Sha­ran­sky: Europe is fin­ished

Natan Sha­ran­sky says we are wit­ness­ing the end of Jewish his­tory in Europe

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - This is taken from an ex­tended in­ter­view with Natan Sha­ran­sky by Liam Hoare

I BE­LIEVE we are see­ing the be­gin­ning of the end of Jewish his­tory in Europe.

What makes the sit­u­a­tion in Europe unique in his­tory is the fact that Europe has be­come very intolerant of iden­ti­ties in a mul­ti­cul­tural and post­na­tion­al­ist en­vi­ron­ment.

This new an­ti­semitism is very con­nected to Is­rael — de­mon­i­sa­tion, dele­git­imi­sa­tion and dou­ble-stan­dards — and is now so deep in the core of Euro­pean po­lit­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual lead­ers that prac­ti­cally ev­ery Jew is be­ing asked to choose be­tween be­ing loyal to Is­rael and loyal to Europe.

That in­se­cu­rity is due to Mus­lim im­mi­gra­tion and the rise of the clas­si­cal right, which sees the Jews as the “other”.

The lib­eral, in­tel­lec­tual Europe where Jews his­tor­i­cally felt so com­fort­able is now ask­ing them to choose be­tween Is­rael and “us”.

These three fac­tors are bring­ing us to the sit­u­a­tion where un­prece­dented num­bers of Jews in the free world are mov­ing to Is­rael. This year, one per cent of the French Jewish com­mu­nity will make aliyah.

I see this as a his­tor­i­cal mo­ment — as the be­gin­ning of the process of dis­tanc­ing Jews from Europe.

Europe is aban­don­ing its iden­ti­ties, with the mul­ti­cul­tural idea that there will be no such things as na­tion-states or re­li­gion. In post-iden­tity Europe, there is less and less space for Jews for whom it is im­por­tant to have both iden­tity and free­dom. In Europe, it is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult to have both.

What is hap­pen­ing in France seems like a lo­cal phe­nom­e­non but it’s not. In France, the feel­ing of in­se­cu­rity be­cause of Mus­lim im­mi­gra­tion, the feel­ing of in­se­cu­rity be­cause of the rise of clas­si­cal rightwing an­ti­semitism, and the feel­ing of in­se­cu­rity be­cause in­tel­lec­tu­als in France are be­com­ing more anti-Is­rael — these fac­tors are meet­ing in the most pow­er­ful way.

Aliyah from France has been ris­ing for a num­ber of years. Two years ago, our an­nual aliyah fair, which nor­mally at­tracts around 500 peo­ple, was held on elec­tion day. Peo­ple went to vote and then came to the fair — 5,000 at­tended.

The fac­tors that con­tributed to this change haven’t just arisen over the past year.

There has been a grow­ing feel­ing of in­se­cu­rity which starts to feel per­ma­nent. After the ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent in Toulouse (in 2012, when a gun­man killed four at a Jewish school) for in­stance, we re­ceived ap­peals from the lo­cal com­mu­nity to help with se­cu­rity and we set up a spe­cial fund.

But this isn’t about just one in­ci­dent.

For more than 12 years, rab­bis and teach­ers in French schools have told Jewish chil­dren not to go out in the street wear­ing a kip­pah. That’s some­thing that even Moscow and Kiev rab­bis don’t say to chil­dren.

The fact that this started in 2003 and 2004, dur­ing the Sec­ond In­tifada, made peo­ple think it would be tem­po­rary.

But it hasn’t changed and it’s not go­ing to.

This feel­ing that in­se­cu­rity is now some­thing per­ma­nent is push­ing French Jews out of France (al­though there is also the eco­nomic fac­tor, which is putting pres­sure on all young French peo­ple, not just on Jews).

The French govern­ment does the max­i­mum pos­si­ble to pro­tect the se­cu­rity of its ci­ti­zens, and specif­i­cally the Jewish com­mu­nity.

In the past, when I was in the Is­raeli govern­ment and was warned that vi­o­lent an­ti­semitism was be­ing trans­mit­ted by Ha­mas us­ing French satel­lites, the French pres­i­dent was so shocked that he went to the French courts and they pro­hib­ited the broad­casts.

This helps to pre­vent one ter­ror­ist at­tack or an­other, but what’s hap­pen­ing in Europe goes much deeper than this.

I re­cently met French in­tel­lec­tual Alain Finkielkraut, and asked him whether there was a fu­ture for Jews in Europe. His pes­simism ran much deeper than mine. He ques­tioned whether there was a fu­ture even for ‘Europe’ in Europe — for those Euro­pean val­ues of free­dom and iden­tity in this mul­ti­cul­tural, post-iden­tity world.

Europe is aban­don­ing its ba­sic val­ues of re­spect­ing iden­ti­ties while at the same time guar­an­tee­ing full free­dom for its ci­ti­zens.

On the one hand, Europe opens its gates to im­mi­gra­tion, to peo­ple who are not asked to share its val­ues of free­dom and tol­er­ance.

And on the other hand Euro­peans are rush­ing back to­wards the rightwing par­ties who are hos­tile to “the other”.

Then there is the in­tel­lec­tual at­mos­phere which asks Jews to choose be­tween their loy­alty to Is­rael and their loy­alty to Europe.

All this cre­ates an im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion for Jews. This feel­ing of non­be­long­ing and dis­en­gage­ment is much stronger than the feel­ing of aliyah.

It is not our prob­lem, frankly, but a prob­lem for Europe and those in­ter­ested in Euro­pean civil­i­sa­tion and en­sur­ing that Euro­pean val­ues re­main. They have to ques­tion why this is hap­pen­ing — that so many Jews feel un­com­fort­able in Europe.

That more and more peo­ple are de­cid­ing to go to Is­rael is no doubt re­lated to the long­stand­ing pol­icy of con­nect­ing ev­ery young Jew to Is­rael with dif­fer­ent pro­grammes.

Ev­ery year, we at the Jewish Agency bring in dozens of new pro­grammes to en­cour­age that con­nec­tion. So when peo­ple de­cide that now is the time to leave, they al­ready have it in mind that Is­rael is part of their fam­ily.

We have had to change our ap­proach to en­sure all our work is about strength­en­ing Jewish iden­tity and the con-nec­tion to his­tory, tra­di­tion, com­mu­nity and the state of Is­rael.

I t ’ s all one proc-ess. If you want to have more aliyah, you must have more Jews. Where there is the choice of aliyah, peo­ple must make t he free choice to be Jewish, to be con­nected to their com­mu­nity.

We can­not de­cide on peo­ple’s be­half where the process of strength­en­ing their iden­tity will stop. Some will make al i yah, some will

stay in their com­muni-ties, some will sup­port Is­rael, some will make sure their chil­dren are bought up Jewish. It’s all part of one process. France is a good ex­am­ple of this process.

There has also been an in­crease in aliyah from cer­tain parts of Ukraine. It’s not hap­pen­ing be­cause of an­ti­semitism or be­cause of the Ukrainian govern­ment.

There is no an­tisemitic pol­icy and the govern­ment tries to be as co-op­er­a­tive with the Jewish com­mu­nity as pos­si­ble. But there is sud­denly a vacuum of power in the east of Ukraine, where thou­sands of Jews still live, and a lot of vi­o­lence, which is not con­nected to the Jews but dur­ing which per­sonal prej­u­dices come to the sur­face.

We had in these places a hard­core of peo­ple who do not want to go to Is­rael — 80 per cent of the Jews of the for­mer Soviet Union had al­ready left — one mil­lion to Is­rael, one mil­lion to the United States, Canada, Aus­tralia, Ger­many and so on, and the ones who stayed are the ones who had a real at­tach­ment to their homes.

But this hard­core sud­denly feels very in­se­cure be­cause of the vi­o­lence, be­cause of the ab­sence of power, be­cause of prej­u­dice — there are peo­ple who think Jews are agents of Moscow and those who think Jews are agents of Amer­ica. There is po­ten­tial dan­ger and the im­me­di­ate re­sponse was that maybe it’s time to leave. I was there when Birthright (the group that or­gan­ises ed­u­ca­tional trips to Is­rael for young adults) was born and was its big­gest sup­porter in the Is­raei govern­ment. Apart from the ul­tra-Ortho­dox who will keep their iden­ti­ties, all other Jews who don’t have that con­nec­tion to Is­rael will as­sim­i­late. If you want your grand­chil­dren to be Jewish, you have to have some form of con­nec­tion to Is­rael.

That doesn’t mean Is­rael doesn’t have to make ef­forts when it comes to re­li­gious plu­ral­ism — Is­rael should work to be more open to all types of Jews — but it isn’t that case that Is­rael is im­pos­ing any­thing on world Jewry.

It was world Jewry which dis­cov­ered that it needed Is­rael to take care of its Jewish iden­tity. At the same time, Is­rael dis­cov­ered that it was very im­por­tant for world Jewry to be sup­port­ive of Is­rael. World Jewry de­pends on the state of Is­rael for its sur­vival and Is­rael de­pends on world Jewry for mo­bil­is­ing sup­port in the strug­gle against dele­git­imi­sa­tion. It’s mu­tual de­pen­dency.

Europe was built on the idea of na­tion-states, free­dom and equal­ity. After the Sec­ond World War, Europe de­cided that na­tion-states were the prob­lem be­cause they brought the con­ti­nent two wars.

An ex­o­dus of Jews from Europe would be the first vis­i­ble sign of the deep changes now hap­pen­ing.

It is a mat­ter of con­cern for me as some­one who ap­pre­ci­ates Euro­pean civil­i­sa­tion -— but it is not my busi­ness as the chair­man of the Jewish Agency.

It’s def­i­nitely the busi­ness of the lead­ers of Europe, who have to think how they came to the point where Europe was once will­ing to give away mil­lions of its ci­ti­zens — its Jews — and now when the rem­nants of these Jews are will­ing to give away Europe.

Maybe they feel they can have more Europe in Is­rael, be­cause it is Is­rael which is fight­ing to be both Jewish and demo­cratic.

Is­rael is the place that is fight­ing for Euro­pean val­ues. Europe will die here and sur­vive in Is­rael.

Jewish Agency chair­man Natan Sha­ran­sky


Ri­ot­ers at a pro-Pales­tinian demon­stra­tion in Paris. A rise in an­ti­semitism has caused a sig­nif­i­cant growth in aliyah from France

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