Anti-Semitism may inspire Jewish exodus to Israel

By Andrew Friedman, Pacific News Service
Thursday April 11, 2002

Ironically, the new anti-Semitism sweeping the globe could resolve part of Israel's dilemma of ruling a rebellious majority population of Palestinians on the West Bank. 

Synagogues throughout Europe and Australia have been vandalized and burned to the ground, stoning attacks on French Jews are so common they don't even make the news anymore, and anti-Semitism in Britain has been described as an acceptable sentiment in high-society London. 

Jews worldwide are asking again, "Where can we go if this hatred against us continues?" The answer, from Argentina to France, may increasingly be, "Israel." Just as a massive influx of Jewish refugees into Israel in 1948 created a large enough Jewish majority to end Arab claims to such previously Arab cities as Haifa and Jaffa, so too would a Jewish majority in the West Bank turn the tables on the current Palestinian independence movement. 

Predictably, the worst violence has come from local Arab communities, in an attempt to "get in on the action" of the Islamic world's anti-Israeli jihad. Fundamentalist Islam has replaced the Catholic Church as the world's main protagonist of anti-Semitism. But, moral considerations aside, Diaspora Arabs would be wise to reconsider their strategy of turning foreign capitals into battlegrounds in the Israel-Palestinian war. 

Historically, there is nothing like anti-Semitism to push Jews to Israel. 

Anti-Semitism, not religious messianic fervor, was the original motivator behind the Zionist movement in the mid-19th century. Cool-headed secularists concluded that Jews would continue to be a pariah group as long as they were the guests of foreign hosts. 

The main body of original Jewish settlers were from Poland and Russia, countries with long, shameful histories of anti-Jewish violence. Even in Germany, where Jews enjoyed tremendous affluence and social acceptance prior to the Nazi period, many sought refuge in Palestine once their fortunes had changed. Many waited too long; had a State of Israel existed in 1940, six million lives would have been saved. 

The wisdom, practicality and even morality of retaining Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank is a matter of great debate among Israelis and among Jews worldwide. But the debate only exists because of the fact that Diaspora Jews have forsaken that area, known to many Israelis as Judea and Samaria. If 5 million British, French and Argentine Jews had flooded into the West Bank following the 1967 war that left Israel in control of that territory, there would be no debate today about its “status.” 

Nowhere is the renewed anti-Semitism more ominous than in France. 

Spokespeople for the French Jewish establishment speak openly of their fear of another Krystallnacht (the organized anti-Jewish riots that tore through Germany on one night in 1938, causing untold loss of life and property, and the destruction of countless synagogues). Though the Moslem grand mufti of Paris has decried local attacks as “barbaric” and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac has denounced the violence as “unworthy of France,” their words won't necessarily stop the current, “grassroots” variety of anti-Semitism. 

France is home to 750,000 Jews, and the community is known to be one of the most Zionistically minded in the Jewish Diaspora. French is still an important enough language in Israel that one can reasonably “get by” without knowing Hebrew or English. And the memory of the 1940 Vichy government, which turned over more than 100,000 French Jews to the Nazis, is still fresh in the minds of the Jewish community. If the threat of violence from French Moslems continues to rise, the community may have no qualms, and no choice, about fleeing to Israel. 

Another current example of a Diaspora community turning its eyes to Israel is Argentina. Like France, Argentina's 200,000-strong Jewish community has strong Zionist activity, and the country has a history of anti-Semitism. Argentina has provided a safe haven for more Nazi war criminals than any other country on Earth, including top-level “final solution” architect Adolf Eichmann and the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. 

The 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires is proof enough of significant anti-Semitic sentiment in Argentina. The current economic crisis has already sent more than 4,000 Argentines to Israel, a number that could rise dramatically with a wave of anti-Jewish attacks. 

A massive aliya (group immigration) from France and Argentina would be welcomed by Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister and architect of the settlement map. Many in Sharon's ruling Likud party have been critical of former prime minister and colleague Yitzhak Shamir for failing to populate “the territories” with ex-Soviet Jews when they first started arriving from the Soviet Union in 1989. Together, the million Jews who currently live in France and Argentina could help Sharon start to rectify what has been seen as Shamir's mistake. 

Israeli settlers currently face massive domestic and international pressure to leave their homes, and Israeli leaders face a moral dilemma of ruling over a vast Arab population. Were Jews to achieve majority status, or even demographic parity in the West Bank, the moral problem of “occupying” the land would disappear, perhaps along with international demands for Israel to withdraw. 

With high enough numbers of Jewish immigrants, Israel would no longer have to worry about the “demographic problem,” and could reasonably be expected to grant full citizenship rights to the 2 million West Bank Arabs without jeopardizing the Jewish nature of the state. In other words, Jewish democracy would finally be extended to the West Bank. 




Friedman (andye_friedman@ hotmail.com) is a freelance writer who recently lived in Jerusalem and the West Bank.