French Jews in the West Bank?

Uri Ariel: Planning for French Jews to move to the West Bank.
Uri Ariel: Planning for French Jews to move to the West Bank.

In the wake of the heinous slaughter of four Jewish men shopping at a kosher grocery in Paris a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu encouraged the Jews of France to emigrate to Israel. “I wish to tell to all French and European Jews – Israel is your home.  If they world doesn’t come to its senses, terror will strike in other places as well,” he said.  At the same time, Housing Minister Uri Ariel began making plans for French Jewish emigres to be housed in expanded settlements in the West Bank.

Whether or not Netanyahu’s comments were appropriate — especially as juxtaposed against French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ averment, echoed by at least some Jewish leaders there, that France won’t be France without its Jews — has already been much debated.  But clearly just plain wrong was Ariel’s invitation to France’s Jews to relocate in the West Bank.  Wrong, that is, unless the goal was to throw fuel on the fires of anti-Semitism, because that’s undoubtedly what effecting this proposal would achieve.

The grim reality of anti-Semitism has been with us for a very long time, and, at various points in time and over the centuries, has needed little if any provocation to rear its ugly and sometimes murderous head.  Whatever the trigger, it’s inexcusable.

But we can’t let our abhorrence for the irrational hatred of Jews, with its many historical and current manifestations, blind us to the reality that we are actors with the capacity — indeed, the obligation — to influence the conditions that in recent years have moved the meter on overt anti-Semitic attacks.

Let’s look, for example, at the 2014 Special Report by the Jewish People Policy Institute: Jewish and Democratic: Perspectives from World Jewry.  It cautions: “There is clear evidence that periods of tension between Israel and its neighbors raise the frequency and severity of harassment/attacks on Jews in locations around the world.”  It also cites the 2012 Anti-Defamation League report, Anti-Semitism on the Rise in America, which found that “[a]nti-Israel feelings are triggering anti-Semitism,” and that “[n]egative attitudes toward Israel and concern that American Jews have too much influence over U.S. Middle East policy are helping to foster anti-Semitic beliefs.”

Similarly, as veteran Israeli columnist Akiba Eldar pointed out in his series on anti-Semitism a few months ago in Al-Monitor, data provided by several organizations that specialize in tracking anti-Semitism confirm a distinct nexus between violence in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and violent incidents against Jews in the world, especially in Europe.  He cites a special report published by the Anti-Defamation League in August, 2014 that pointed to “a dramatic upsurge in violence and vitriol against Jews around the world,” the cause of which the authors described as “Israel’s recent military operation to stop Hamas rockets and tunnels in Gaza.”

To the same effect is a poll from the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, conducted among the Turkish community in the Netherlands in June 2013.  It found there was no “organized anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitic expressions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which have become part of the public discourse.”  And Eldar observes that Hebrew University Middle East scholar Moshe Ma’oz, editor of the compilation “Muslim Attitudes to Jews and Israel,” “has no doubt that an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would curb the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel trends among Muslims.”  In Ma’oz’s view, Israel’s exit from the cycle of violence would neutralize significant components among the protest communities, and, as a result, against the Jews.
These studies don’t suggest that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will eliminate anti-Semitic attacks, in Israel or in the Diaspora.  But they do clearly indicate, and it’s surely reasonable to expect, that ending the occupation and supporting the establishment of a thriving Palestinian state — at peace with its neighbor Israel — will go far to eviscerate one of their primary stated rationales.  Resolving the conflict, sooner rather than later, can only be a very good thing for Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews around the world, and a very bad thing for jihadi terrorist recruiters, and neo-Nazis too.

So, when Uri Ariel calls for expanded settlements in the occupied territories to accommodate Jews who leave France, he’s only prolonging the conflict, and exacerbating the provocation.  He may be well-intentioned, but he’s playing into the anti-Semites’ hands.  Offers like his the Jews of France, and all of us, can do much better without.

The author is an attorney, writes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and was president of Boston Workmen’s Circle from 2007-2013.

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  1. I agree strongly with Michael Felsen’s wise commentary. I hope that Israeli voters will bring in a government prepared to work toward peace and a two-state solution. That would be a good step toward diminishing anti-Semitism.


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