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.
“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.
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.