Much has been written about the welcome (or lack thereof) that Bibi Netanyahu (elected Prime Minister of the State of Israel , CEO of Zionism and de facto leader of the Jewish world) received when he flew to France to show solidarity with a beleaguered Jewish community. Should he have gone? Should he have been at the front of the solidarity march? Should he have mentioned the “A” word?
I think there is no doubt that the French leadership would have preferred him to stay away. And equally no doubt that they were deeply troubled by his offering of an open-ended, no obligations, free-of-charge exit ticket to all and any Jews who felt that the time had come to say Au Revoir to La France.
So – what underlies this deep sensitivity on the part of the French establishment? Perhaps it is simply personal. They don’t like Bibi. Perhaps it is political. The French have clearly aligned themselves with the PLO and in that sense any (un-choreographed) visit by an Israeli PM is unwelcome. Perhaps it is pride. We don’t need a brash, over-bearing and over-confident Jew waltzing into Paris telling us how to look after our Jews.
Any of the above explanations are plausible. And doubtless they each play into a complex French mind-set that lost moral clarity a very long time ago.
My view, though, is that the key driver and explainer of the open contempt targeted at the elected Prime Minister of a democracy and apparent ally of France is pretty straightforward. In fact, it is a single word. Envy.
Envy? I hear you ask? What possible grounds could the French have to be envious of a place which their former ambassador to the UK once famously described as “that shitty little country Israel”?
Well – perhaps it’s the fact that against all the odds – we have survived. Did the European powers ever really believe that the State of Israel in 1948 was viable and would survive an inevitable Arab onslaught? I doubt it. And yet – somehow – we did. But mere survival ought not to provoke envy. After all, we still live in a pretty inhospitable environment.
But, not only have we survived. We have grown and prospered. We have built a strong nation, a strong economy and a strong future. How many times have you heard visitors say – “wow, Tel Aviv is just so happening. So much energy, confidence, buzz…….”. Whilst Europe lurches from economic crisis to crisis, Israel somehow keeps marching forward despite BDS and the other barriers to success we are required to overcome. This is all true. But even if we punch above our weight – and even if Europe is in downturn – we are still a small player on the world stage. And, let’s be honest, Paris is pretty cool too (unless you want to wear a kippa). So – this can’t fully explain the envy either.
But – trumping everything – is this. We are a tiny country surrounded by the most vile Islamic regimes in the world. We have a significant muslim minority. And – yet – we are not faced with the grim reality that Europe is waking up to. The reality is that Europe’s collective failure to confront the Islamist threat to Europe’s core values has created an unstoppable momentum that is transforming Europe – and has already rendered it impossible for European governments (including of course France) to even talk about the issue – other than to continue in their incessant apologising to so-called moderate muslims.
Bibi’s appearance in Paris so upset the French because in calling for our French brothers and sisters to come home, Bibi was not just saying to them that France has let them down (which undoubtedly it has). Neither was he just saying that Israel is the only country which will welcome and protect all Jews, without condition (which undoubtedly it is).
Bibi was also saying that France has lost control. It cannot reverse the Islamist takeover and it cannot re-claim the French values that it has compromised by failing to take this issue seriously. By contrast, in Israel, we get it! Our core values are safe and, indeed, our society celebrates being more European than Europe!!! In that sense, it was not what Bibi said to the Jews of France that caused such hyper-sensitivity. It is rather what he was saying, by implication, to the non-Jews of France who see their country disappearing and feel powerless to stop it.
Do we here in Israel face challenges? – of course. Can we be complacent? Of course not. Do we have to work harder to integrate our non Jewish minorities? You bet we do.
But, at the start of another week, let’s pause for a moment and celebrate the extraordinary turnaround in our fortunes. As Europe continues its slide towards a future that its politicians can’t even talk about – Israeli civil society remains strong, confident and actually very aligned on core issues.
Bibi’s presence in Paris last week and his address to the French community was a very public reminder to his French opposite number that – somehow – our “shitty little country” has not just survived but has caught up and now overtaken Europe.
Yes – we are winning – and it’s just not fair!!!!!!