Elections in Europe make Jewish communities uneasy

Francois Hollande's victory speech

Francois Hollande’s victory speech

There’s election fever in Europe, and the severe economic crisis together with the government changeovers are making the Jews nervous.

The defeat of French President Nicholas Sarkozy and the election of the socialist François Hollande comes against the background of thousands of French Jews participating in an Aliyah fair.

Some 5,000 French Jews participated in an aliyah fair in Paris.

The fair, organized and run by the Jewish Agency, took place Sunday as French voters went to the polls and elected Francois Hollande as their new president, beating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, considered the favored choice in the Jewish community.

“I cannot recall having seen such a massive number of people interested in aliyah since the days when lines of people stretched out of the Israeli embassy in Moscow,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who attended the fair. The annual fair usually attracts about 2,000 visitors, according to the Jewish Agency.

[...]

A new survey conducted in March, of the 500,000-member French Jewish community, the second largest in the Diaspora, found that French Jews have grown so disgusted with anti-Semitism that more than one quarter of them are considering emigrating.

[...]

According to the poll, 26 percent of those surveyed said they have considered emigrating due to worsening French anti-Semitism.

Of them, 13 percent are “seriously” considering leaving, according to Washington pollster Stan Greenberg, who led the surveys and focus groups.

The mood among French Jews is like a “severe depression,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, a founder of The Israel Project.

One of the concerns of French Jewry, according to a Jewish Press article,  is that even though Hollande himself has expressed support for Israel, his election will give a boost to the anti-Israel left.

Richard Prasquier, President of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), the umbrella group of Jewish-French organizations, expressed concerns that one of the changes the Hollande presidency brings is a boost to the anti-Israel left.

[...]

Speaking to reporters Monday  before a meeting at the French Consulate in New York, CRIF President Prasquier said, “We know that some of the parties who are supposed to be partners of the coalition in favor of François Hollande are not friends of Israel. The part they will play we will see.”

Hollande won the backing of centrist François Bayrou, who took nine percent in the first round, and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, who took 11 percent.

But Prasquier also said that both Hollande and Sarkozy are friends of Israel and share the same views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But, he added, Hollande is untested when it comes to Iran, and there are closer ties between the Socialist Party and the anti-Israel far left than there are between Sarkozy’s party and the xenophobic far right represented by Marine Le Pen’s National Front.

The problem, Prasquier said, is not with Hollande or the people close to him, but with the adamantly anti-Israel parties that are supporting him.

Meanwhile, over in Greece, the opposite election result, with the far-right gaining seats in Parliament,  is having a similar effect on its Jewish community.

Jewish leaders in Greece expressed concern and disappointment after the fascist Golden Dawn party was poised to enter the Greek parliament for the first time.

Speaking to a news conference on Sunday, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos warned Greece’s enemies – inside and outside the country – that they should be “very afraid.”

“We are coming,” said Michaloliakos, one of the party’s only nationally known leaders. He came to prominence when he won a seat on the Athens City Council in 2010 and celebrated by giving the Nazi salute at the first City Hall meeting.

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“It is very disappointing that in a country like Greece, where so many were killed fighting the Germans, that a neo-Nazi party is now in parliament,” David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told JTA.

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Its manifesto does not specifically mention the country’s small Jewish community, saying only that the party would tolerate religious freedom “except in cases that affect national interest and undermine Hellenism.”

However, the party openly displays copies of “Mein Kampf” alongside works on Greek racial superiority at party headquarters and the party symbol has been found at the sites of anti-Semitic attacks in the past.

One ray of good news out of Europe is that the anti-Israel and antisemitic Ken Livingstone was defeated in the election for Mayor of London.  Following this result, Livingstone declared his farewell to politics.

It would be nice to continue hearing good news like this from Europe, rather than results like those from Greece. At least today the Jews have somewhere to run if necessary.

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5 Responses to Elections in Europe make Jewish communities uneasy

  1. Neil says:

    Actually, it’s good news!!! 1 day the Jews in the Americas, Australia & New Zealand will wake up!!! As for Greek racial superiority, their country today is the basket case of Europe!!! I hope the Greek & Turkish nazis kill each other & the Jews in both country’s are forced to make aliyah!!!

    • anneinpt says:

      Neil, I agree with you that Greece is the basket case of Europe, but I must object strenuously to your wish that the Greeks and Turks kill each other. We really must not wish for war for anyone.

      As for the Jews being “forced” to make aliyah, experience tells us that Jews from Western countries only make aliyah when economic circumstances worsen. Antisemitism may play some part in the decision to make aliyah, but economics trumps all other reasons. How else to explain that the Jews of France, Turkey, England, everywhere where antisemitism has been rising, are not flooding into Israel. True, there is a steady stream, but it has a long way to go before it turns into a flood.

  2. Andrea says:

    Anne,

    My compliment for your usual objectivity in reporting European policy. You avoided strong criticism toward France – that is a great point considering you come from UK :) and showed respect for Greece
    Hollande is not enemy of Israel this is sure and do not forget that original candidate for Socialst Party was Dominique Strauss Khann, well known supporter of Israel ( and Jew himself if this could matter ). DSK with strong and bitter irony said that he had three sins to be forgiven for : being Jew, being rich and desperate for women- last two were fatal , not the first.
    Anyway under an historical point of view Socialist were not so bad for Jews : Leon Blum, Mitterrand and others. Problem is – as you said – connection with Far Left and Arabs supporter and it is not a detail.
    Greece – Hellas : what a shame for the Nation who defeated italian fascist and struggle with pride against nazists !
    I hope Hellas will react in the right way – which European country after all had not its moment of shame ? ( ehm..Germany, Italy, England ,France …add whomever )
    Situation is worrying but Jews are not getting away – and it would not be the right option. Why Jews have always to escape ? Aliyah is one thing – an ideal and ethic step – but gateway is something must be moved from dictionary. Engagez – Vous where the battle is.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for the compliments Andrea. I’m blushing! :-)

      As you said, Francois Hollande is not an enemy of Israel which is why I was careful in what I wrote. And like you mentioned, I also read elsewhere about the number of Jewish socialist leaders of France, so the fact that the socialists won is not necessarily a bad thing for the Jews. I think what is causing unease is the socialists’ possible parliamentary partners. We shall just have to wait and see how it turns out.

      The same goes for Greece. One can understand why the population voted as they did, but it is cause for unease, but again, it is still early days.

      As for your last comment –

      Why Jews have always to escape ? Aliyah is one thing – an ideal and ethic step – but gateway is something must be moved from dictionary. Engagez – Vous where the battle is”

      I agree 100%! Of course if things get really bad somewhere, it’s good that there is now a State of Israel to absorb Jewish refugees. But truly, as you say, it is better for Jews to make Aliyah for purely ideological reasons. I just wanted to mark the difference between the situation today – however bad things might get – and how they were 70+ years ago.

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