By Olivia Daniels
Following the attacks on Jews living in European countries, most recently the terror attacks in Copenhagen, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a mass emigration of Jews from Europe. Netanyahu said, “Jews have been murdered again on soil only because they were Jews,” reiterating, “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home”.
This comment left European leaders extremely defensive, French President Francois Hollande telling French Jews, “I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and in France in particular,” while French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also commented, “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again,” and, “we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today”. Denmark’s Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior told the Associated Press, “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism, but not because of terrorism,” and insightfully, “if the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a desert island.”
The director of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachim Margolin, is using the tragedy in Copenhagen as means for a change in gun licensing laws to allow Jews to carry weapons in Europe. Margolin said, “When I pick up my son at the synagogue I want to make sure that he is there and he is alive…it is a very basic request”. Despite his loss of faith, Margolin also criticized Netanyahu’s call, explaining, “Netanyahu is basically saying ‘we have no way to protect you where you are’”.
The problem is not that Netanyahu wants Jews to come to Israel: the state was built on immigration and its survival has always been contingent on Jews coming and staying. The issue is that the prime minister is insinuating that Jews are not safe anywhere but in Israel, which places a stigma on both European countries and European Jews: Jews are not welcome in Europe, and they will not be safe unless they leave. Even Shimon Peres, former Israeli president and prime minister, retorted, telling the Times of Israel, “Don’t come to Israel because of a political position, but because you want to come and live in Israel…Israel must remain a land of hope and not a land of fear”.
According to the Law of Return, any Jewish person can become an Israeli citizen, so long as they pose no threat to the state or the people. In 1970, the law was amended to include citizenship for non-Jewish immediate family members. Thus, it is relatively simple for any Jew with the will and the means to become an Israeli citizen. In the first quarter of 2014, Jewish immigration to Israel increased by 50 percent, 93 percent of which was from Western Europe and Ukraine. In all of 2014, more than 7,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from France, which was twice as many than in 2013. The January attacks in Paris left Israel expecting another increase. Around 8,000 Jews live in Denmark today and despite recent events, they have been asked to stay in their home country with the promise of protection. The Danish-born terrorist that killed two people in Copenhagen was shot and killed by police on Sunday, allowing the Danish people to feel a moment of relief.
Jews should feel safe in today’s world, and they should not have to relocate to Israel for that to become a reality. One cannot ask anyone to stay somewhere they feel threatened, so it is up to those European leaders to uphold their promises of inclusion and protection.