Ne­tanyahu urges ‘mass mi­gra­tion’ of Jews

Lesotho Times - - International -

JERUSALEM — Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael has said his govern­ment was en­cour­ag­ing a “mass im­mi­gra­tion” of Jews from Europe, re­open­ing a con­tentious de­bate about Is­rael’s role at a chal­leng­ing time for Euro­pean Jews and a month be­fore Is­rael’s na­tional elec­tions.

Speak­ing the morn­ing af­ter a Jewish guard was fa­tally shot out­side a syn­a­gogue in Copen­hagen in one of two at­tacks there, the re­marks echoed a sim­i­lar call by the prime min­is­ter invit­ing France’s Jews to move to Is­rael af­ter last month’s at­tacks in Paris.

Crit­ics said then that the ex­pres­sion of such sen­ti­ments so soon af­ter the Paris shoot­ings was in­sen­si­tive and di­vi­sive. Such sen­ti­ments also go to the heart of the com­plex­ity of Is­rael’s iden­tity and its re­la­tion­ship with the Jewish com­mu­ni­ties of the di­as­pora, whose sup­port has been vi­tal.

“Jews have been mur­dered again on Euro­pean soil only be­cause they were Jews,” Mr Ne­tanyahu said Sun­day in Jerusalem. “Of course, Jews de­serve pro­tec­tion in ev­ery coun­try, but we say to Jews, to our broth­ers and sis­ters: Is­rael is your home,” he added.

But ex­press­ing the un­ease felt by many Jews abroad over such com­ments, Jair Mel­chior, Den­mark’s chief rabbi, said he was “dis­ap­pointed” by Mr Ne­tanyahu’s call.

“Peo­ple from Den­mark move to Is­rael be­cause they love Is­rael, be­cause of Zion­ism, but not be­cause of ter­ror­ism,” Mr Mel­chior told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Sun­day. “If the way we deal with ter­ror is to run some­where else, we should all run to a de­serted is­land.”

In a move that was planned be­fore the at­tacks in Copen­hagen — which left an­other man dead when a gun­man opened fire as a Swedish car­toon­ist who had car­i­ca­tured the Prophet Muham­mad was speak­ing at a cafe — Mr Ne­tanyahu an­nounced Sun­day a $45 mil­lion (M489 mil­lion) govern­ment plan to en­cour­age the ab­sorp­tion of im­mi­grants from France, Bel­gium and Ukraine in 2015. Is­rael says it has seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple in­ter­ested in em­i­grat­ing from these coun­tries.

More than 7 000 French Jews mi­grated to Is­rael in 2014, dou­ble the num­ber from the year be­fore. Af­ter the at­tacks in Jan­uary in Paris that killed 17 peo­ple, in­clud­ing four Jews in a kosher su­per­mar­ket, Is­rael was ex­pect­ing an even larger in­flux.

For many Is­raelis, more Jewish im­mi­gra­tion is an ideal em­bod­ied in the He­brew word for it, aliya, which means as­cent.

The state was built by im­mi­grants; its 1948 Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence states that Is­rael “will be open for Jewish im­mi­gra­tion and for the in­gath­er­ing of the ex­iles.”

But the ques­tion of un­der what con­di­tions goes to the core of Zion­ism and the essence of the prin­ci­ples on which the state was founded.

While some pre­sent Is­rael as pri­mar­ily a refuge es­tab­lished on the ashes of the Holo­caust, many Is­raelis pre­fer to view Zion­ism as a more proac­tive re­al­i­sa­tion of the po­lit­i­cal vi­sion of the Jewish na­tion.

Shlomo Avineri, an Is­raeli pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science, de­scribed Mr Ne­tanyahu’s call as “an in­tel­lec­tual and mo­ral mis­take” and ac­cused him of tak­ing a pop­ulist stance for elec­toral pur­poses.

“The le­git­i­macy of Is­rael does not hinge on anti-semitism,” said Pro­fes­sor Avineri, the au­thor of a re­cent book, Herzl’s Vi­sion, a bi­og­ra­phy of Theodor Herzl, the founder of mod­ern Zion­ism. “It hinges on the right of the Jewish peo­ple to self­de­ter­mi­na­tion in the Jewish state.”

While Is­rael should al­ways be open to im­mi­gra­tion, he said, the sug­ges­tion that Is­rael is the only place where Jews can live safely “puts Ne­tanyahu, and in a way Is­rael, on a col­li­sion course with lead­ers of the demo­cratic coun­tries and also with the lead­ers of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ties.”

Ap­par­ently piqued by Mr Ne­tanyahu’s re­marks in Jan­uary, Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande of France pledged dur­ing a speech at a Paris Holo­caust memo­rial to pro­tect all of its cit­i­zens, and told French Jews: “Your place is here, in your home. France is your coun­try.”

On Sun­day, the Dan­ish Prime Min­is­ter, Helle Thorn­ing-sch­midt, vis­ited the Copen­hagen syn­a­gogue where the at­tack took place and said, “The Jewish com­mu­nity is a large and in­te­grated part of Dan­ish society.”

For some Is­raeli ex­perts, though, Mr Ne­tanyahu’s call was a nat­u­ral ex­pres­sion of the na­tion’s ethos.

“The rai­son d’être of Is­rael is to cre­ate a place where Jews can have a bet­ter qual­ity of Jewish life,” said Avi­noam Bar-yosef, pres­i­dent of the Jewish Peo­ple Pol­icy In­sti­tute, a re­search cen­ter in Jerusalem.

“In my view, Ne­tanyahu is en­cour­ag­ing those who in any event in­tend to leave their coun­tries of ori­gin to move to Is­rael and not to other places,” Mr Bar-yosef said, adding, “Even if it is con­tro­ver­sial, this is some­thing that a prime min­is­ter of Is­rael needs to do.”

— NY Times.

THE bod­ies of the Jewish vic­tims of a Paris ter­ror at­tack are lined up wrapped in prayer shawls dur­ing their fu­neral ser­vices in Jerusalem last month. is­raelis have raised con­cerns over the safety of fel­low Jews in Europe.

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