targets.
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have not only reminded Jews that, when it comes to indignation and rationalization, all victims of terrorism are equal but some are more equal than others. They have also revived the old controversy between Israeli and European leaders about Jewish immigration (“Aliya”) to Israel. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “Israel is not just the place in whose direction [French and European Jews] pray, the state of Israel is your home,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls replied that “If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.” This controversy is not new. In July 2004, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called upon French Jews to leave France for Israel because of rising anti-Semitism – thus causing an angry reaction from the French government.
In fact, Israel’s policy of openly encouraging Aliya has always caused tensions with countries where large Jewish communities live. Israel’s Declaration of Independence says that “The State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and to the ingathering of the Exiles … We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to unite around Israel and to immigrate to the homeland.” Israel’s “Law of Return” makes every Jew in the world a potential citizen of Israel. As a result, many countries have accused and continue to accuse Israel of interference with their domestic issues. During the Cold War, Soviet leaders were enraged at Israel’s calls to “let my people go.” In free countries such as the US and France, Jews became accused of double allegiance.
Something has changed, however, in the status and fate of French and European Jews. In 2006, French Jew Ilan Halimi was savagely murdered by Muslim thugs. In 2012, pupils were shot in the Jewish school of Toulouse by an Islamist. In 2013, Jews were gunned down by a Jihadist at Brussel’s Jewish museum. In 2014, worshipers at the “La Roquette” synagogue in Paris nearly escaped a pogrom. Last week, Jews were murdered at a kosher grocery in Paris by an Islamic State terrorist. It is a fact of the 21st century that the life of Jews is endangered in France and that the cause of this danger is radical Islam. While the French government is doing its best to physically protect Jewish citizens, French officials and intellectuals are unwilling to call a spade a spade.
Rather than recognizing that French Jews are targeted by radical Islam, that the French state is unable to prevent Islamic terrorism on its territory, and that only in Israel can Jews protect themselves from Jihad, French intellectuals are advising Jews to stay, and even accuse those who leave of treason. In June 2014, French Jewish author Marek Halter published a column in Le Monde in which he claimed that Jews who leave France capitulate to their enemies. The most telling and jaw-dropping article, however, was the one published by Christophe Barbier in the August 2024 edition of L’Express. Barbier called the Aliya of French Jews a “betrayal” of France. Jews, therefore, must stay – but on the condition that they abjure any support for the “war-mongering” Benjamin Netanyahu. In other words, French Jews who fear for their lives but who also happen to agree with Netanyahu can neither leave nor stay.
No less telling is the hysterical and pavlovian reaction of France’s intelligentsia to Michel Houellebecq’s new book Soumission. While the book has the merit of addressing the appeal of Islam in a decadent society that slowly abandons Enlightenment ideas, it was allegorically burnt on the altar of political correctness. It is a sad fact that France’s intelligentsia refuses to even discuss the incompatibility between Islam and the Enlightenment even as Jihadists murder “infidels” on the streets of Paris.
When only Jews were targeted by Jihadists, the French blamed “the policies” of Israel. But now that France itself is the target, the French have a choice between facing the truth and reviling those who say it. French Jews cannot afford to find out whether France is going to capitulate or fight (recent history indicates that this sophisticated country has no problem doing both while adamantly claiming to be on the right side). French Jews must leave before it is too late.
As Manuel Valls correctly warns, France would no longer be France and the Republic would be considered a failure were French Jews to leave France. But that would be France’s problem, and the Republic would only have itself to blame.