In recent months, there have been voices of French Jews in France and in Israel urging the Jews in France to immigrate to Israel. Their reasons vary, from France’s Covid-19 crisis through the declining economic situation and the dim predictions about the future, to the growing difficulties maintaining a Jewish way of life in France. Still, the main reason why prominent Jews such as the headmaster of the Yavne Jewish School in Marseille, or Ariel Kandel, CEO of Qualita, urge French Jews to leave for Israel, is antisemitism. Their words have aroused considerable ire and objection from Jewish leaders such as Haim Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, but they nevertheless started a real debate in the French Jewish community.
I’m all for debates; they help scrutinize which ideas are right and which are wrong, but before we debate, we must be honest with ourselves. So first, I know that most French Jews describe their identity as French and genuinely see themselves as such. However, these days, the whole notion of homeland and patriotism is waning. Second, I think that if French Jews search their hearts truthfully, most of them will find that their stay there is more out of convenience than out of patriotism. That’s not to say that they’re not loyal to France, but that their motivation in choosing where to live has more to do with cultural affinity and affluence than with loyalty to one particular country. In this, they are no different from many other non-Jews today. It’s just the spirit of the time: People live where it’s comfortable.
However, there is a problem. The Dreyfus affair is very vivid in the minds of French Jews, and the growing antisemitism in France is a constant reminder that the affair is not a part of history but a warning for the present. Jews are once again being targeted in France, and despite politicians’ resolute rhetoric against it, the daily reality is growing tougher on French Jews to wear their Star of David necklaces proudly and openly for fear of physical aggression.
It will be a long and painful process, but I think that in the end, the current residents of France will force France’s Jews out of there. It might be a civilized country, but not when it comes to Jews. Even Christians, and many French are very Christian, don’t feel that Jews are a genuine part of France. And if you add to it the millions of Muslim immigrants who are taking over the country, it is clear that Jews have no future there.
There is, of course, a way that Jews can turn the tables and invert the antisemitism into philo-Semitism, but for this to happen, Jews would really have to extend themselves. If they want to neutralize the antagonism against them, French Jews will have to unite among themselves, and then spread the spirit of unity throughout the country! This is their only chance. This would invert the feelings of the rest of the French people toward Jews from antagonism to friendliness, and from alienation to closeness. It may be a tall order, but it is nonetheless in their hands.
For more on this topic, please see my latest publication, The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism: Historical facts on anti-Semitism as a reflection of Jewish social discord.