Platitudes Here and There

From one side, Danish Jews are being pulled by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and their own Chief Rabbi, who wants them to stay put, and from the other side, by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who wants them to move to Israel

To be sure, it’s an enviable position for European Jews to be in. There were years in the not-too-distant past when no one wanted them. When no government would see fit to condemn the murder of a Jew or the assault on a shul.

For this reason, Mrs. Thorning-Schmidt is to be commended for issuing a warm statement of support for her country’s Jews in the wake of the killing this past Shabbos of Dan Uzan, Hy”d, who was standing guard outside a Copenhagen shul when a Muslim terrorist opened fire.

The Jews “belong in Denmark,” she said. “They are part of the Danish community and we wouldn’t be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark.”

But as heartwarming and appreciated as these words are, they aren’t enough. What is needed is a recognition that radical Islam has specifically targeted the Jewish community — not just in Denmark, of course, but in France, Belgium, England and elsewhere.

This recognition must be internalized by the politicians, the media and, most importantly, by the security forces. It must be translated into a policy that shows zero tolerance for incitement in the media against Jews (including that which masquerades as “anti-Israel” or “pro-Palestinian”). It must be translated into beefed-up security for shuls and Jewish cemeteries that have been subjected to vandalism, and to patrols in Jewish neighborhoods.

Attempts to obfuscate the evil of radical Islam and its primary targets results in misguided, ineffective policies. When more than a million people march in Paris with banners proclaiming Je Suis Charlie, with few signs of solidarity or identification with the Jews who were murdered two days later in a kosher supermarket, the perpetrators get the message, loud and clear.

And when President Obama makes the ludicrous claim that the killings in a kosher supermarket in a Jewish neighborhood on a Friday afternoon were “random,” as if the victims could just as easily have been Muslims, it is an insult to the victims and unintentionally sets the stage, chalilah, for the next tragedy.

The problem of radical Islam in Europe is complex. It requires great political courage to take a stand that will cost you votes. Such courage was shown this week by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who spoke movingly about the importance of France’s Jews to the country after the supermarket massacre. He said Monday that the government would defend French Jews against “Islamo-fascism.”

These voices must be heard and must form policy throughout Europe. Only in that way will Europe’s Jews feel that they have a future on a continent that has been the scene of the worst crime in history.

At the same time — leaving aside the question of whether it is appropriate to let the local governments off the hook in terms of providing protection for their citizens, and whether Jews in Israel, who are afraid to visit their parents’ kevarim on Har Hazeisim without armed guard are any safer — Netanyahu’s invitations to French and Danish Jews are meaningless unless they are backed up by action.

It isn’t enough to tell the Jews of France or Denmark, “Come home, Israel wants you.” There must be concrete plans, complete with budgets, to make it possible for Jews to make a life in Israel.

After all, there isn’t enough affordable housing for tens of thousands of young Israeli couples, who have work and speak the language. Will there be homes for European Jews who don’t have those advantages?

In the 1990s, during the wave of Aliyah from the former Soviet Union, there was a “bulldozer” by the name of Ariel Sharon who pushed through massive housing projects. True, Netanyahu on Sunday approved a budget of NIS 180 million to help absorb immigrants from France, Belgium and Ukraine, but there is no sense of urgency, no sense in Israel that Europe’s Jews are in danger and the stops must be pulled out to provide for them.

The Jews of Europe deserve better than platitudes, whether from their leaders in Denmark or France, or those in Israel. Statements of support are certainly important, and appreciated, but they must be backed with action, with operative plans that provide security in Europe and the option of making a new life in Israel.

Ultimately it is only up to the Jews of Europe to decide whether they wish to stay or emigrate, and we must respect and support their decision.