The French government is deploying thousands of troops and police across the country to protect Jewish sites, and Charlie Hebdo, target of last week’s newsroom massacre in Paris, is preparing to print three million copies of its next issue.
Yet the beefed up security and defiant free speech may do little to reassure the Jews of France who say they live amidst rising homegrown anti-Semitism and a new generation of native-born Islamists.
“There are thousands of French citizens fighting for jihad in Syria and Iraq,” Roger Cukierman, the president of the main umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said at a ceremony honoring last week’s victims. “When they return to France, they are truly bombs with a time delay.”
About 500 French Jews attended a weekend workshop in Paris on making aliyah, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“The fact that hundreds showed up here … is indicative of how central the concept of aliyah has become for French Jews in recent years,” Sharansky said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also invited French Jews to emigrate to Israel, Reuters reported, during a visit to the Hypercacher kosher supermarket where four Jewish hostages were murdered by a collaborator in the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Yet Netanyahu’s message was not universally welcomed by French Jews, or by government officials.
“It was essential he came to show that he was with us French, Jews of France,” Mauricette Abouchaya, a Paris resident, told Reuters. “(But) we’re in France, we want to stay in France. It is our country.”
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, told The Atlantic that “the French Republic will be judged a failure” if its Jewish population were to leave.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, criticized Sharansky and Netanyahu for calling upon Jews in Paris and Europe to emigrate. “I regret that after every anti-Semitic attack in Europe, the Israeli government dispenses the same statements about the importance of aliyah rather than take all measures … at its disposal in order to increase the safety of Jewish life in Europe,” Margolin told the Hebrew-language news website NRG.
According to the Telegraph of London, Charlie Hebdo remains committed to its mission of indiscriminately lampooning religious and political leaders, and is gearing up for a record three-million issue print run on Wednesday.
“We will not give in, otherwise all this won’t have meant anything,” the magazine’s lawyer, Richard Malka, told France Info radio on Monday.
When asked whether the new issue would feature more cartoons of Mohammed, the Islamic prophet whose depiction is considered blasphemous by Muslims, Malka replied: “Naturally.”