Who Should Leave and Who Should Stay: The Problem of Europe’s Jews
For the past few months, I have been watching documentaries on youtube. Most of these documentaries are BBC productions. There were two on the decline and end of the British Empire. One was produced in 1985 and the other in 2012. The episodes on Israel and Palestine both interview members of Irgun and both members participated in the bombing of the King David Hotel. The terrorist bombing was intended to make life as unpleasant as possible for the British in Israel and Palestine and to get them to leave quickly.
Ernest Bevin was the Foreign Secretary for Attlee’s Labour Government. Bevin sincerely believed that part of the post-WWII reconstruction movement was that Europe’s Jews needed to be reintegrated into European society and that Europe needed to accept her Jewish citizens. The problem for the British Government and allies is that they did not have the time and resources to help integrate Jews back into their native countries and to protect them from Progroms. They also did not know how to deal with the fact that many Jews did not necessarily want to return back to their native countries. The Irgun speakers in both documentaries stated their belief that Shoah destroyed any place Jews had in Europe. This should be an understandable statement based on what happened to European Jewry during the 1930s and 1940s.
The 2012 BBC documentary sincerely blamed Britain for what is currently happening in Israel and Palestine and seemed to suggest that the Jews and Arabs co-existed peacefully before the British Mandate started. The 2012 documentary did not point out that Israel and Palestine were barely populated backwaters before the British Mandate and controlled by another dying empire, the Ottoman Empire.
The concerns of European Jewry have been increased in the past few years and became more troublesome after the hostage situation at the Kosher supermarket last Friday. This was an intentionally chosen location. 2014 was not a good year for French Jews. The old European tendency to blame Jews for what happens to them seems impossible to destroy. As the Washington Post essay points out, Europe still wants to have it both ways with the Jews. We are not Europeans, notice the woman still gets described as Israeli by the BBC reporter even though she has been living in France for over 20 years but we are also outsiders in Israel and displacing native residents. This raises the question of where do Jews belong if they don’t belong in Israel and they don’t belong in Europe.
France has the third largest Jewish population after the United States and Israel (not including the European Union). The number of French Jews is anywhere between 470,000 to 600,000 people. Last year, 7000 French Jews emigrated to Israel.
This was more than double the 3000 French Jews who left for Israel in 2013.
The good news is that the French Government sincerely thinks that attacks on their Jewish population is a big deal. The French Prime Minister told the Atlantic that the French Republic will be a failure if 100,000 Jews leave. The problem for France and for the rest of Europe is that unofficial discrimination is almost harder to deal with than official discrimination. As noted above, France and other European countries are dealing with a sizable and radicalized group of people who will not be controlled and will not co-exist with the Jewish neighbors. France has tried very hard over the past few years calm things down but a percentage of the population seemingly refuses to listen and remains defiant against court orders and other measures. Every now and then a government official or politicians will decide that it is more expedient to side with the much larger Muslim minority than to defend the Jews from anti-Semitic attacks. The Parisian suburbs are still pointing blame at the French Jews for the murders that happened at the Kosher Supermarket last Friday.
I agree with the French Prime Minister that the French Republic will fail if 100,000 Jews leave. The Republic might fail if 50,000-75,000 Jews leave. This would be a sign of France being unable to live up to the old virtues of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. One minority will kick out another and it will be a minority that has long suffered in Europe. The modern Zionist movement started because of official government French anti-Semitism despite France having one of the most integrated Jewish communities in Europe. When I think of European Jews, I also think of the children who are fleeing from violence in Central and South America and trying to enter the United States and both groups are in situations that seem beyond government control. The situation is far worse in Central America though. There is a chance that Europe can protect her remaining Jews but it needs to get serious and it needs to stop reflexively blaming attacks on European Jews as being justified because of what happens in the Middle East. If it is wrong to blame Palestinians collectively for the actions of Hamas, it is wrong to blame Jews collectively for the actions of the Israeli government. Collective blame is only going to make Jews want to leave Europe for Israel.
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