World Jewish News
Natan Sharansky: ’Many Jews today are questioning their future in Europe'
‘’Many Jews today are questioning their future in Europe,’’ warns Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency.
The former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister who spent nine year in a Soviet prison due to his human rights activism and his desire to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel), was in Brussels this week where he was special guest at a conference in the European Parliament on the state of post-Holocaust restitution.
In an interview with European Jewish Press, Sharansky stressed that many Jews in France have already decided that their future should not be in France. ‘’We see from the figures of the Aliyah that an unprecedented number of Jews from Western Europe also made the decision to come to Israel. It is now equivalent to the Aliyah from Eastern Europe.’’ ‘’We welcome them and provide for their security,’’ he said.
‘’The classical anti-Semitism, coming from both in Europe and also from the Islamic world, together with the new anti-Semitism targeting Israel through discrimination, delegitimization and double standards, are creating an extreme uncomfortable situation for Jews in Europe,’’ Sharansky said.
‘’I was in Belgium in 2014 just after the terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. I met with different youth organisations. I asked them: do you think there is future for Jews in Belgium ? Nobody was ready to say no but nobody was saying that there is one.’’
He said the question is not to what extent governments of Europe do to protect the security of their Jewish citizens. ‘’I have said that the French government as well as other governments in Europe are doing a lot to guarantee the security of Jewish communities…. But if the atmosphere from both the extreme left and the extreme right combined with old and new anti-Semitism is becoming part of the life this is not something Jews will feel comfortable. This is the challenge of European governments whose leaders keep saying that Europe without Jews would not be Europe. Our challenges is to make Israel as attractive as possible for those who are thinking to come to Israel and to try to help Jewish communities to be stronger in every place in the world.’’
Sharansky just returned from a visit in Germany where young Jewish communities are growing because of the immigration from the former Soviet Union. ‘These people had no identity and no traditional life in an open society. So it is very important to encourage and strengthen the young leadership to be proud Jews.’’
He acknowledges that anti-Semitism today is more of a problem in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe. ‘’In countries like Russia and Ukraine where official anti-Semitism was in the past always a very important component of the atmosphere, today official government anti-Semitism doesn’t exit. Of course anti-Semitism in the street exists but first there is no influence of Islamic anti-Semitism or of the new ant-Semitism, the hatred towards Israel. The attitude towards Israel of these countries is rather very positive… It is more in Western liberal Europe which Jews helped to build that anti-Semitism exists, hatred of Israel and double standards towards Israel that prevail in European institutions and is feeding the classical old anti-Semtic prejudice that still exists’’.
Sharansky deplored that a number of countries in Europe have not solved the issue of Holocaust restitution which was discussed at the Brussels conference. ‘’It is a question of justice for many Jewish communities,’’ he said. “A number of Eastern European countried have joined the free Europe and I personally struggled to bring down the iron curtain. I was very happy to see these nations becoming part of Europe. But becoming part of Europe means also becoming part of its values… You cannot really be integrated into Europe and at the same time not recognize your obligations to return the properties and assets which were robbed by the Nazis and not returned by the Communist regimes.’’
He stressed that every hour ‘’there are another two or three Holocaust survivors who die. Every hour there is less possibility to do justice.’’