Wednesday, October 7, 2015

France: The twilight of French Jewry, the twilight of France

It should be pointed out that in spite of Mr. Valls's nice words, the French government is one of Europe's most inimical to Israel.  Read: French leaders of Jewish communities rebuke government's anti-Israel stance.

Essay by Alain El-Mouchan (the pen name of a professor of history and geography in Paris) @ Mosaic Magazine.

Tributes to those killed in the terrorist attack on the HyperCacher kosher supermarket in Paris, January 12, 2015. 
Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images.
French Jews are emigrating to Israel by the tens of thousands. Their departure isn’t just about them; it’s about the end of the French idea.

The violent turmoil in today’s Middle East is producing an array of bewildering and seemingly contradictory effects. One of them is this: hundreds of thousands of refugees, soon perhaps millions, are fleeing the region in hopes of finding shelter in a Europe deeply uncertain both of itself and of what to do with them. Simultaneously, on a much smaller but historically portentous scale, tens of thousands of Jews are departing France, the home of Europe’s largest Jewish population, and heading for the same Middle East, but in their case for a country ready, willing, and eager to enfold them. 

What meaning can be given to this apparent coincidence of opposites? Focusing almost entirely on the situation in France, the analyst Alain El-Mouchan here teases out the causes that lie behind the departure of thousands of its Jews for home in Israel. Much has already been written about the crisis of European Jewry, including notably here and here in Mosaic. But, especially in the light of the continent’s stark disorientation as it confronts masses clamoring for entry, the topic has become timely again, carrying as it does lessons not only about the past but for the future.

“If 100,000 Frenchmen of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is no longer France. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.” Thus declared Prime Minister Manuel Valls to the National Assembly in January 2015, within days of the homicidal jihadist attacks in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket.

What prompted this impassioned declaration? It is true enough that increasing numbers of French Jews have been leaving for Israel. In the past five years alone, more than 20,000 have done so, and since 2012 the annual figures have been moving steadily upward. Still, the French Jewish population, standing at about 480,000, remains the largest in Europe, and the latest surge, following as it does upon earlier, smaller movements of French Jews to Israel, is a far cry from the Prime Minister’s alarmed figure of 100,000. Is so massive an outflow really imminent, and, no less important, is there a sense in which the departure of a cohort of 100,000 Jews would truly mean the failure of the French political model of republican governance—that is, of France itself? Read more.

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