In 2014, the year before the murder rampages at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the kosher supermarket in Paris, about seven thousand French Jews (out of a community of about half a million) emigrated to Israel.
With Muslim and other antisemitic harassment and violence constantly intensifying in France, that was twice the number of the previous year, and a record high.
Even before this month’s terror attacks, a higher number of French Jewish immigrants to Israel was expected for 2015. Now, after the attacks, a higher number yet is expected, possibly fifteen thousand. There is even talk of the Jews leaving France—mainly for Israel—altogether.
Meanwhile it’s reported that:
An unprecedented 15,000 soldiers and police officers have been mobilized in France to protect potential sites from terrorist attacks, of whom one third have been stationed at Jewish schools and synagogues for 24-hour-a-day supervision.
Five thousand police officers will guard 717 Jewish institutions, in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks that killed 17 people, including four Jews at a Paris kosher supermarket.
And in a speech after the attacks, French prime minister Manuel Valls said:
How is it possible to accept that France…how can it be accepted that we hear on our streets “Death to the Jews”?… How can one accept that French people be murdered simply because they are Jewish?
…We must say to the world: without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France. And that message is one that we all have to deliver strongly and loudly. We did not say it in the past. We did not show our indignation in the past.
On the one hand, one can ask whether sending one’s children to a school that has to be guarded round-the-clock by seven or eight soldiers and police officers is much of a way to live. On the other hand, one could ask, in light of the protective measures and Valls’s words: should France be given another chance, before Jews give up on it?
A brief and, of course, partial survey of France’s behavior toward Jews and the Jewish state in modern times warrants pessimism. If France would indeed no longer be France without its Jews, that should not be the Jews’ concern.
Viennese Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl, in Paris after the trial of falsely accused French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus, witnesses mobs in the streets shouting “Death to the Jews!” Herzl is struck by a prophetic intuition that the Jews of France—and of Europe generally—are in grave danger, and devotes the rest of his life to Zionist activism.
During the Nazi occupation of France, French police round up thousands of immigrant Jews living in the country and hand them over to the Gestapo. Altogether about 80,000 French Jews are deported to extermination camps. In the Drancy transit camp near Paris and other camps in France, Jews suffer brutality from French guards and thousands die of starvation and lack of medical care.
After maintaining a strategic alliance with Israel since the mid-1950s, France, on the eve of the Six Day War, slaps an arms embargo on Israel just as the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi armies are massing to destroy it.
Late 1960s and early 1970s
As documented by Bat Ye’or in her important book Eurabia, France allies with the Arab League against the United States and Israel. France spearheads Western Europe’s pro-Arab orientation generally and its policy of admitting millions of Arab and other Muslim immigrants.
In 1972 eleven Israeli athletes are murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic Games in Munich. In 1977 the mastermind of the attack, Abu Daoud, is arrested in Paris by French police. Under Arab protest and pressure, France denies a German extradition request for Abu Daoud and sets him free.
France becomes the first European country to open a PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) office on its soil. This while the PLO engages in constant anti-Israeli terrorism, including the 1974 attack on the Maalot school in Israel that killed 26, including 21children.
France grants asylum to the Ayatollah Khomeini, enabling him to incite against the Shah’s government in Iran and prepare the ground for his 1979 takeover of Iran.
1976 to 1981
France gives the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq indispensable assistance in building a nuclear reactor. Israel makes an intense, behind-the-scenes effort to persuade France to end the assistance, saying the reactor will existentially endanger Israel, but France refuses. In 1981 Israeli planes bomb the reactor.
2000 to 2004
Despite the Second Intifada, a murderous assault on Israel guided by Arafat as leader of the Palestinian Authority, France continues its always-warm ties with Arafat. In 2004, with the Palestinian leader terminally ill, French president Jacques Chirac has him brought to Paris for treatment. As Israeli diplomat Freddy Eytan recounts:
After Arafat’s death, Chirac went far beyond the requirements of protocol. It would be difficult to find in modern times another head of a democratic country who paid such homage to a warrior chief of a virtual state.
On the tarmac of the airforce base of Villacoublay, Arafat’s coffin was covered by the Palestinian flag and carried by eight French soldiers to the sound of Chopin’s “March of the Dead.” Three companies of the Republican Guard paid their honors. The military band played the Palestinian national hymn and the “Marseillaise….”
French president Francois Hollande lays a wreath at the grave of Arafat, known as “the father of modern terrorism,” in Ramallah.
At the UN Security Council in December, France votes in favor of a Palestinian resolution to reduce Israel to indefensible borders by the end of 2017. Among the democratic countries on the Council, only Luxembourg joins France in voting aye; all five others either vote against or abstain.
This overview indicates an incorrigible cynicism and, at best, coldness toward Jewish concerns. France’s pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli vote at the Security Council last month can easily be traced to Hollande’s Socialist government’s dependence on French Muslim support. But the fact that France’s right-wing opposition is now led by Marine Le Pen’s ultra-nationalist National Front party, with many bigots and antisemites in its ranks, can hardly give French Jews consolation.
In other words, it is clearly time for French Jews to say “enough already” and come home.