Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the “massive immigration” of European Jews

February 17, 2015 9:59 am

Israeli Prime Minister has called for the “massive
” of to Israel following a deadly shooting
near Copenhagen’s main synagogue, renewing a blunt message that has
upset some of Israel’s friends in .
Netanyahu said that at a
time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel is the only place where
can truly feel safe. His comments triggered an angry response from
Copenhagen’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said he was “disappointed”
by the remarks.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo / AP
“People from Denmark move to Israel because they
love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of ,” Melchior
told The Associated Press. “If the way we deal with terror is to run
somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”
Danish
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt expressed support for the Jewish
community, telling reporters: “They belong in Denmark, they are a strong
part of our community, and we will do everything we can to protect the
Jewish community in our country.”

Netanyahu issued his call during the weekly meeting of his
Cabinet, which approved a previously scheduled $46 million plan to
encourage Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine –
countries where large numbers of Jews have expressed interest in moving
to Israel.
France and Belgium have experienced deadly attacks on
their Jewish communities in in recent years, most recently an attack in
Paris last month that killed four Jews at a kosher market. Ukraine,
meanwhile, is in the midst of a conflict between government troops and
Russian-backed separatists.
“This wave of attacks is expected to
continue,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet. “Jews deserve security in every
country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your
home.”
His comments came amid a tight re-election campaign ahead
of March 17 elections. Seeking a third consecutive term, Netanyahu has
focused his campaign on Israel’s security needs, repeatedly warning
voters about the many threats from Islamic radicals throughout the
region. There was no immediate reaction from his chief opponents.
Netanyahu
spoke at a time of rising tensions with European countries over Israeli
settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured
territories claimed by the Palestinians. Some Israelis believe such
criticism has helped fuel anti-Semitism.
European leaders,
however, have insisted that their criticism has no bearing on the
treatment of their own Jewish communities. Netanyahu rushed to France
following the Jan. 7-9 killings at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo
and a kosher supermarket, urging the country’s Jews to move to Israel.
French leaders signaled their unhappiness.
“France, without the
Jews of France, is no longer France,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls
said at the time. The government has since increased protection at
synagogues, Jewish schools and other sensitive sites.
Hundreds of
graves have been vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, in
what President Francois Hollande called an “odious and barbaric”
anti-Semitic act against French values.
French Jews have been
increasingly migrating to Israel, a pattern that dismayed the French
government well before the attacks at the kosher supermarket and since
has left top officials pleading for them to stay. In 2014, more than
7,000 French Jews left, more than double the number for 2013.
The
exodus from France accelerated after the March 2012 attacks by Mohammed
Merah, who stormed a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing three children
and a rabbi.
Last month’s attack in France was part of a wave of
violence that killed a total of 17 people carried out by extremists who
claimed allegiance to the al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups.
Jens
Madsen, head of Denmark’s intelligence agency PET, said investigators
believed the gunman who killed two people in the weekend shootings in
Copenhagen was inspired by Islamic radicalism.
A visibly moved
Thorning-Schmidt laid flowers at the synagogue Sunday, accompanied by
former Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner, Jewish community leader Dan Rosenberg
Asmussen and Anders Gadegaard from the Copenhagen Protestant cathedral.
“My
message is that all of Denmark feels with you,” Thorning-Schmidt said.
“This is not the Denmark we want. We want a Denmark where people freely
can choose one’s religion.”
Denmark is known for saving most of its Jews during World War II. There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Jews in Denmark.
Melchior, the chief rabbi, identified the Jewish victim in Copenhagen as Dan Uzan, a security guard.
“He
was a person who was always willing to help. An amazing, amazing guy,”
said Melchior, speaking from Israel before boarding a return flight to
Copenhagen.
The community had previously asked police for
enhanced security, and following last month’s attack on the Paris kosher
market, Danish police began reevaluating security, Melchior said.
Associated
Press writers Lori Hinnant in Paris, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen and
Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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