PARIS (EJP) --- Should French Jews leave their country to come and live in Israel because of a climate of anti-Semitism? This question came forward after a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace on the first day of the Israeli leader’s state visit to Paris Wednesday.
Responding to questions at a joint press conference with Hollande on the anti-Semitic climate in France, Netanyahu first paid tribute to successive French governments “for having clearly stood against anti-Semitism”.
“There is a real determination on the part of French governments. They want to fight against anti-Semitism. The French President has led the way and his government has followed his lead. It’s a very clear and undeniable part of French politics,” he said.
However, he continued to talk of a “new form of anti-Semitism, which comes from other extremely dangerous groups” and which “threatens not only but the whole of France”, adding: “In my role as Prime Minister of Israel, I always say to Jews, wherever they may be, I say to them: Come to Israel and make Israel your home”.
He continued to add that there was “no contradiction between the two”.
In response to his statement, Hollande said: “Benjamin Netanyahu says “welcome to Jews in France who want to relocate to Israel”. I understand it. But the place for Jews in France, if they should so choose, is to be in Franc, it’s to work in France, to live in France, in total security. And that is my goal”.
“In response to your questions concerning native French Jews in France: my work is to protect all citizens, it’s to provide them with all the usual life conditions, it’s to allow them to be full citizens”, he said.
He continued: “When a citizen’s security is called into question because he’s Jewish, all of France is under attack. Because here in France the principle we have long held dear, is that of secularism. We don’t distinguish between citizens according to their religion. We protect everyone”.
“There is anti-Semitism. We must chase it, pursue it and eradicate it. There is also racism. There are also citizens that are pursued and attacked because they subscribe to another religion or because they have a different colour skin”.
“This is what motivates us to protect and defend those who are threatened and attacked,” assured the French president.
The following day, at a ceremony at Ohr Torah school in Toulouse, where he attended a moving tribute to the four Jewish victims of a shooting last March alongside Netanyahu, which claimed the lives of a teacher and three Jewish children, Hollande sought to reassure an anxious Jewish community following a series of recent threats to their security.
“Mr Prime Minister, you represent a country created in the aftermath of the Holocaust, to provide refuge to Jews. That’s why every time Jews are under seige for being Jewish, Israel is implicated. This is the reason for your presence. I understand it, I salute it, I welcome you,” he declared in his address.
“France will defeat this new surge of anti-Semitism, because the security of Jews is a matter of national concern,” he added.
Jews in France must know that the Republic will use every available tool to protect them. Their safety is a national cause,” he continued.
“It’s not a matter for Jews but that of the entire French nation. This guarantee must be a priority in schools, because no child should be scared when going to learn, no parent must fear allowing their children to go to class.”
Anti-Semitism, he insisted, “will be defeated in all its forms, acts as well as words. It will be chased out from everywhere and from behind whatever tools are used to disguise it, from everywhere it manifests itself, especially on social networks which provides anonymity to incitement.
Between 500-600,000 Jews live in France.
French immigration levels to Israel was recorded as slightly lower since the start of 2012, despite the shootings in Toulouse and subsequent attacks against the Jewish community in France, most notably the attack on a Jewish grocers in Sarcelles, according to official figures by the Israeli Ministry for Integration.
According to the statistics, 1,331 French nationals emigrated to Israel between January and August é012, compared to 1,500 for the same period of 2011, corresponding to a reduction of some 11%.
According to ministry, a total of 1,916 French citizens were recorded as emigrating in the whole of 2011, which constitutes the annual average for the previous five years, compared with the 3,000 recorded in 2005.
“There is no sign of a massive French aliyah (Jewish emigration to Israel) in view, despite the climate faced by French Jews in recent months,” Avi Zana, director of the AMI (Aliyah and Better Integration), the organisation that helps French Jews make their aliyah to Israel, recently revealed.
Amongst the some 15-20,000 “olim” (Jewish immigrants) Israel absorbs from all over the world each year, more than 5,000 come from Russia and other Eastern European nations, nearly 3,000 from the US and 1,800 from Ethiopia.
Since the creation of the Jewish State in May 1948, more than three million people have emigrated to Israel, including nearly one million citizens from former Soviet states since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and more than 90,000 from France.
Under the “law of return”, Israel automatically awards citizenship to Jews coming to live in Israel. Non-Jews can also benefit from the clause if their partner or parents are of Jewish origin.
Anti-Semitic acts in France have increased by 45% in the first eight months of 2012 and are becoming more and more violent, according to the Service for the Protection of the Jewish Community (SPCJ).
A radical Islamist cell, composed of young French converts, was dismantled last month by the French police. Its members are charged most notably with having committed the attack on the kosher grocers and plotting other attacks against the Jewish community.