Copenhagen’s chief rabbi ‘disappointed’ by Bibi calls for ‘massive immigration’

Copenhagen’s chief rabbi ‘disappointed’ by Bibi calls for ‘massive immigration’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Copenhagen’s chief rabbi has attacked Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for the “massive immigration” of European Jews to his country following the deadly shooting near the Danish capital’s main synagogue.

Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, vowed to “do everything we can to protect the Jewish community in our country”.

She said: “They belong in Denmark, they are a strong part of our community.”

Their comments came after Mr Netanyahu renewed his blunt message that has upset some of Israel’s friends in Europe.

He said that at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel was the only place where Jews could truly feel safe.

But Copenhagen’s chief rabbi Jair Melchior said he was “disappointed” by the remarks.

“People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism,” he said. “If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”

Mr Netanyahu issued his call during the weekly meeting of his cabinet, which approved a previously-scheduled £30 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,” Mr Netanyahu told the 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, Mr Netanyahu has focused his campaign on Israel’s security needs, repeatedly warning voters about the many threats from Islamic radicals throughout the region.

He 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. Mr Netanyahu rushed to France following the January 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,” prime minister Manuel Valls said at the time. The government has since increased protection at synagogues, Jewishschools and other sensitive sites.

Hundreds of graves have been vandalised 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 Ms Thorning-Schmidt laid flowers at the synagogue yesterday, 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,” Ms 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 the Second World War. There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Jews in the country.

Mr Melchior 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 Mr Melchior, speaking from Israel before boarding a return flight to Copenhagen.

The community had previously asked police for enhanced protection, and following last month’s attack on the Paris kosher market, Danish police began re-evaluating security, Mr Melchior said.

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