France and the Jewish people: A “love story” gone wrong?
By Guy Athia, Director of Chosen People Ministries in France
Since the revolution of 1789 and the emancipation of the Jews proclaimed by Napoleon a few years later, there were several attempts to return to the previous status for the Jews living in France. The most recent one was during World War II, with France’s Vichy government of collaboration with the Nazis.
Until the Six-Day War in 1967, France provided Israel with military supplies and had a very close relationship with the State of Israel. However, the situation changed with the adoption of what is known today as the “Arabic politic” of France led by General De Gaulle. It’s interesting to see that in the same period of the 1960s the Jewish population of the country grew a lot with the Sephardic Jews who came from North Africa.
France currently has the largest Jewish population in Europe (650,000 people) and also the largest Arab and Muslim population – over 6 million people. This reality naturally results in tension, especially regarding the subject of the conflict between Israel and the Muslim countries. Most French Jews feel close ties with the Land of Israel, and many have family there.
Since the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, antisemitism in France has grown and the number of incidents has increased. Whereas the physical aggressions are coming mainly from the Muslims, the intellectual concepts of hating Israel and the Jewish people usually arise from French intellectuals, professors, journalists and politicians.
One predominant idea is that there are “bad” Jews and “good” Jews – namely, those who support Israel, and the rest. Sometimes, well-known Jews in politics and entertainment are accused of being part of the conflict with the Palestinians. Jewish actors and businessmen are often accused of having too much money, power, and influence. These stereotypes are used with increasing frequency as arguments for boycotts of Israeli products and other anti-Israel demonstrations. At the beginning of 2009, pro-Palestinian manifestations were not only against the State of Israel, but also clearly against Jewish people, using very violent words such as “death to the Jews.”
Many Jewish leaders have been openly saying there is “no more future” for the Jews in France. For them, the recent violent manifestations have confirmed this opinion. In the past four years, more than 47,000 houses and apartments in Israel have been bought by French Jews. If the situation of the Jewish people in France should worsen, 120,000 to 200,000 French Jews could move to Israel in a quite short time.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but as the fear of a “new Shoah (Holocaust)” increases among the Jewish people of France, the search for Messiah becomes a central topic in the minds of many.
This is why we are so active in bringing the Gospel – the Good News – to the Jewish people of France. We utilize a magazine called the Shepherd of Israel, started by Chosen People Ministries more than sixty years ago. We also produce other types of books and tracts that are distributed to French Jews. We are now trying to expand our work in Paris, where we do all we can to support a Messianic congregation operating in the greater Paris area. We are hoping to fund new workers who are called by God to work in France. They must know French, and of course if they are already in France and theologically trained – that would be wonderful! Please pray for us as we work toward a spiritual harvest in this nation of hundreds of thousands of unreached Jewish people.
German views about Israel and the Jewish people
By Vladimir Pikman, Director of Chosen People Ministries in Germany
Attitude of the German people and antisemitism.
Officially, Germans are very careful about maintaining a friendly and respectful attitude towards the Jewish people. But it is not possible to get rid of antisemitism that was developed throughout the centuries. Recently, hate crimes and membership in neo-Nazi groups have skyrocketed, and even taken on some political forms in far-right political parties. These parties, however, have been generally unsuccessful in recruiting members from among the German populace, and several have been outlawed by the government. Hate crimes, although taking place more and more frequently, are very strictly punished by the German courts.
Antisemitism can generally be found even among people who have never personally met a Jew. German Jews are often blamed for being rich and oppressing Germans, while Russian Jews are blamed for plundering Germans by using the social welfare system. Politicians often use any saying against Jews or Israel by members of other parties to strengthen their position, which results in much media coverage over minor issues. These scandals only strengthen antisemitic feelings in German society. Overall, antisemitism has been on the rise in Europe in general and in Germany in particular.
Germany and Israel
Today, Germany is officially one of the most reliable allies of the modern State of Israel. Germany has become second only to the United States in its economic relations with Israel, by importing and exporting as well as providing assistance in the form of grants and loans. Additionally, Germany has played a leading role in shaping the pro-Israel attitudes of many European countries. At the same time, the media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which focuses its attention on the Palestinians as “victims” of “aggressive” Israelis, shifts the public opinion towards anti-Israel attitudes.
The most dangerous rise of antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes in Germany is found not among the Germans proper, but rather among Muslim immigrants and their children born in Germany.
This is why I am so grateful for the way God has created a movement of Messianic Jews in Germany. We have planted a half dozen congregations and fellowships over the last few years and prayed with hundreds of Russian Jews who are now living in Germany to receive the Lord.
British Attitudes and the Jewish People
By Daniel Nessim, Director of Chosen People Ministries in the United Kingdom
Since the “re-admission” of the Jews to England under Oliver Cromwell in 1656, the Jewish people have found England – indeed the entire United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) – to be a safe and hospitable home. In time, Jewish people were able to serve in Parliament and even hold the highest offices in the Land. Benjamin Disraeli, a Jewish believer in Yeshua, was Prime Minister twice under Queen Victoria (1868 and 1874-1880). Today, the Jewish people are a respected and active part of British society.
However, with anti-Israel sentiments becoming vogue, recent years have seen an increase in antisemitic incidents. There are several contributing factors: disdain for the Jews among the upper classes, government media bias in Middle East reporting, the growth of Islam, and the abandonment of the Bible as the foundation for society, among others.
In early 2009, the situation in the Middle East deteriorated. The conflict in Gaza has meant that antisemitic attacks have multiplied vastly. It seems that anti-Zionism, or anti-Israel sentiment has a direct overflow into antisemitism.
I recently attended a rally in Trafalgar Square in support of Israel. During the rally, demonstrators actively infiltrated the crowd and sought to disrupt the rally from within, causing significant problems. At the perimeter, with the police keeping them at bay, a small but hostile crowd shouted and beat on drums, seeking to prevent the speakers from being heard. Shortly after, violent anti-Israel rallies were held on a daily basis in front of the Israeli embassy. It seemed that those who wished to speak peaceably about the current situation in Gaza were being met with hate.
To many observers, there are some similarities with the situation in Germany in the years before Hitler came to power. There is an interesting poem attributed to German Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984):
When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
Then they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
Then they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; I was not a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
If people in Britain lose their commitment to the rule of law… what will happen to the Jewish people?
We in Chosen People Ministries are now very active in bringing the message of Yeshua to the Jewish people in London. We have rented a large facility that serves as a Messianic Center and is used for Bible studies, outreach events and more! The harvest is white but we do need more laborers in England to help bring the message of the Gospel to Jewish people. After all, He is our only true safety net! (John 14)