Charlie Hebdo: Netanyahu’s Policies Are Fueling Anti-Semitism
14 January 2015
By Alon Ben-Meir
I am no longer surprised by what Israel’s Prime
Minister Netanyahu says or does. No leader with any
pride and sensitivity would have tried to exploit for
political gain the tragic deaths of four French Jews
who were assassinated in a kosher supermarket in
Paris. It is one thing to travel to France and
demonstrate solidarity with the French people after
the horrific execution of 12 journalists at the
satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo; it is an entirely
different matter to use the occasion to call on French
Jews to immigrate to Israel to avoid anti-Semitism and
“live secure and peaceful lives.”
At this moment, when France has a good deal of
soul-searching to do, we may do well to recall the
thoughts of Jean-Paul Sartre, whose Anti-Semite and
Jew, though written over seventy years ago, contains
observations that are no less true today, such as his
diagnosis of anti-Semitism as an all-consuming
passion, a “total choice” that transforms hatred into
Sartre understood that the answer to anti-Semitism did
not lie in the Jews of France leaving their
country—“their original fatherland”—to live in
Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, as Netanyahu recently proposed.
Any solution to the problem of anti-Semitism (which is
on the rise all over Europe) will involve recognizing,
in Sartre’s closing words, that “[n]ot one Frenchman
will be secure so long as a single Jew – in France or
in the world at large – can fear for his life.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recognized this
fact when he expressed deep concerns about the
prospect, however remote, that a large segment of
French Jews may leave France because of the rise of
anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments.
For Valls, the recognition of Jews as full citizens is
a founding principle of the 1789 French Revolution and
remains one of the central pillars of French
By calling on French Jews to immigrate to Israel while
still on French soil, Netanyahu was rudely suggesting
that they are no longer safe in France and only Israel
can provide a safe haven where they can live without
fear and with security.
Netanyahu conveniently forgets that 80 times more
Israelis were killed in Israel by suicide bombers and
random acts of violence in the past 20 years than all
Jews killed in Europe by terrorists in the same time
French, British, and American Jews do not see Israel
as the exclusive home for the Jews; they are proud to
be citizens of their respective countries. Netanyahu’s
scare tactics to prompt the Jews to leave their places
of birth is an affront to France and to Jews as well.
Yes, the majority of these Jews have a special
affinity to Israel, but they do not feel torn between
their loyalty to their country of birth and their
kinship with Israel.
Although a greater number of Jews left France to live
in Israel in 2014 than the previous year, many more
immigrated to the US and Canada, among other
countries. It should be noted that the overall number
of young Western Jews immigrating to Israel has
declined over the past ten years.
They no longer view Israel as a pioneering, free, and
democratic state the way they envisioned it before.
They do not accept the occupation as if it were a way
of life; they vilify discrimination against Israeli
Arabs and loathe the endemic corruption of Israel’s
While Netanyahu calls for Jews to immigrate to Israel,
he has done next to nothing to stem the flow of
Israeli Jews emigrating from Israel; nearly one
million left in the past 20 years. Ironically, many
are leaving because they fear for their security and
do not wish to have their children enlisted in the
army, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grinds on.
Anti-Semitism has existed from time immemorial. There
is probably little the Jews can do to change that sad
reality, just as African-Americans can hardly change
the racism of many white Americans.
Even after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the
passage of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery two
years later, after decades of struggle for civil
rights, and the election of a black President in 2008,
racial profiling remains a source of deep resentment
for African Americans.
Whether anti-Semitism is instigated by envy, enmity,
or is culturally espoused, escaping to Israel would
simply hand a victory to the anti-Semites. There will
always be Jews living throughout the world (perhaps
it’s the secret behind their survival) and the
anti-Semite will still lurk in the shadows.
The question is, since anti-Semitism cannot be
expunged and the Jews will have to live with it, what
can they, and particularly Israel, do to allay the
disease of anti-Semitism?
Regardless of where they may live, the Jews need not
bend backwards to please their enemies, but the onus
falls especially on Israel to do the right thing and
stop feeding fuel to the fire.
It is not by sheer accident that the whole world,
including Israel’s closest friend and ally—the
US—rejects the settlement enterprise and the continued
occupation, and it is not accidental that there is a
spike in global anti-Semitic incidents every time the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares up.
Netanyahu must accept the fact that the occupation is
one of the main causes (but not the source) behind the
recent rise of anti-Semitism. Instead of focusing on
ending it, he is calling on French Jews to immigrate
to Israel only to ‘become oppressors’ of the
Reaching an equitable peace agreement with the
Palestinians will not eliminate anti-Semitism, as
Sartre observed, “If the Jew did not exist, the
anti-Semite would invent him.” But it will, at a
minimum, regress anti-Semitic fervor.
No, if Netanyahu cannot find his soul, the hour is
calling for another Israeli leader to rise and have
the courage to answer the call.