Jewish Leader Slams Israeli Minister for Saying That Community Doesn’t Belong in France

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A member of the Jewish community stands under a hanukkia in front of the Eiffel tower in Paris on December 25, 2016.
A member of the Jewish community stands under a hanukkia in front of the Eiffel tower in Paris on December 25, 2016.Credit: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP

France’s Jewish umbrella group criticized Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman Tuesday, stating he shouldn’t have said Jews don’t belong in France and should move to Israel.

“Avigdor Lieberman’s statements were excessive and historically inaccurate,” wrote the CRIF organization. “Jews have lived in France for more than 2000 years and they obtained full citizenship in 1791.”

Lieberman lashed out Monday at France for its attempt to organize an international peace summit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged France's Jews to come to Israel.

“I have never heard any Israeli official, let alone a minister, make that kind of statement. Naturally Israeli ministers can call on Jews to make aliyah, that’s their role. But they can’t say we don’t belong in our countries,” CRIF head Francis Kalifat told Haaretz.

“It’s dangerous and regrettable and it can indirectly be used by all kinds of anti-Semites who already say Jews don’t belong in France or are not as French as other citizens.”

“I understand the diplomatic climate is tense currently due to the UN Security Council resolution and the upcoming Paris summit, but there are other ways to act other than to say that French Jews don’t belong in France,” said Kalifat, referring to the recent passing of a vote against settlements at the United Nations.

CRIF's president also criticized Lieberman’s comparison between the Paris summit and the Dreyfus Affair of the 19th century.

“I understand Israel’s concerns about this summit because international summits often turn into courts that prosecute Israel, but comparing the summit to Dreyfus’ trial is excessive,” said Kalifat.

CRIF had also criticized the Security Council resolution and the Paris summit, saying that Israelis and Palestinians should talk to each other directly.

People pay tribute to the four victims of the terror attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket, Paris, Jan. 10, 2015.Credit: Reuters

“It’s not the wording of the resolution itself, because we’ve seen other similar texts. What shocked me was the American abstention. Since he made this decision only days before leaving office, it feels like Barack Obama was seeking to settle some personal scores,” Kalifat said of the American president.  

In January 2015, after four people were killed in an attack on the Jewish Hyper Cacher store, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called on France's Jews to immigrate to Israel.

“You have the right to live in peace and quiet as equal citizens wherever you choose, including here in France,” Netanyahu said. But there is “an additional privilege,” he added, and that is “to join your Jewish brothers in our historical homeland in the land of Israel, the privilege to live in the free state, the only one of the Jewish people, the State of Israel.”

Speaking after the attacks, then-French prime minister Manuel Valls said that "France will no longer be France" if Jews leave, saying "It is a founding principle" of France.

Another Israeli prime minister to call on French Jews to make aliyah was Ariel Sharon. In 2005, as he ended a visit to France, Sharon said, "Just as I call on Jews the world over to move to Israel, I call on you as well." A year earlier, a similar statement by Sharon provoked a diplomatic storm and a harsh protest from the Elysee Palace. This time, Sharon praised French President Jacques Chirac's resolute action to fight anti-Semitism.

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