Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon has called on Jews living in France to leave their homes there and go to Israel, the Promised Land. The premier believes anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly strong in France.
The statement outraged Paris. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac said Mr Sharon would be persona non grata on French soil until he changed his position. The press echoed Mr Chirac's criticism. Le Figaro wrote that Mr Sharon's attack was unworthy as, first, France was not an anti-Semitic country and, second, Mr Sharon knew that.
The point was well put. However, Ariel Sharon is convinced that anti-Semitism has swept the whole world, differing only in the scale of aggression. Besides, 200 French Jews will take an El Al charter flight next week to return to their historic homeland. These Jews will abandon their homes and jobs in France to lead new lives in Israel, which appears to substantiate the Israeli premier's arguments. The 200 Jews agree with Mr Sharon's opinion that, although there is no anti-Semitism at the state level, its unpleasant influence can be felt in everyday life in France.
Mr Sharon put the current wave of anti-Semitism in France down to the growing influx of Muslim immigrants to the country. Muslims do not try to integrate into the western community, but live an isolated life and often stage "indifadas" against local Jews. For example, according to a number of reports, members of the local Muslim community regularly attack Jews in the town of Sarselle, which is about ten miles from Paris. Apparently this is what Mr Sharon means by savage anti-Semitism.
According to The Jewish Agency for Israel, 225 Jews left Eastern Europe for Israel in 2003, 370 Jews left Muslim-dominated Asia, and 2,476 Jews left Western Europe where anti-Semitism is not pursued at the government level. What do the figures suggest?
Jewish immigrants from Russia, on the contrary, are returning to Russia. Here are the results of a recent vote on the Russian Web site of The Jewish Agency for Israel: 29% of Russian Jews want to relocate to Israel, 18% do not plan to emigrate, while 25% of immigrants want to return to Russia. The latter offer different reasons. Apparently the main reason is that Jews and Muslims have lived in Russia for centuries without any major ethnic conflicts. Western Europe will have to learn to prevent anti-Semitic outbursts and ensure peace between the two ethnic minorities.