Europe without its Jews has no future, a senior European Union official asserted on Wednesday, echoing comments made by politicians in England and France in the aftermath of the attack on a kosher grocery in Paris earlier this month. “If there’s no future for Jews in Europe, there’s no future for Europe,” said Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, at a memorial in Brussels on Wednesday for the four men killed in that attack. Combating anti-Semitism “is the essential fight for the peaceful nature of European society,” Timmermans asserted. “If the EU is to survive… it is based on the fact that for every community that belongs in Europe, there is a place in Europe.” The mistreatment of Jews has always been a harbinger of “trouble ahead for European societies,” he added.
The official’s comments came on the heels of similar statements by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and British Home Secretary Theresa May, both of whom stated that their own societies’ identities would be compromised by the lack of a Jewish component. “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure,” Valls told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in an interview. Some in France, which emancipated its Jews in the late 18th century, see their Jewish countrymen as a symbol of their national ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, he explained. “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle,” the French prime minister stated. According to Britain’s Daily Mail, May said at a memorial: “Without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain.” She also entreated the Jews not to leave Britain, the tabloid reported. Nearly three-quarters of French Jews surveyed in 2013 said they were considering leaving the country. In England, 45 percent of Jewish respondents recently told pollsters they were “concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Britain.” In an op-ed in the Jewish Chronicle several days after the poll’s results were reported, British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote that the “idea that the Jewish people once again feels unsafe in Europe is a truly sickening thought that strikes at the heart of everything we stand for.”
According to Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, around 50,000 French Jews inquired regarding aliya in 2014. France became the leading source of immigrants for the first time in 2014, with almost 7,000 arrivals, twice as many as in the previous year. While there has been a great deal of rhetoric regarding combating anti-Semitism, some European Jewish leaders have asserted that the action taken has not been commensurate.
In December, the European parliament declined to establish a task force to deal with rising anti-Semitism despite what was perceived to be widespread support, eliciting harsh condemnations from Jews worldwide. “Anti-Semitism is an abomination which has been around for a very long time. It has its specific roots and specific driving forces, not to mention the horrible results it produced in Europe – more so than anywhere else,” Stephan Kramer, of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on anti-Semitism, said at the time. “Therefore, combating anti-Semitism in as efficient a way as possible would have been aided by a special framework designed to do just this. I think that most of those who voted the proposal down realize this. Therefore we have to assume that they succumbed to a warped political correctness which frowns upon calling anti-Semites ‘anti-Semites,’” Kramer said. Aside from anti-Semitic violence, European Jews have also expressed concerns over the rise of far-right political parties in a number of countries, and over efforts to curb Jewish religious slaughter. A Polish ban on the practice was recently overturned.