JERUSALEM — The Israeli official responsible for encouraging Jewish immigration said that Jews have no future in western Europe, adding fuel to a dispute that has riled leaders in France, Germany and Denmark.
Israel must prepare for a mass exodus of Jews from Europe, Mr Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who heads the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel, said in an interview with Arutz Sheva news website today (Feb 17).
“It can take five years or 20 years, but there is a strengthening of the Islamist community and the growing hatred of Israel from the direction of the liberal community,” Mr Sharansky said. “The two things together make Europe a very uncomfortable place for Jews.” Mr Sharansky’s office said the remarks were accurate.
His comments echo similar statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the shootings at a kosher supermarket in Paris and the attacks in Copenhagen on Saturday, where one Danish Jew was killed at a synagogue. Mr Netanyahu called for a Jewish exodus from Europe and the response from national leaders there has spurred debate over the future of European Jewry.
“I can’t allow things to be said in Israel that would lead one to think that Jews have no place in Europe and particularly France,” French President Francois Hollande said Monday, after assailants vandalised a Jewish cemetery in north-eastern France.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country “will do everything to ensure the security of Jewish locations and the citizens of Jewish origin”. Jews “belong in Denmark, they are part of the Danish community and we wouldn’t be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark”, added Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
The number of French Jews moving to Israel doubled to about 7,000 last year, according to Jewish Agency figures, and Mr Sharansky said 15,000 are expected this year. He urged the government to allocate more funds for immigrant absorption, saying Israel will be in competition with such nations as the US, Canada and Australia to attract those Jews leaving Europe.
“There is no future for Jews in western Europe,” he said.