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Israel’s Aggressive Promotion of “Aliyah” Stirs Controversy

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
September - October 2004

In July, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel issued an appeal for all Jews in France to move to Israel “immediately” in response to a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks.  

“Move to Israel as early as possible. That’s what I say to Jews all round the world, but there (in France), I think it’s a must,” Sharon told an American Jewish group meeting in Jerusalem.  

His appeal came after the disclosure that in the first six months of this year, France’s Interior Ministry recorded 135 acts and 375 threats of anti-Semitic attacks, compared with 125 acts and 463 threats in all of last year.  

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman in Paris called Sharon’s remarks “unacceptable.” He said: “We immediately made contact with the Israeli authorities for an explanation of these unacceptable comments.”  

The lead front-page headline of the center-right newspaper Le Figaro declared: “Sharon’s Insult To France.” A front page editorial in the newspaper France-Soir declared that the Israeli leader is “losing his marbles.”  

The New York Times (July 20, 2004) reports: “French politicians rushed to the air-waves to condemn his declaration. Mr. Sharon ‘missed a good opportunity to keep quiet,’ Jean-Louis Debra, the president of the National Assembly, told Europe 1 Radio: ‘These words are inadmissible, unacceptable and, irresponsible.’ French Jewish leaders also voiced strong disapproval, ‘He doesn’t have the right to decide for us,’ said Theo Klein, honorary president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, or CRlF, an umbrella group, on France 2 Television ... An editorial in the daily Le Monde suggested that Mr. Sharon’s declaration about French Jews was motivated by a desire to ‘discredit’ France and keep Europe out of any resolution of the Middle East crisis.”  

French officials defended their policies to eradicate anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. “Certainly France today is the country with the strictest legislation dealing with all problems of racism,” said Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.  

French President Jacques Chirac, in an address in early July, called upon French citizens to be vigilant and to mobilize against intolerance.  

On July 28, Mr. Sharon praised France for its “determined action” against anti-Semitism in what the Washington Post (July 29 , 2004) called “an apparent attempt to smooth over a diplomatic spat that began July 18 when he said France was home of ‘the wildest anti-Semitism.’”  

Sharon said: “We very much appreciate the determined action of the French government, as well as the French president’s stance against anti-Semitism. We hope that this determination will serve as an example to other countries as well.”  

The Economist (July 24, 2004) notes that, “The annoying thing for French politicians was that Mr. Sharon’s remarks coincided with a historically resonant public ceremony at which top public figures made a frank acknowledgement of the evils of anti- Semitism under the wartime Vichy regime. What the ceremony commemorated was the Velodrome d’Hiver round-up in July 1942, when 8,000 French Jews were arrested over two days and detained at a sports stadium in Paris. Almost all of them were deported to concentration camps via a transit camp in Drancy. Only in 1995 did France officially accept that its own nationals had carried out the round-up. This year, six government ministers ... took part in the memorial ceremony, and they used it to make solemn warnings about the resurgence of anti-Semitic activity ...”  

Whatever the case with regard. to developments in France, Mr. Sharon has repeatedly expressed the view that Israel “is the only place on Earth where Jews can live as Jews.” At the present time, the government of Israel is launching a worldwide campaign to increase Jewish immigration to Israel. Some Jewish leaders, such as Lina Filiba, vice president of the Turkish Jewish community, charge that the Israeli government has exploited anti-Semitic acts, such as synagogue bombings in Istanbul, in pursuit of its immigration policy.  

When in 1996 Israeli President Ezer Weisman declared that, “The place of Jews is in Israel. Only in Israel can Jews live full Jewish lives,” he was widely criticized in the U.S.  

Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who teaches Holocaust and modern Jewish Studies at Emory University, argued that Weizman’s remarks reflect an inability of Zionists to come to grips with the reality that Jews can thrive everyplace in the world. Dr. Lipstadt says that she sees that reality in the face of her Jewish students at the university. These students pursue all the opportunities America has to offer and don’t “fit the old Zionist stereotype of the craven Galut Jew, frightened and hesitant about their Judaism. I think (the Zionist theorists) certainly didn’t expect that America would give them the opportunity it has given Jews.”  

A mass emigration effort is now under way and has been organized and partly financed by Nefesh B’Nefesh, a group which plans to move more than 1,500 Jews to Israel this year, substantially boosting North American immigration. The group’s goal is to bring 100,000 Jews to Israel within the next five to 10 years. The Israeli government has thrown its full support behind these efforts. They make clear that with the Jewish birthrate much lower than that of their Palestinian and Arab neighbors, they fear that without increased immigration, Jews will become a minority within their own territory and that Israel will either cease to be democratic or lose its Jewish character.  

“Nefesh B’Nefesh represents one of the dreams I fought for,” states Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly called upon American Jews to emigrate to Israel. “Bringing home to Zion our Jewish brethren from the diaspora.”  

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