French Jews slam Israeli defense chief’s remarks on leaving for Israel, Dreyfus trial

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The umbrella group of French Jewish communities blasted the defense minister of Israel for calling on Jews to leave France and drawing parallels between the Dreyfus Affair and Paris’ attempts to push for Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The statement Tuesday by the CRIF umbrella warned that the remarks a day earlier by Avigdor Liberman may “play into the hands of anti-Semites.” During a meeting of leaders of his Yisrael Beiteinu party, Liberman referenced the French plan to convene a summit on peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. Jerusalem has rejected France’s push, saying its premise is unfair to Israel.

“Recalling that Jews have lived in France for the past 2,000 years and that they received full citizenship in 1791, CRIF views Liberman’s remarks “as excessive and historically inaccurate,” CRIF President Francis Kalifat wrote in a statement published Tuesday on the group’s website.

Liberman said the summit, which is scheduled for Jan. 15, is “a tribunal against the State of Israel.”

“It’s a conference whose entire goal is to undermine the security of the State of Israel and its good name. It’s a modern edition of the Dreyfus trial, only with the entire people of Israel in the defendant’s seat instead of only one single Jew,” Liberman said, according to Ynet and other publications.

The Dreyfus Affair was the anti-Semitic 1894 show trial and conviction of a French Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, on fraudulent espionage charges. Dreyfus was later pardoned and then exonerated.

Liberman also said the French push “adds to the already difficult situation” of Jews there. Liberman may have been referencing hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks that have been documented in France annually in recent years, including deadly attacks by jihadists who since 2012 have killed at least 12 people in attacks on Jewish targets in France and Belgium.

“Despite all the difficulty, if you want to remain Jewish and keep your children and grandchildren Jewish, leave France and make aliyah to Israel,” Liberman said.

CRIF in its statement also said it “regrets that these inappropriate statements may play into the hands of anti-Semites of all kinds and contribute to the disinformation on the attachment by French Jews to the Republic.”