From the Hypercacher hostage situation in Paris to a recent attack on a Jewish cemetery in northeastern France, anti Semitism is undoubtedly rising less than 2 months in to 2015. Just this past weekend, a Jewish security guard was murdered by a Danish born Islamist outside of a synagogue in Copenhagen. In the aftermath of two major attacks on the Jews of Europe, European Jews have every right to feel nervous. However, it is the response of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman which has not just made things worse, but made both Netanyahu and Lieberman look like imbeciles in the process.
After the Copenhagen attacks this past weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world: I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms. Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe.” Similarly, Avigdor Lieberman recently met with a group of American Jewish leaders, and stated, “With all due respect to all Jewish communities in The Diaspora, you know exactly what happens today with assimilation, not just with anti-Semitism and terror threats. I think there is only one place for all Jewish people: Israel.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, Lieberman additionally revealed plans to bring over 3 million Jews from The Diaspora to Israel over the next 10 years, henceforth increasing the Jewish population of Israel to more than 10 million. Several academics and leaders in Jewish communities worldwide pointed out that Europe has just over 1.5 million Jews, meaning that the bulk of aliyah would need to come from The United States, and over two million American Jews making aliyah in ten years is extremely unrealistic. After the Copenhagen terrorist attack, the last thing European Jews need right now is more scaremongering, especially from the head of The Jewish State.
The comments from Netanyahu and Lieberman come at a time of unease for many European Jews, however those comments could have been phrased in a much better, more constructive way. Instead of setting a pipe dream goal of bringing three million Diaspora Jews to Israel, Lieberman could instead invest hundreds of millions to create initatives to strengthen Diaspora Jewry, create efforts to reverse mass intermarriage among Diaspora Jews, and create new initiatives for Jewish college students in the Diaspora to advocate for Israel on college campuses. Additionally, new questions arise.
Why would Netayahu and Lieberman deliberately want to weaken the Diaspora by having a mass exodus of three million Jews? Why does Netanyahu believe the only home for Jews around the globe is Israel? Why would Lieberman want three million American Jews to emigrate to Israel when American Jews are the wealthiest and most educated religious group in The U.S.? British Jews are additionally extremely successful and wealthy. Supporters of recent comments by Netanyahu and Lieberman’s encouragement for a massive aliyah to Israel say a mass immigration to Israel will strengthen Israel, but it can be easily point out that such an aliyah would devastate The Diaspora’s Jewish population. Sure, Israel’s Jewish population would swell to 10 million, but the population of American and European Jews in countries such as America and France would shrink dramatically. Centuries of history, culture and traditions of American and European Jews would be lost if such a mass aliyah from the Diaspora would take place, as Lieberman mindlessly wants. Neighborhoods such as Borough Park in Brooklyn, Golder’s Green and Hendon in London, and Buitenveldert in Amsterdam would no longer have a fundamentally Jewish character to them…but hey, at least Israel is strengthened!
Netanyahu’s comments encouraging mass aliyah from Europe was rightfully rebuffed by several European and Jewish leaders. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt stated, “‘The Jewish community have been in this country for centuries. They belong in Denmark, they are part of the Danish community and we wouldn’t be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark.” Danish Chief Rabbi Jair Melchoir stated, “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism but not because of terrorism. If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, additionally criticized Netanyahu’s controversial comments, but added European Jews do need more security and protection from anti Semitism and religiously motivated attacks often done by European Islamists and neo Nazi organizations. French President Francoise Hollande echoed Thorning-Schmidt’s comments by stating, “France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave. The place for French Jews is France and the Jewish community of France must be protected.” British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also criticized Netanyahu’s comments, and urged British and German Jews to stay in Britain and Germany respectively, mentioning how Britain and Germany would not be the same with a mass aliyah to Israel.
Criticism at the remarks from Netanyahu and Lieberman have rightfully rained down from the likes of Abraham Foxman of the Anti Defamation League to Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, as all of Netanyahu’s critics have mentioned Netanyahu’s comments were ill advised. I personally agree with everyone from Chancellor Merkel to British Prime Minister Cameron, from Danish Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt to ADL Director Abraham Foxman. While anti Semitism is increasing in Europe, there is no pressing need for more than three million Diaspora Jews to leave Europe and the United States and emigrate to Israel. There is no pressing need for the established Jewish communities of the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, to see a mass exodus from those countries. France and Denmark have done some efforts to rally behind its Jewish communities, but calling for a mass aliyah by Netanyahu is simply not the answer. Instead, Diaspora Jews should live their lives daily, not in fear, but proud to be a Jew living in the Diaspora and ready to strengthen his/her community in the cities of Antwerp, Manchester and Los Angeles. Benjamin Netanyahu, as great of a defender of Israel as he is, he is just that. A defender of Israel and Israeli Jews. Netanyahu does not speak for me, and millions of other Diaspora Jews when he recently encouraged Jews to “flee European anti Semitism.” In the wake of two European terror attacks, European Jews have the right to feel nervous, but should not flee…yet. European Jews should unite with their non Jews in Europe to fight hatred and anti Semitism and European governments must do more to crack down on anti Semitism. Diaspora Jews must strengthen their own communities and grow stronger in the process. So, Prime Minister Netanyahu, thanks, but no thanks. European Jews should not emigrate, but rather be proud of their respective identities in France, Sweden and the UK. If they feel they need to make aliyah en masse, they will and should if the threat of anti Semitism reaches to breaking point, but that point has not been reached yet. Instead, I hope they will grow stronger and become united in the face of anti Semitism. Whether they will or not is a different story.