By Thane Rosenbaum
The Times of Israel
JANUARY 14, 2015, 11:27 AM
Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, surely never figured on ISIS or al-Qaeda serving as recruiters for Jews returning to the Holy Land. After all, these terror groups have no incentive for increasing Israel’s population and strengthening its talent pool. And Herzl, who as a journalist covered the Dreyfus Affair in France, worried about European anti-Semitism, not Islamic extremism. He never imagined a Hamas, Hezbollah, or a nuclear Iran awaiting any new Jewish Exodus.
After last week’s bloodbath in Paris, where in addition to the murder of 12 cartoonists and one policeman, four French Jews were slaughtered at a kosher supermarket, Islamic terrorism, ironically, is having a bittersweet effect on convincing Jews to give up on Europe and make Israel their home.
According to Natan Sharansky, the director of the Jewish Agency, it is estimated that 15,000 French Jews will make aliya to Israel this year, with as many as 50,000 not far behind. (In 2014, the number was 7,000.) With these projections, well over ten percent of the Jewish population will leave France for good.
The French government shouldn’t find this all so surprising. Quasimodo found sanctuary in Notre Dame; Jews haven’t been shown any similar asylum. In 2006, a young Jewish Frenchman, Ilan Halimi, was tortured to death for 24 days by an aptly named Gang of Barbarians. In 2012, an al-Qaeda operative murdered three children and a rabbi outside of a Jewish school in Toulouse. This summer’s Gaza War inspired pro-Palestinian rallies where several hundred Jews found themselves trapped inside a synagogue with a gathering mob hurling firebombs and chanting, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas!” Jewish businesses were destroyed. More recently, a 19-year-old French Jewish woman was raped in a home invasion in Paris. She and her boyfriend were targeted because they were Jews.
Meanwhile, Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a comedian, popularized an inverted Nazi salute and, as part of his act, lamented that a Jewish journalist had not been killed in a gas chamber.
These vulgar episodes are not limited to France, however. Various European cities hosted similar rallies purportedly on behalf of Palestinians that degenerated into anti-Semitic spectacles worthy of a first-class pogrom. Four Jews were killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. And the recent elections to the European Parliament resulted in seats won by avowedly anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi parties spouting rhetoric long believed to be a thing of the shameful European past.
Aside from the anti-immigrant political parties that are no friends of any foreigners, most of the attacks against Jews have been committed by Muslims. The fight against Israel is now being taken to the Jewish people at large, as worldwide surrogates — fair game with targets on their yarmulkes, which they are now too afraid to even wear. Without IDF training or the Masada Complex, European Jewry now finds itself on the front lines of Islamic extremism, dreadfully unprepared, having mistakenly believed that western democracies would protect them.
Perhaps Theodor Herzl was right all along.
So what’s left tempting Jews to proclaim vive la France? Surely not the “no-go zones” where European police fear to tread. Artists forced to choose between taking liberties or getting measured for coffins is hardly a selling point. Universities throughout Europe have become havens for anti-Semitic hate. “Academic freedom” is now code for the unanimous condemnation of Israel. Shariah law has been blessed by the high priests of cultural relativism and beheadings are casually regarded as quaint oddities of the Middle East.
Welcome to European pluralism 2015. Good luck with that. (Actually, America suffers from some of this, as well.)
No wonder a mass exodus of European Jewry is imminent. With neighbors like these and such lax protections, European Jews might as well live next door to Gaza and avail themselves of the umbrella insurance policy known as the Iron Dome.
Of course what may become a huge immigration bonanza for Israel will be remembered, regretfully, as a colossal brain drain for all of Europe — especially France, where the largest Jewish population on the continent resides.
History has not been kind to nations that have lost, exiled, or killed their Jews. Memo to Europe: Be careful what you allow to happen under your watch. It comes with a big price. Wherever Jews have lived they have brought initiative, innovation, and a general Jewish kop for making things a lot more interesting.
Russia is no longer Mother Russia without its violinists, poets, and novelists. Former Soviet scientists and engineers helped pioneer the high-tech wizardry originating not from Moscow, but Tel Aviv. The Jewish Shahs in Los Angeles are a reminder to Iran of a far more valuable weapon they once had, and then lost. Syrian Jews were thankfully spared the present mass murders in their former country, and along the way they invented the designer jean industry. Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian Jews left a cavernous cultural hole behind where they once lived and then proceeded to invent the American songbook, film and fashion industries — not to mention stand-up comedy.
Call it the curse of the Jewless.
A decline in national prosperity and cultural enrichment is in Europe’s future. Meanwhile, French restaurants will be popping up all over Tel Aviv. And Israelis will begin to dress better, too.
It is a tragedy for Jews worldwide, for sure. Israel will benefit. But France will feel it the worst.