Jews, Don't Run From France

Jews are part of the French people and of all progressive society, which includes Muslims and Arabs, is the vast majority of the French population, and is at the forefront against Al-Qaida and ISIS.

Saja Abu Fanni
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People gather at Paris' Place de la Republique before the start of the “Marche Republicaine,” January 11, 2015.
People gather at Paris' Place de la Republique before the start of the “Marche Republicaine,” January 11, 2015.Credit: AFP
Saja Abu Fanni

The Israeli Opera’s management refused the request by visiting French conductor Frederic Chaslin to play “Hatikva” in memory of the victims of the attacks in Paris at the beginning of a concert he was to have conducted, and so he pulled out of the performance. Was Chaslin right in his request, or was the opera management right to refuse it?

The question has many aspects, and I can only relate to the political one. Is the national anthem, with everything it symbolizes, the proper response to a criminal terror attack against French people, including Jews and others? Liberal Jews must also answer this question.

Is the call to Jews from France to move to Israel, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastened to make, the answer to cruel Al-Qaida terror, or will it encourage terror by fanatic Islamist groups? After all, the leaders of Al-Qaida would be able to take pride in the fact that they have frightened the “Zionist enemy”: The cowardly Jews are packing their bags and fleeing. Is this the image of proud Jews that Israel wants to show the world? After all, Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing are trying to paint an image that frightens the enemy and here, at the moment of truth, Jews are depicted as poor Diaspora figures whom everyone has abandoned.

Netanyahu’s call to the Jews of France depicts French Jews, scions of the magnificent culture of the French Revolution, which laid strong foundations for the dignity of people everywhere, in the image of Jews who live in Iran, or in countries with a medieval way of life.

Playing “Hatikva” in memory of the Parisian victims would be similarly out of place. The Israeli national anthem is no longer relevant even to the present-day Israeli reality; would it be suitable for the Europe in which Jews live today? This melancholy song was written at a time when the Jews of Europe were persecuted by inflamed citizenry or by cruel regimes in whose maintenance anti-Semitism played a key role. In contrast to the reality at the beginning of the 20th century, Jews today are part of the French people and part of all of progressive society, which includes Muslims and Arabs. These progressive members of society, who constitute the vast majority of the French population, are at the forefront against the barbarity of Al-Qaida and ISIS.

Moreover, all the institutions of France and of all European countries stand with them. Under these circumstances, it would be very strange if the ultimate Zionist response would be to call on French Jews to leave their country.

The departure of the Jews from France, if it happened, would be a blow against democratic Europe and a blow against the Jews themselves. Jews have made a huge contribution to Europe over hundreds of years in various fields. The Jewish departure from Arab countries due to persecution was very damaging to those countries.

Arabs who believe in conspiracies suspect that the terror attacks in France are meant to rouse public opinion against Arabs and Palestinians in France, and throughout Europe, due to the growing support in Europe for recognition of a Palestinian state. After all, France voted in the United Nations to recognize it. “The extremist terror groups harm Islam more than all the caricatures, books or films,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said. At the same time, disgust in the Muslim and Arab world over these attacks, and the numbers of people denouncing them, are growing.

If there is a lesson from the chilling crimes in Paris, it is the need for cooperation among all forces of progress.

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