A significant exodus of Jews from France is underway. It began long before the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the killing of innocent Jews at a kosher grocery store, but those events may well inspire further relocation. Scott Ott at PJ Media compiled the emigration figures into a graph, and its rocket-like ascent after 2012 is impossible to miss.
France’s economy going sour may be a contributing factor, but Ott dismisses it as the primary cause. Instead, he suggests that “the Jews have seen this story before, and they will never forget.” He writes, “They know that ‘noble’ world leaders will quibble and equivocate as Jews are surrounded ‘for their own protection.'” He asserts, they are “slaughtered to satisfy the bloodlust of evil men.”
Writing for the National Post, Norman Lebrecht mentions such anxieties while explaining that his family’s time in France, which stretches back to 1727, has come to an end. He cites the Charlie Hebdo horror as part of a long, worsening trend, which began not with the arrival of a massive North African immigration wave, but after the new arrivals settled in, grew alienated from French society, and turned sour.
“The alienated populace in the outer suburbs, ignored by the Republic and exploited by radical preachers, contributed to Jewish unease,” writes Lebrecht. “Some streets were no longer safe to walk in a skullcap. Anti-Semitic rhetoric was heard on the Right, on the Left, and from the banlieues. Murderous attacks on Jewish schools aroused no national outrage on the scale seen in the past week.” Here he refers obliquely to the Toulouse massacre at a Jewish school by an Islamist gunman in March 2012, an event which tracks fairly closely against the surge of Jewish emigration from France.
Despite reassurances given during the great Paris unity march last weekend, Lebrecht feels the government can no longer guarantee the safety of Jewish citizens. “Yesterday a million marched in Paris and the impressive Mr. Valls declared: ‘We are all Charlie, we are all police, we are all Jews of France.’ How I long to believe that,” he says. “My Jewish friends were out on the streets of Paris this weekend, hoping that, after this tragic moment, the tide will turn.” He continues, “For myself, I am unable to pretend that life will go on as before. My history, as a Jew of France, is over.”
A cynic might say that everyone who sacrifices their right of self-defense in exchange for the promise of government protection is bound for disappointment. The European Jewish Association hammered this point home by demanding adjustments to restrictive European gun laws in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market horrors, making it easier for Jews to defend themselves. EJA’s general director, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said in a statement that Jewish communities need to be armed and trained “for the essential protection of their communities … [and] to protect their members from potential terror attacks.”
But it seems as if a significant number of French Jews have decided not to wait for such a request to be granted. The UK Guardian interviewed a man named Felix Freoa, a frequent customer at the bakery next to the recently besieged Hyper Cacher kosher grocery, who has decided to relocate to Israel with his wife and children. Freoa mentions the constant stream of anti-Semitic incidents that receives little media coverage in France, and virtually none outside its borders, describing an atmosphere of tension with his Muslim neighbors that grows intense when bad news rolls out of the Middle East.
“I’m not super-religious, but France has changed,” he says. “We keep to ourselves a bit, we spend time with Jewish friends, and people are scared. We don’t feel safe like before.” He expresses considerable skepticism for the promises of improved safety given by French officials in the wake of the Hyper Cacher incident, mourning the number of French Muslim schools that simply ignored the national request for a moment of silence. “In a few days it will be like nothing happened,” Freoa predicts. “In two months, we’ll be called filthy Jews again.”
The sad, frightened, and confused reality of the new French exodus is reflected by the confused tone of a New York Times piece by Shmuel Rosner, writing from Tel Aviv. Rosner begins by seeming to chastise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessor Ariel Sharon for encouraging French emigration to Israel, which Rosner characterizes as surrendering to terrorism, as well as insulting to the government of France, but by the end of the piece, he seems to accept that French Jews are making a sadly inevitable decision by decamping for Israel: “If the only way for Jews to live in France today is behind barracks and guards with guns, perhaps it makes more sense not just for the dead to go to Israel, but also for the living to move to a place where we are the guards, we are the army and we are the government.”
“It is heartbreaking to witness a great Jewish community in a great country slowly losing its ability to thrive in a hostile and violent environment,” declares Rosner. “And it is unfortunate that all the Jewish state has to offer them is escape.” As opposed to what? What, exactly, is the government of Israel supposed to do for French Jews that the government of France cannot? The bulk of Rosner’s article agrees with the accounts in the National Post and Guardian of a degrading situation for the Jewish community that has been ignored for too long. What, then, is to be gained by upbraiding Netanyahu for talking about it?
In the United States, we speak reverently of the “consent of the governed” as the source of legitimate government authority. The ultimate means of withdrawing consent from a government is to leave. A fair number of French Jews have lost confidence in the ability of their government to maintain order. Clearly, they are not worried about a tiny handful of extremists, but the resentment of a far larger, implacably hostile population. If the threat were posed only by a few random lone-wolf kooks with no great influence among French Muslims, then French Jews would not be concluding the situation is hopeless–and leaving the country they love in such great numbers.