The Other Pro-Israel Lobby

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“Usually after the first event, it’s like a firestorm,” said Pastor Scott Thomas, the Florida state director for Christians United for Israel (CUFI). “The excitement hits, the understanding settles in.”

That, in short, illustrates the process through which CUFI has become America’s largest pro-Israel organization in less than a decade of existence. In January, CUFI announced that its mem-bership surpassed the 2-million mark. (The organization defines members as email-list subscrib-ers whose addresses do not produce bounce-backs when messaged.)

Since its founding in 2006, CUFI has held more than 2,100 pro-Israel events, sent hundreds of thousands of advocacy emails to government officials, and trained thousands of college students to make the case for Israel across the U.S.

Pastor John Hagee, CUFI’s founder and national chairman, said that when he called 400 Evan-gelical Christian leaders to San Antonio in 2006 to pitch them on the idea of CUFI, he thought his concept of pro-Israel programming that would “not be conversionary in any sense of the word” might deter the leaders. Instead, when he asked them to raise their hands if they accepted his proposal, “400 men raised their hands with an absolute unity that was breathtaking.”

“It was one of those surreal moments that was difficult to believe had happened so effortlessly, and Christians United for Israel took off,” Hagee said at the 10th annual CUFI Leadership Sum-mit in San Antonio on Jan. 27.

While Hagee planned for the initial group of 400 leaders to advocate for Israel on Capitol Hill that summer as a “test group,” the leaders spread the word among their own churches, and CUFI ended up bringing 3,500 people on the mission to Washington, D.C.

CUFI continues to grow exponentially, but Hagee isn’t satisfied. He said the organization hopes to double its membership to 4 million over the next two to three years.

“We are very delighted with our 2 million-plus membership base, but we want it to be many multiples of that,” said Hagee. “We feel that it’s imperative [to understand] that our ability to go to Washington representing 8 to 10 million people would be considerably greater than just 2 mil-lion.”

What’s the secret behind CUFI’s growth?

“It kind of happens organically,” said Thomas, the Florida state director. “It happens from all different angles. We’ll get a phone call from somebody who attends a congregation and says, ‘Hey, I would like for my pastor to receive information about CUFI.’ And so we’ll send out in-formation packets to those pastors to start the conversation. We’ll introduce them to CUFI, tell them what the events are like and what CUFI stands for. And then hopefully beyond that, we’ll be able to generate a follow-up phone call, introduce CUFI [to the pastor] verbally, answer any questions he might have, and find out what his perspective and stance and theology are on Is-rael.”

From there, CUFI offers to host a “Standing with Israel” event at that pastor’s church, an ap-proximately hour-long educational and informational session on the biblical roots of Christian support for Israel as well as current events in the Middle East. Eventually, the goal is to facilitate a larger program called “A Night to Honor Israel” — CUFI’s signature event, which the organi-zation aims to host in every major U.S. city each year.

“A Night to Honor Israel,” however, significantly predates CUFI. Hagee said that in 1981, he sought to organize the event as a one-time gesture to thank Israel for bombing Iraq’s Osirak nu-clear reactor. But then Hagee received death threats, as well as a bomb threat to the venue on the night of the event. His response? More than three decades of Nights to Honor Israel.

“I told my wife, we’re going to do a Night to Honor Israel until these anti-Semitic rednecks get used to it,” Hagee said. “And 34 years later, it has grown all over the nation.”

Pastor Tim Burt, CUFI’s Minnesota state director, recalled that CUFI began to gain momentum in that state after “a very effective and successful Night to Honor Israel.”

“I identified leaders in cities that very much had a passion for the support of Israel, and I began to meet with those leaders, raising up city leaders [for CUFI] throughout Minnesota… and [dis-cussing] how they could have an impact within their city and spheres of influence,” said Burt.

CUFI has now three-dozen city leaders in Minnesota. After CUFI took 16 pastors of African-rooted Minnesota churches on a trip to Israel last year, one of the pastors on that trip organized a trip of his own for 16 more pastors.

“It’s starting to snowball in that respect,” Burt said.

Aiding the “snowball effect” for CUFI is America’s predominantly Christian population. Former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who attended the CUFI Leadership Summit, noted the “growing market” and “strong foundation” for Christian support of Israel.

“I think in light of the attacks and the aggressiveness that we see against the Jewish state, we’re going to see more and more Christians who are going to see a vehicle wherein they can demon-strate their support for the Jewish state, and I think Christians United for Israel is that obvious vehicle,” said Bachmann.

Before CUFI, despite the presence of a “reservoir of instinctive support for Israel” in America, that base of support “had a hard time finding a way to express itself,” said CUFI board member Gary Bauer, the U.S. Under Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan.

“As CUFI was set up, and Pastor Hagee and [his wife] Diana had this vision, and others joined with them, and then as time passed and people saw us speaking up, whether the president was a Republican or a Democrat, or whether there was Republican Congress or a Democratic Con-gress, I think the word spread,” said Bauer. “If you were pro-Israel, if you care about the alliance between these two great nations, and you want to do something, but you live in Toledo or Knox-ville or Birmingham or Sacramento… this is the organization you can invest in and feel confi-dent that you’re not going to wake up one morning and see an embarrassing story.”

Pastor Victor Styrsky, CUFI’s eastern regional coordinator, echoed Bauer’s sentiment.

“We’d bring Jews and Christians together [before CUFI existed],” said Styrsky. “We didn’t call them Nights to Honor Israel, but we were doing those, and rallies, and we were emptying savings accounts, running full-page ads, and we had no CUFI to keep it going, so we would literally dis-appear for years.”

Styrsky said that now, when he speaks to pastors on behalf of CUFI, “Almost always at the end of 45 minutes to an hour, we see the light bulbs go off, and a new journey has begun. … That’s how we keep going.”

Inclusiveness is also part of growth strategy at CUFI, which is “not targeting a specific demo-graphic in terms of ethnicity,” said Pastor Dumisani Washington, the organization’s diversity outreach coordinator.

“My job is to begin to reach out to everyone, and try our best to let them know that we want them here, and let them know that there’s a home here for whoever they are ethnically, if they are standing with Israel as Christians,” Washington said.

Bauer said CUFI supporters “can come to the table with all kinds of faith perspectives, and in some cases with no faith perspective at all.”

“We take those allies wherever we can get them, but we continue to do our harvesting in the church community, where we know there’s a natural predilection or bias towards standing with Israel based on the teachings of the Christian faith,” he said.

Kasim Hafeez, who addressed the CUFI Leadership Summit crowd on his jihadist-turned-Zionist personal story, offered an outsider’s perspective on both the success of CUFI and why the orga-nization is a frequent target of anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic criticism.

“Here’s why [anti-Semites] hate CUFI, and one simple word explains it all: fear,” Hafeez said.

While anti-Semites believe they can easily bully Jews, he said, CUFI’s mobilization of the much larger Christian community is more imposing.

“What the haters didn’t see was 2015, over 2 million Christians praying for Israel… Mark my words, there is no organization, there are no four letters, that will make an anti-Semite’s blood run cold more than C-U-F-I,” said Hafeez.

Moving forward, how will CUFI meet its aforementioned goal of doubling its membership to 4 million within three years?

“The specific step that we will have to take is to raise the funds to hire more regional directors and state directors,” said Hagee. “We need more people in the field meeting and training pastors and concerned Christians how to become a leader in this organization for the benefit of Israel.”

CUFI is also bolstering its overseas presence, with plans to start a United Kingdom branch. Hagee said that in the U.K., CUFI would combat anti-Semitism by soliciting the help of spiritual and government leaders “to look this evil tidal wave eye to eye and call it what it is, and get peo-ple to admit that a very lackadaisical attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel have created this monster that must be addressed.”

Hagee emphasized the biblical mandate to fight anti-Semitism, quoting the verse from Isaiah 61, “For Zion’s sake, I will not keep quiet, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not be silent.”

“The message here is that Christians are to speak out, publicly, in defense of the Jewish people and the state of Israel, that we are authorized to combat anti-Semitism as aggressively as we pos-sibly can,” said Hagee.

He added, “If you took away the Jewish contribution from Christianity, there would be no Chris-tianity, so fundamentally, Christians owe the Jewish people everything. Period. Once a person sees that, he’s committed to take action in defense of the Jewish people.”

A Look Back

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WASHINGTON — The opening of an exhibit at the Austrian Embassy in Washington of more than 50 photographs by an 84-year-old Jewish Nobel laureate was something of an amateur hour — twice over.

Both Austria’s ambassador and Martin Karplus, the photographer, referred to the pictures — postcard-style views of Europe in the 1950s and a more recent series on China and India — as hobby rather than high art.

Then at a reception, many of the approximately 250 guests handed their phones to strangers to snap pictures with Karplus — amateur shots of themselves with an amateur photographer.

“I’m not a photographer,” said Karplus, a Harvard professor emeritus who shared the 2013 Nobel in chemistry. “I’m an amateur at this.”

Karplus fled his native Vienna as an 8-year-old with his family. Like many European Jewish refugees, he barely returned to Austria for years. Then everything changed.
“Once I got the Nobel Prize, Austria suddenly realized that I was an interesting person,” said Karplus, who will receive an honorary doctorate in May from the University of Vienna, which will also exhibit his photographs.

The exhibit, which opened Jan. 14 and will run through Feb. 13, comes to Washington from the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. The photos, which span continents and decades, show people and landscapes that Karplus encountered on his world travels.
One photograph from the 1950s shows Karplus’ parents in Rockport, Mass., standing in front of what appears to be a well-known fishing shack often referred to as the most painted structure in the United States. His father holds his hat in hand while his mother holds her husband’s arm. The work is a study in verticals — a pole behind the father, the wharf pylons and distant telephone lines — balanced by the deep blue of the water visible in the bottom right corner.

A photograph of an Indian boy taken in 2009 fills the composition with the barefoot, crouching boy. The photo is overwhelmingly heavy on cool blues and grays, except for a bright orange bike in the top right corner. The boy’s gaze, intense as he stares at what appears to be rags in his hands, evokes a secular Madonna cradling her child.

Many other photos in the exhibit, such as a picture of boats taken in Hong Kong in the 1960s, offer the sort of pretty colors and composition that one would expect of postcards — or perhaps an Instagram feed. But in this case, the shots are taken by a Nobel Prize winner.

“Now that I have a Nobel Prize, somehow my value as a photographer has increased a little bit,” Karplus said. “When you get a Nobel Prize, you’re supposed to know everything.”

Karplus initially exhibited his photos at a two-month show at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York last year. Angelika Schweiger, the cultural officer at the forum and the curator of the embassy exhibit, heard about Karplus from colleagues in New York and decided to bring his work to Washington.

Though he is now celebrated by Austrian public institutions, Karplus freely acknowledged in an interview how shocked he was to discover on a trip to Austria a decade ago how prevalent anti-Semitic sentiment was in the country.

“Unlike Germany, which basically admitted its guilt, Austria still says to many people, ‘We were invaded by Hitler,’” Karplus said.

Hanno Loewy, director of the Jewish Museum of Hohenems in Austria, agrees that the country was “late in comparison to Germany” with critically examining its past.

“For long, the myth of Austria as the ‘first victim’ of the Nazis prevailed,” he said.
An artist statement on Karplus’ website notes that his parents gave him a Leica camera after he earned his doctorate in 1953 and that he subsequently started photographing his European travels.

“Meeting people and being exposed to their cultures, art, architecture, and cuisines was an incredible experience, which has had a lasting effect on my life,” reads the statement. Karplus only began exhibiting his work in 2005.

But for all his achievements, Hans Peter Manz, Austria’s ambassador to Washington, declined to claim Karplus as his own.

“Remember when the German pope was elected? Suddenly [the Germans] were saying, ‘We are pope,’ which is ridiculous,” Manz said. “The same thing happens when one of these guys wins a Nobel. Suddenly you find out, ‘Ah. He’s Austrian.’ The guy left when he was 8 years old. When I introduced him, I didn’t mention it. He did. To claim any piece of his Nobel as a national success is ridiculous.”

Coming Up Short

013015_iranWASHINGTON — For the second year running, a bid to pass a bill intensifying sanctions against Iran appears to be foundering on threat of a presidential veto.

In his State of the Union address Jan. 20, President Obama vowed to veto further sanctions legislation, saying it would “all but guarantee” his efforts to achieved a deal on Iran’s nuclear program would collapse.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to address Congress on the subject. Netanyahu, who will address Congress in March, is expected to express full support for new sanctions legislation.

The turbulence this week surrounding the sanctions legislation, authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) with the strong backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has left the bill in limbo. Netanyahu’s scheduled March 3 address to Congress coincides with AIPAC’s annual policy conference, which he will also address.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader whose position on the bill would be critical to whipping the two-thirds majority to override a veto in the House, said the timing of Netanyahu’s speech was inappropriate, both because of the proximity of the March 17 Israeli elections and because Boehner has cast it as a rebuttal to Obama’s veto threat.

“We cannot have [Iran talks] fail when Congress wants to flex its muscle unnecessarily,” she told reporters Jan. 22 echoing Obama’s argument that new sanctions could scuttle talks with Iran on keeping it from obtaining nuclear weapons. “If that is the purpose of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit two weeks before his own election right in the midst of negotiations, I just don’t think it’s appropriate and helpful.”

Irking Pelosi especially was that Boehner issued the invitation “on behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate” before consulting with her or Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate minority leader.

“It is out of the ordinary that the speaker would decide that he would be inviting people to a joint session without any bipartisan consultation,” she said.

Boehner’s office did not respond to a query about consulting with Democrats over the invitation.

Senate Democrats who would be key to building a veto-proof majority of 67 votes in the chamber were sounding notes of reluctance.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who backed a similar Kirk-Menendez bill a year ago, seemed to backtrack in an interview Jan. 22.

“I’ve always supported additional sanctions, [but] it’s a matter of timing,” he said. “The administration has pretty strong views about bringing it up for a vote at this particular moment.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate’s Banking Committee, which must approve the sanctions before they advance to the Senate floor, said he was not ready to endorse them just yet.

“I don’t know how I’m going to vote yet, but I think that we need to slow it down a little bit,” he said. “I talked to a number of our allies. I want to make sure we do this in a way that Iran does not walk away from the negotiations.”

Reid, speaking for the first time to the press after recovering from a serious exercise injury, was noncommittal. “He’s going to come give a speech to a joint session of Congress, and we’re going to listen what he has to say,” he said.

For Menendez, a longtime champion of Iran’s isolation, it was deja vu all over again, and he was furious. A year ago his hallmark legislation foundered under almost identical circumstances: Solid support for the legislation dissipated among Democrats in both chambers after Obama issued a veto threat in his State of the Union.

This time around, though, the calculus was supposed to be different. Reid, as majority leader, used parliamentary maneuvers to scuttle the bill in 2014, but Republicans are in the majority now.

At a hearing Jan. 21 of the Foreign Relations Committee, on which he is the lead Democrat, Menendez accused Obama administration officials of bad faith.

“I have to be honest with you, the more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” Menendez said. “And it heeds to the Iranian narrative of victimhood, when they are the ones with original sin: an illicit nuclear weapons program over the course of 20 years that they are unwilling to come clean on.”

Backers of the bill had at first seemed confident of its swift passage, shepherded by the new majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The Banking Committee was due to consider the bill on Jan. 22, and AIPAC sent Senate offices a bill summary on Jan. 12 — unusual for a bill that had yet to be formally launched.

“The agreement clearly complies with the commitment President Obama made that the United States would impose no new sanctions during the course of negotiations with Iran,” AIPAC said.

The Banking Committee subsequently postponed its consideration of the bill until Jan. 29, and a number of alternatives are now under consideration that stop short of introducing new sanctions, including a proposal by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, that would subject any deal with Iran to an up or down congressional vote.

Leading Democrats said they saw sanctions as off the table for now.

“I do not support raising sanctions now,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “If the process fails, that’s another subject, but there’s no question that if we did it now, in my mind, it would bring on failure right away.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), said he opposed new sanctions as well as Corker’s proposal.

“I think this Congress has a pretty miserable record of fairly judging international agreements presented to Congress by this president,” he said. “I think that we should be in the business of approving treaties, [but] I’m not sure if we need to be adding to our workload when we have an agreement that is not technically a treaty under the Constitution.”

Cardin suggested that Menendez would align with his caucus.

“I think Sen. Menendez has a pretty good understanding of the pros and cons here, so we’re all trying to keep the unity and, to me, the more we can work together with the president, the better off we are,” he said.


dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com

Nisman Mystery Hezbollah, Argentine government fingered in death of AMIA prosecutor

Demonstrators at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires protest the death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman. The banner at left reads, "I am Nisman. I am the republic."  (Movimiento Argentino de Fotógrafxs Independientes Autoconvocadxs Facebook page)

Demonstrators at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires protest the death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman. The banner at left reads, “I am Nisman. I am the republic.”
(Movimiento Argentino de Fotógrafxs Independientes Autoconvocadxs Facebook page)

The mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman seems ripped straight out of a crime thriller.

Nisman — the indefatigable prosecutor collecting evidence of culpability in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people — was found dead in his apartment just hours before he was to present evidence to Argentina’s congress that he said implicated his country’s president and foreign minister in a nefarious cover-up scheme.

The charge? That the two agreed to whitewash Tehran’s role in the AMIA bombing in exchange for oil shipments to energy-hungry Argentina.

Nisman’s body was discovered late Jan. 18 in his 13th-floor apartment with a single gunshot wound to the head.

Officials connected to the president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, quickly said evidence pointed to suicide, noting that a .22-caliber pistol and spent cartridge were found near Nisman’s body.

But the suicide theory was dismissed out of hand on the streets of Buenos Aires and among people around the world familiar with Nisman and his work investigating the AMIA attack. Instead, they said Nisman, 51, was the victim of foul play. The suicide theory lost more ground last week with the revelation by the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s death, Viviana Fein, that no traces of gunpowder were found on Nisman’s hand. There also was no suicide note.

“The idea of suicide I think is nonsense,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

“The Jewish community has lost a stalwart hero, and Argentina and all people who pursue the truth and justice with a passionate zeal have lost a great fighter,” Foxman said. “Throughout the years, all kinds of forces have tried to put him down, to destroy him. Every time he uncovered new stuff or exposed some interests that weren’t happy, they set the courts against him or they set the police against him. And every time they tried to put him down, he fought it, he got up and beat them.”

The investigation of the 1994 bombing — the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history and one of the worst incidents of anti-Jewish violence in the Diaspora since World War II — was seen as hopelessly inept and corrupt until Nisman took over the case in 2005.

There were no significant arrests for years after the AMIA bombing, which was preceded by the deadly 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29. After 20 local men, including 19 police officers, were put on trial in 2001 on charges of involvement in the Jewish center attack, the investigating judge, Juan Jose Galeano, was caught on video offering one of the men a bribe in return for evidence. The case collapsed, the police were acquitted, and Galeano eventually was removed from the case and impeached.

Appointed to take over the case by then-President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of the current Argentine leader who had called the handling of the case a “national disgrace,” Nisman launched a more professional investigation. He traced the links from the Iranian leaders who ordered the attack to the Hezbollah operatives who planned its execution, formally charging Iran and Hezbollah in 2006. Interpol eventually issued arrest warrants for six Iranian officials in connection with the bombing, including Iran’s defense minister at the time, Ahmad Vahidi. The Islamic Republic denied any connection and refused to hand over the suspects.

In 2013, when Argentina and Iran signed a joint memorandum of understanding to investigate the bombing, Nisman and Jewish community leaders in Argentina and abroad decried the deal as a farce. Many were particularly incensed that the deal was negotiated by Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, a prominent Argentine Jew whose father, Jacobo Timerman, had been a well-respected Argentine-Israeli human rights activist. The governments of Israel and the United States also denounced the deal.

Nisman challenged the arrangement in court as “wrongful interference” by the president in judicial affairs and the probe was never implemented.

All the while, Nisman and his investigating team continued to press forward with their effort to bring those responsible to justice. Last week, Nisman filed a 300-page complaint alleging that Kirchner, Timerman and others were seeking to “erase” Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing in exchange for establishing stronger trade relations, including oil sales to Argentina. He was slated to present his evidence Monday to Argentina’s congress.

A few years ago, during a 2009 visit to New York, Nisman said a trial of the AMIA bombing should be moved outside Argentina if it is to have any chance of success.

“We’re thinking of taking this case to a court in a third country due to the challenges of pursuing it in Argentina,” Nisman said at a briefing at ADL’s national headquarters. “There is a practical impossibility of doing it in Argentina because Iran has said it won’t deliver the people we have accused. It’s also been hard for Interpol to arrest those people because whenever they leave Iran, they do so under diplomatic immunity.”

Even outside Argentina, Nisman said, it was highly unlikely that Iran would submit suspects for trial, but the move could bring some closure to the families of the AMIA bombing victims.

“I’m following the wishes of relatives and looking for a way to get them some closure,” Nisman said through a translator. “I cannot give up on ways of trying to get justice.”

Among Argentina’s 200,000 Jews — the largest Jewish community in Latin America — Nisman, who also was Jewish, was seen as a crusading hero.

So who could have wanted him dead? Many Argentines are pointing the finger at President Kirchner. By Sunday night, thousands had gathered outside the presidential palace to protest Nisman’s death, with some holding aloft signs reading “Cristina murderer.” The hashtag #CFKAsesina — Kirchner’s initials and the Spanish word assassin — was one of the top topics trending on Twitter in Argentina on Monday.

In Jewish and Israeli circles, some analysts speculated that Nisman may have been killed by Hezbollah, whose operatives were fingered for carrying out the AMIA bombing on behalf of Iran.

Just hours before Nisman’s death — he did not eat dinner on Sunday night, investigators said, suggesting he likely was shot before dinnertime — several Hezbollah fighters were killed in an airstrike in southern Syria attributed to Israel. Among the dead were Mohammed Allahdadi, a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a February 2008 car bombing in Damascus. Mughniyeh was the one whom Nisman found had coordinated and oversaw preparations for the AMIA bombing.

Hezbollah accused Israel of being behind Sunday’s airstrike. Israeli officials, adhering to protocol in such cases, declined to comment. But an unnamed senior Israeli security source confirmed to Reuters that Israel was behind the strike but said it wasn’t meant to target a senior Iranian general.

“We did not expect the outcome in terms of the stature of those killed — certainly not the Iranian general,” the source told Reuters. “We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence.”

Could Hezbollah have pulled off Nisman’s killing so quickly after the airstrike in Syria? It would be uncharacteristic for the Lebanon-based group, which typically has carried out its well-planned reprisals months or years after Israeli attacks. But some analysts noted Iran and Hezbollah have sleeper cells that can carry out operations on short notice.

The circumstances of Nisman’s death, assuming he indeed was murdered, certainly represent a failure of the Argentine authorities. Nisman had been under police protection, including the positioning of police guards outside the luxury high-rise where he was found dead.

Nisman had made several prescient references to the possibility of his untimely demise, saying as recently the day before his passing, “I might get out of this dead.”

On Jan. 28, the guards assigned to protect Nisman said they hadn’t been able to reach him by telephone, and his newspaper lay untouched outside his apartment door. His mother was called and came with her spare key, but the lock was jammed with the key stuck in the other side. After a locksmith opened the door, Nisman’s body was found in the bathroom.

Jorge Kirszenbaum, a former president of the Argentine Jewish community’s political umbrella group, DAIA, said that a cousin of Nisman who visited the crime scene found a note to the house maid with Monday’s tasks spelled out.

Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a Jewish leader and member of Argentina’s congress, called Nisman, who is survived by two daughters, “victim 86 of the AMIA attack.”

Argentine-Israeli journalist Roxana Levinson, whose uncle, Jaime Plaksin, was killed in the AMIA attack, said Nisman’s death was devastating.

“This death is like another bomb,” she said. “It’s a death sentence for truth and justice in the AMIA case.”

Now that Nisman is gone, it’s not clear what will happen with the AMIA investigation or his accusations against Kirchner and Timerman.

In another one of his eerily prescient comments, Nisman told a TV interviewer last week after news of his accusations against the president made the papers, “With Nisman around or not, the evidence is there.”

A JTA correspondent in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.

Watchful Eyes London Jewish community heightens already tight security after Paris attacks

Kosher Kingdom is one of the largest kosher supermarkets in the United Kingdom. (Rachel Stafler)

Kosher Kingdom is one of the largest kosher supermarkets in the United Kingdom. (Rachel Stafler)

LONDON — Guards, CCTV, locked gates, 24-hour surveillance: These are some of the security measures that Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues in the United Kingdom and Europe have in place. The protections are especially striking compared to what can seem like little or no security at Jewish communal buildings in the United States.

Still, since the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket, Jewish organizations and institutions in London are reviewing their safety protocols and putting even tighter arrangements into place.

The U.K. has the second largest population of Jews in Europe, after France, with the total population reaching just under 300,000, around the size of the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Jewish populations combined. More than 200,000 Jews live in the greater London area, mostly in the Northwest section of the city, home to scores of schools, synagogues and community organizations.

But the U.K. isn’t the only country in Europe to take stock in the wake of recent events. In continental Europe, where security at Jewish buildings can include bulletproof doors and concrete barriers, scores of community leaders gathered in the Belgian capital of Brussels just three days after the Paris attacks to simulate and train for the next crisis. The program was organized by the European Jewish Congress’ Security and Crisis Centre.

“Although the threat level hasn’t changed, when something happens like the events in Paris it unnerves people and causes an increase in concern and anxiety,” said Dave Rich, spokesman for the Community Service Trust, the organization that provides physical security, training and advice for British Jewry. “In terms of communal anxiety, there is still a hangover from the summer when we had a big rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict. The police and CST have put on extra security to reassure people that they can go about their normal lives and know that they are protected.”

In a measure of the community’s anxiety, Rich said that the organization has never had such a high volume of calls, and it added staff to deal with the many inquiries coming in. It also saw about 40 volunteers coming forward to patroll Jewish areas. This comes after a year when anti-Semitic incidents were at a record high: In excess of 1,000 events were recorded, according to the CST, the vast majority not severe.

Last Friday, police said there’s “heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community,” according to a statement issued by Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner at the National Policing Lead for Counter Terrorism.

On Sunday, Home Secretary Theresa May said that Britain must do more to tackle anti-Semitism.

“I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom would say they were fearful of remaining here,” she said at an event commemorating the Jews killed in the Paris attacks. “And that means we must all redouble our efforts to wipe out anti-Semitism here.”

Despite reassurances, there is still widespread insecurity in the Jewish community given the attacks in Paris.

“We are a lot more alert now,” said Shana Leitner, 30, who lives in the London neighborhood of Golders Green. “When we leave the house, we don’t just walk out. We first look around. At the supermarket, no one is standing around and chatting. … And it’s the same at my children’s school.”

Police are quick to dismiss any parallels between the threats to the Jews of London and Paris. At a community meeting for the Northwest London Jewish community, the local police commander emphasized the strength of the counter-terror intelligence system and detailed the difficulty terrorists would have acquiring automatic weapons in the country, where firearms legislation is notoriously strict. Even so, the police and the CST have increased foot patrols in Jewish areas, especially during busy shopping times.

The owners of Jewish shops in London, such as bakeries, supermarkets and butchers, are also taking no chances. The Kosher Deli, a chain of five butcher stores in northwest London, has altered its security plan to include 24-hour CCTV surveillance.

Kosher Kingdom, one of the largest kosher supermarkets in the U.K., sent out an email to customers describing steps it is taking to enhance customer safety, including staff training, a new CCTV network and walky-talkies for workers.

“As soon as it happened we had to make sure that all the right systems were in place,” said Chuny Rokach, the owner of Kosher Kingdom. “We thought we had to take steps to reassure our customers and staff. Footfall hasn’t been affected, but people are … definitely concerned.”

Many Jewish schools have also reviewed their security procedures, with some briefing parents on revised protocols. In addition to high gates and permanent security guards, many also assign parents to stand guard during pick-up and drop-off times.

“We are definitely more alert and the police are also more visible,” said the spokesman for one Jewish school in London, who asked not to be named on security concerns. “Security at most of the Jewish schools was already at a high level after the events last summer. … We have to be on point 100 percent of the time, but they only need to get lucky once.”

A native of Baltimore, Rachel Elbaum is a freelance writer in London.

Punishing Blow? Rand Paul’s bid to reel in P.A. is turning heads in Congress

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference in March.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference in March.

Having failed in the past to harness Congressional ire with the Palestinians and hold U.S. aid in the balance, the newest effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to defund the Palestinian Authority is generating positive reactions on both sides of the aisle. His bill, introduced on the first day of the 114th Congress, would prohibit federal money from flowing to the P.A. until “it withdraws its request to join the International Criminal Court.”

 
Many members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction of the bill, have yet to read through its provisions, but Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee’s ranking member and until this month its chairman, signaled that Congress is frustrated with what he described as Palestinian intransigence.

 
“I haven’t seen what he does as the trigger exactly, but I do think there is a growing view that the Palestinian Authority cannot expect to continue to receive money and take these types of actions,” he said.

 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the paperwork to join the ICC, an international body that has the authority to prosecute war crimes among its members, on Dec. 31, saying the strategy is to seek prosecution of Israel for alleged war crimes during its war against Hamas in Gaza last summer. On Monday, President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States views Abbas’ attempt as improper as the Palestinians are not a sovereign state.

 
Nevertheless, a desire to punish the Palestinians for moves seen as undermining the peace process has been gaining steam on Capitol Hill for quite some time.

 
­­Current U.S. law hinges Palestinian- directed aid on a number of conditions, one of which is to not support terrorists or any group involved in terrorist activities, with the White House determining whether or not the P.A. violated the conditions. Paul introduced a bill last year after the formation of a unity government between Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas — which America considers a terrorist organization — that would have bypassed a State Department review and cut U.S. aid to the P.A. until it severed its Hamas ties.

 
Though most lawmakers, pro-Israel organizations and the Israeli government were critical of the Palestinian unity government — Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said that the unity government had “suits in the front office and terrorists in the back office” — they did not support Paul’s bill. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest and still the most influential pro-Israel advocacy organization in the United States, quietly opposed the bill, favoring other methods.

 
Today, AIPAC is noncommittal on Paul’s recent effort. “We believe that U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should be immediately suspended,” one AIPAC official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “Right now, we are evaluating several ideas that are circulating to achieve that objective. [That mechanism] may or may not be a bill.

 
This time around, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are expressing more outrage, including a bipartisan group of senators known for being outspoken on foreign policy issues: Menendez, as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). They released a joint statement calling Abbas’ actions “deplorable,” “counterproductive” and promising that Congress will respond.

 
“Today there is no viable Palestinian state, and nothing will bring about that goal other than direct negotiations. Rather than committing to direct negotiations with Israel for a sustainable, realistic two-state compromise, President Abbas seeks to launch unilateral, politicized investigations of Israel citizens,” the senators wrote. “Israel, like the United States, is not a member of the ICC and therefore is not subject to its jurisdiction. Further, existing U.S. law makes clear that if the Palestinians initiate an ICC judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, all economic assistance to the P.A. must end.”

 
Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), one of the foreign affairs committee’s new members, expressed no qualms about cutting aid, although he also had not seen Paul’s bill.

 
“There are already existing laws about reductions in funding to the P.A. based on actions like this, and if existing law doesn’t cover it, I’d be open to reducing that funding further,” said Cotton, “because any time the P.A. tries to take these unilateral steps it only further undermines the prospects for a two-state solution, which is what the government of Israel has been working toward for years.”

 
Still, the fear that cutting aid to the P.A. would lead to a quick descent into chaos in the West Bank, especially as radical Islamist terror groups gain strength in the surrounding regions, worries some lawmakers.

 
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that although he believes that there needs to be a response — he called the P.A.’s actions “disgraceful” — such a kneejerk reaction would be counterproductive.

 
“I think it’s something that needs to be considered, but I think that we should hold off and decide what the best course of action is,” said Engel. “We don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face. I think there has to be a penalty or punishment for the P.A., but if you defund the P.A., what are you left with, Hamas?

 
“Everything has to be balanced,” he continued. “I’m obviously very opposed to Hamas, and I’m opposed to what the P.A. is doing, but I think that it has to be a carefully calibrated response. I have been holding up some projects of the P.A. I put a hold on them because I just think that the P.A. has to understand that they pay a price for their nonsense.”

Israel’s Fallen

 Friends and relatives mourn during the funeral ceremony of Shahar Shalev at the Haspin cemetery in northern Israel on Sept. 1, 2014. Shalev, who was injured by an improvised explosive device in the Gazan city of Khan Younis during Operation Protective Edge, became the 72nd and final Israeli casualty of the Gaza war when he died from his wounds. Credit: Flash90.

Friends and relatives mourn during the funeral ceremony of Shahar Shalev at the Haspin cemetery in northern Israel on Sept. 1, 2014. Shalev, who was injured by an improvised explosive device in the Gazan city of Khan Younis during Operation Protective Edge, became the 72nd and final Israeli casualty of the Gaza war when he died from his wounds. Credit: Flash90.

“There isn’t a day that I don’t think about him. That I don’t think of my pain and the pain of the others whose children were killed. It is not easy,” says Shosh Goldmacher, whose son Nadav, a 23-year-old resident of the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, was killed by an anti-tank missile when he responded to a terrorist infiltration during Operation Protective Edge.

The attention of the Jewish community and the rest of the world is (not surprisingly) transfixed on the three recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris that took the lives of 17 people, including four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket. But not too long ago, last summer’s 50-day war with Hamas in Gaza claimed the lives of 66 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and six Israeli civilians. More than four months after the end of the conflict — but still early in the grieving process—the bereaved families are working to pick up the pieces.

Last month, OneFamily — an Israeli organization working to rehabilitate families that have seen members killed or injured by war or terrorism — held an event for 160 people from 50 families that suffered a loss from Operation Protective Edge. The event, which was also funded by the Iranian American Jewish Federation, offered a therapeutic environment for the families to heal together and to receive financial aid for the coming year.

OneFamily staff members had visited each home of the families that were bereaved by the Gaza war during the seven-day shiva mourning period, and the organization has offered counseling and other support to these families since last summer.

“It gives me tremendous joy to see all of you sitting together, eating together,” Rabbi David Ba-ruch Lau, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, said at the Dec. 31 event.

But in reality, the positive healing energy that the event sought to create is just the beginning of a lengthy process for these families. Rebecca Fuhrman, the communications manager for OneFa-mily, said the families are already experiencing the forgetfulness of society.

“Neighbors and friends are moving on and they are left with the loss,” said Fuhrman. “It is the first time they are really experiencing that since the summer. It can be a lonely journey.”

“A lot of friends came in the beginning, but everyone has returned to their lives,” said Shosh Goldmacher. “Our friends have moved on.”

Goldmacher takes solace in talking about her son, who was in the IDF reserves when he entered the Gaza war last summer. She said Nadav wanted to fight in Gaza in order to give back to the Jewish people.

Chava Noach of Mitzpe Hoshaya lost her 22-year-old son, Oren Simcha, when the armored per-sonnel carrier he and his squad were traveling in was caught in an anti-tank ambush in the She-jaiya neighborhood of Gaza.

“It makes you understand what is important and what is not important. … Losing a child, know-ing he won’t come back every day, that just doesn’t disappear,” she said, her words coming in between her tears.

Noach draws on her faith to get through the days. She believes her son had a job to do in this world. “He fulfilled it and now he is gone,” she said.

Goldmacher said it is painful knowing that there is a strong likelihood of future wars in Gaza. But she doesn’t think her son’s sacrifice came in vain.

“We are not done [with Israeli-Palestinian wars], there is no question,” she said. “And every time we go into Gaza more children will die. But what is the other solution? If we didn’t have this war, there could have been the very deadly attack they were planning for the holidays.” (Gold-macher’s reference is to a foiled Hamas plan to use the tunnels it dug from Gaza to Israel to exe-cute a massive attack on southern Israel last Rosh Hashanah.)

“Your children watched over Gaza… and we will watch over you,” Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennet said at the Dec. 31 OneFamily event. “I want to tell you, ‘Thank you.’ You sacri-ficed the most and we are indebted to you forever.”

OneFamily distributed $90,000 to the bereaved families attending the event.

“This is a wound that cannot be healed — the loss of a child, a spouse, a parent, a sibling. It is not a healing process, it is a coping process,” Fuhrman explained.

Dr. Zieva Konvisser, author of the 2014 book “Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing,” expressed the same sentiment. She said “coping” is the correct word to describe the aftermath of losing a loved one to war or terror. For her book as well as her 2006 doctoral dissertation, Konvisser interviewed dozens of people who managed to transform personal trag-edy into triumph.

Konvisser told the story of Dina Kit, who lost one son to cancer and then a second son to a Pales-tinian suicide bombing in 2001. Kit and her husband, Omer, went through counseling through OneFamily and then began volunteering with the group. Dina Kit ultimately became the full-time office manager at OneFamily’s main office in Jerusalem. Konvisser quoted her as saying, “They see that I lost two sons and I am productive and strong, and they get encouragement from this. They see that when the body begins to strengthen, the spirit begins to work with and take care of the body.”

Omer Kit is a member of OneFamily’s male choir along with 11 other fathers who lost children to terror or war. He sings to remember his son, but also to make others like him happy. Konvis-ser said that the Kit family’s story proves how “alongside the pain and horror and grief, there is a possibility to move forward.”

Chava Noach is just beginning this renewal process. She is working with Oren’s friends to com-memorate her late son, who loved camping and hiking, through the construction of an observa-tion point not far from the family’s home in Mitzpe Hoshaya. “Oren’s observation point” will be located in the Tzipori Mountain Range, feature spectacular views of the Galilee valleys, and be a part of the Israel National Trail.

Still, Noach contends that for her, the best kind of support she can receive is “a big hug.”

Nous Sommes Charlie Jewish community reacts to Paris attacks

From left: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lead a solidarity rally in Paris attended by more than 1 million supporters to condemn the brutal attacks recently seen in the city. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

From left: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lead a solidarity rally in Paris attended by more than 1 million supporters to condemn the brutal attacks recently seen in the city. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

The international community watched in horror last week as armed radicals in Paris massacred a dozen people at a satirical magazine, held hostage a kosher supermarket, killing four of its shoppers, and engaged in a standoff with police.

“These madmen, fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion,” French President Francois Hollande told citizens in a televised address on Friday denouncing the attacks. “France has not seen the end of the threats it faces.”

The chain of events leading to one of the grisliest terror attacks in recent French history was launched at about 11:30 in the morning on Jan. 7. Two gunmen, later identified as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly known for its caricatures mocking religious and political leaders, and killed 12 people before escaping in a stolen car.

We need to be more careful than ever and really be aware of our environment.”

A day later, a policewoman was shot to death in Paris, an incident later traced to the terrorist group, and the brothers were said to be en route to northern France. The following day, a Friday, two hostage situations arose: First, the brothers took a hostage in an industrial area where they had been surrounded by police, and then, a short while later, a man identified as Amedy Coulibaly took five hostages at the Hyper Cacher kosher market in eastern Paris. Reports said that Coulibaly threatened to kill the hostages if police attacked the brothers.

By 5 p.m. local time, police raided both locations and all three gunmen were killed, but not before a total of 17 victims were killed, including four Jews at the market.


In the immediate aftermath of the events, world leaders denounced the attacks, and rallies were held around the globe in support of the victims. Today, Jewish communities both in Europe and the states are left to assess their own safety at a time when many fear anti-Semitism and radical ideology are racing toward a dangerous peak.

“It’s shocking when these things happen,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, deputy executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “Our community now is making sure that we’re being vigilant and that we’re really paying attention as far as our security protocols go, and that’s really all you can do.”

Tolle said that the uptick in violent incidents at Jewish sites around the world, especially in Europe, is worrying.

“We need to be more careful than ever and really be aware of our environment,” she said.

In France, many say the environment is approaching a near all-time high in hostility toward minority groups, Jews included.

“It’s true that French Jewry, until today, felt abandoned,” said Shimon Samuels, director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, on a Sunday evening conference call with Jewish community organizers that followed a highly publicized international rally condemning the attacks in Paris. Even still, he added, the recent outpouring of support must be taken with a grain of salt.

In 2014, there were 22 incidents of anti-Semitism in France alone, according to Anti-Defamation League reports. That’s more than twice as many incidents as the ADL recorded in 2014 for any other country.

“We are continually moving further toward the abyss,” Samuels said of the increasing level of violence.

The history of anti-Semitism in France is long and storied, dating to before the Nazi invasion of the country at the beginning of World War II, said Andre Colombat, a French native and dean of Loyola University Maryland’s international programs.

Demonstrators carrying a sign reading “We Are Charlie” march in a Paris square during a unity rally following the terrorist attacks in the French capital. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Demonstrators carrying a sign reading “We Are Charlie” march in a Paris square during a unity rally following the terrorist attacks in the French capital. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“The government has been speaking up very loudly against anti-Semitism” in recent years, he said. “But still there is still a lot of anti-Semitism in the community in France.” And adding weight to the uneasiness felt by many French Jews is the French support for Palestinian statehood.

Extremist Islamist propaganda is also not hard to come by in France, he said. “It just adds up to the tensions.”

The struggling French economy has also played a role in creating a kind of xenophobic climate, said Florence Martin, a French native and professor of French and Francophone literature and film at Goucher College. An underlying “fear of the other” has been hardened by high unemployment rates and bad economic situations, she said.

The history of anti-Semitism in France is long and storied, dating to before the Nazi invasion of the country at the beginning of World War II

“You always see scapegoating [at times like this],” she explained. “Which shocks me to no end, because we know where scapegoating got us 60 years ago.”

France, she said, is at a crossroads now. The people can choose to unite against radicalism and hate or they can sink further into fear. “Right now it’s very militarized. … There are 10,000 troops everywhere in France protecting synagogues and various places, which is great, yet it’s militarized.

“Unless you educate people quickly and well,” she added, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen” about the fear of the other in the country.

In fact, a mutation of this same xenophobia may have played a role in spawning these attacks in the first place, say some.

Valerie Orlando is professor of French and Francophone literatures and cultures and head of the Department of French and Italian at the University of Maryland. She said tension between vehemently secular French society and some of the more observant Muslim immigrants and their families has steadily grown in the decades since the 1980s, when the “Affaire du Foular” declared that young girls could not wear a traditional head scarf to French public school.

“There were a lot of demonstrations and this sort of just blew up and got worse and worse and, sort of systematically, secularism has been challenged on many levels certainly since the ’80s, and it’s just becoming increasingly worse,” said Orlando. “This has been coupled with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism everywhere in the world.”

As a result, she said, many in France’s immigrant communities, where unemployment rates reach levels almost double the rest of the country, feel marginalized. Poor and desperate, some seek to find a target for their anger.

In the Baltimore-Washington area, a number of synagogues are focusing their attention at joining the community together. Adas Israel Congregation and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue both hosted solidarity services earlier this week to reflect on last week’s events. Adas Israel’s gathering featured talks from area Jewish leaders, along with Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, and Julieta Valls Noyes, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.

At Sixth & I, the goal was to take time to mourn the lives lost, including those in Nigeria felled by Boko Haram terrorists, and raise awareness of the bombing last week outside an NAACP facility in Colorado.

“A lot people died last week — not just in Paris, but also in Nigeria. There’s just got to be a moment where you stop and you process and you pray,” said Rabbi Scott Perlo. “Every once in a while you’ve got to mourn.”

In the meantime, many French Jews are left to weigh leaving their life in France behind for the promise of safety in Israel. Hollande has called the flight of Jews from France, should it occur, the beginning of the end of the French Republic, but the Wiesenthal Center’s Samuels wondered of the Jews left in France: “Do you want to be among the last?”

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

What to Do?

A packed crowd outside the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher in Paris watches Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin  Netanyahu pay his respects to the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

A packed crowd outside the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher in Paris watches Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu pay his respects to the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

French Jews are feeling embattled. Arsonists have targeted their synagogues, terrorists have attacked their schools and shops, and with only a few exceptions, French society has not united behind them to stop the assaults and harassment.

The solution, according to Israel’s prime minister, is simple: Move to Israel.

“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray; the State of Israel is your home,” Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday in Jerusalem, the day after an attack on a Paris kosher supermarket that killed four Jewish men.

“This week, a special team of ministers will convene to advance steps to increase immigration from France and other countries in Europe that are suffering from terrible anti-Semitism. All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms,” he said.

But for French Jews, the answer isn’t so simple.

“The Israeli government must stop this Pavlovian response every time there is an attack against Jews in Europe,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the director of the European Jewish Association, told the Israeli news website NRG.

“I regret that after every anti-Semitic attack in Europe, the Israeli government dispenses the same statements about the importance of aliyah rather than take all measures … at its disposal in order to increase the safety of Jewish life in Europe. Every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are,” the rabbi said.

The crux of the dispute — one that is hardly limited to Netanyahu and Margolin — are divergent views about the viability of Diaspora Jewish life.

On one side are the many Israelis who believe Diaspora Jewry has no future due to anti-Semitism (see: France) or assimilation (see: America), and often believe that Jewish life in the Diaspora is somehow less authentic or legitimate than Jewish life in Israel.

On the other side are many Diaspora Jews who see themselves as part and parcel of their home countries and consider their communities vibrant expressions of Jewish life. In their view, Israeli calls for aliyah in response to the challenges they face are offensive and counterproductive. Instead, they believe, Israel ought to be thinking about how it can help Diaspora Jewish communities thrive.

Netanyahu is hardly the first prime minister to ruffle feathers in the Diaspora this way. In July 2004, then-premier Ariel Sharon irked French Jews with a similar call.

“If I have to advocate to our brothers in France, I will tell them one thing: Move to Israel as early as possible,” Sharon told a gathering of North American Jewish federation leaders. “I say that to Jews all around the world, but there I think it’s a must and they have to move immediately.”

In response, French President Jacques Chirac told Sharon he was not welcome in France. Like many non-Jewish government leaders, Chirac bristled at the implication that Jews should leave en masse.

In the United States, Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua ignited a firestorm in 2006 when he told the audience at a centennial celebration of the American Jewish Committee that American Jews are only “partial Jews” because they live in the Diaspora.

“Judaism cannot exist outside Israel,” he said, according to an account in Israel’s daily Ha’aretz. “Those who do not live in Israel and do not participate in the daily decisions that are made there … do not have a Jewish identity of any significance.”

Yehoshua hit upon a similar note in a February 2013 speech to a group of several hundred American Jews on volunteer and study programs in Israel when he said, “I’m happy to see so many Americans here. I hope you all become Israelis and don’t return to America.”

Needless to say, they didn’t all move to Israel.

French Jews are in a much different situation than American Jews, however, in that they face the threat of physical violence. Add France’s serious economic problems and many French Jews agree with the view that the prognosis for their community is bleak.

“We do not have a future here,” said Joyce Halimi, who attended a vigil for victims of the Hyper Cacher supermarket attack on Saturday night. “The government talks, but it’s only words.”

In 2014, nearly 7,000 French immigrants arrived in Israel out of a French Jewish population of 500,000. That’s the equivalent, proportionately, of 84,000 American Jews moving to Israel. The actual number of Americans who immigrated to Israel in 2014 was 3,470.

Additionally, the highly symbolic decision by all four families of the Hyper Cacher attack victims to bury their loved ones in Israel reinforces the message that French Jews have a dim view of their future in France.

Of course, not all of those who are emigrating are moving to Israel. Montreal, Miami, London and New York all have seen significant numbers of French Jewish newcomers over the last decade or so.

St. John’s Wood Synagogue in London now holds a French-language Sabbath service. Montreal’s primary Jewish social services and resettlement organization, Agence Ometz, has seen a significant increase in newcomers from France. In 2013, the Italian daily La Stampa wrote a feature about the surge of French Jews in New York.

Unlike with Israel, however, there is no precise data about the number of French Jews moving to the United States, Britain or Canada.

But the migration westward is a reminder that Israel is not the only alternative for French Jews seeking to leave the country.

Breaking Point

Joyce Halimi and her husband, Julien, take part in a vigil for victims of the deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Joyce Halimi and her husband, Julien, take part in a vigil for victims of the deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.

PARIS — When he heard that four Jews had died in an attack on a kosher supermarket near his home, 16-year-old Natan Kalifa was overcome with grief, anger and a feeling of exclusion from French society.

He even contemplated staging an act of violence — possibly against Islamists who support the murders — he recalled Saturday at a vigil outside Hyper Cacher, the market where a 32-year-old jihadist took 21 people hostage and murdered four on

Friday before he was killed by police.

Kalifa’s distress was somewhat diminished after hearing French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a speech at the vigil reiterate his commitment to French Jews. But Kalifa said he still plans to leave France for Israel as soon as he graduates from high school.

“For France and the Jews who stay here, I hope Valls becomes president,” Kalifa said. “For me, I hope to be gone before the next elections.”

In the wake of an unprecedented spree of terror attacks in France last week that claimed 17 lives, many French Jews expressed appreciation for their government’s resolute stance against anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, they felt the response to be insufficient at a time when anti-Semitic violence is a daily reality that is already driving out record numbers of Jews.

“The government’s response is impeccable, but that is not the issue,” Serge Bitton, who lives in the heavily Jewish suburb of St. Mande, said at the vigil.

“The issue for the future of our lives here as Jews is how France reacts, not its government. And right now, France is reacting to Charlie, not to Chaim,” Bitton said of public outrage at the Jan. 7 attack on the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that killed 12.

Joyce Halimi, 26, attended the vigil with her husband, Julien. “The government talks, but it’s only words,” she said. “We do not have a future here.”

The perpetrator of the Hyper Cacher attack, Amedy Coulibaly, 32, belonged to the same jihadist cell as Cherif and Said Kouachi, the brothers who staged the Charlie Hebdo attack, French police said. The cell reportedly was involved in efforts to recruit jihadists to fight in Iraq.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands marched along with dozens of world leaders in defense of democratic values and in protest of the killings, including the slaying of a police officer by Coulibaly on Jan. 8. Tellingly, leaders of French Jewry are openly discussing the feeling of insecurity after striving in the past to reassure their coreligionists and inspire them to stay and fight.

“There are thousands of French citizens fighting for jihad in Syria and Iraq. When they return to France, they are truly bombs with a time delay,” Roger Cukierman, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said at a ceremony honoring the victims at the City Hall of St. Mande.

In an interview with Le Figaro, Cukierman called the increase in emigration from France to Israel a “failure for France” and said it owed to “growing insecurity felt throughout the country.”

French Jews, he added, “feel like the nation’s pariah.”

Rabbi Moshe Sebbag of the Grand Synagogue of Paris told Israel’s Army Radio that he estimated the attacks will result in a doubling of the number of immigrants to Israel in 2015.

“There is a tremendous feeling of insecurity and that these events will only worsen,” he said on Sunday. In 2014, France for the first time became Israel’s largest source of Jewish immigrants, with 7,000 new arrivals — more than double the 2013 figure of 3,289. The year before, 1,917 French Jews immigrated to Israel.

Among the prospective immigrants this year is Sammy Ghozlan, a former police commissioner who founded one of the country’s most prominent watchdogs on anti-Semitism, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

“The departure, it’s a message,” Ghozlan said in an interview about his decision published last week on JSSnews.com. “Leaving is better than running away. We do not know how things will play out tomorrow.”

BNVCA Vice President Chlomik Zenouda, himself a retired police major, spoke of a sense of fatigue.

“I have participated in many demonstrations, many marches, many vigils. The truth is I am getting tired,” Zenouda said after the supermarket murders. “And another truth is that if it were not for my obligations at the BNVCA, I would leave for Israel.”

Part of the problem, he said, was that “police are under orders not to respond, so you see cat-and-mouse games that encourage offenders to test the limits and cross them.”

Zenouda was referring to violent rallies against Israel held over the summer in defiance of a ban by authorities.

“The firm use of force that exists in the United States against violators does not exist here, and that’s part of the problem,” he said. A further complication is the sheer operational challenge involved in protecting 500,000 French Jews — Europe’s largest Jewish community — from home-grown killers with combat experience gained abroad.

“You can guard a synagogue, fine,” Zenouda said. “But you can’t put cops outside each kosher shop. You can’t assign police protection to each family before it goes shopping.”

Another factor eroding trust is the glorification of Palestinian terrorists by French elected officials, said Alain Azria, a Jewish photojournalist who specializes in documenting France’s anti-Semitism problem.

“Look at this place, it’s like Gaza,” he said at the market of Aubervilliers, an impoverished and heavily Muslim suburb north of Paris where the mayor recently honored Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader serving multiple life sentences in Israel for terrorist attacks.

In recent months, several French municipalities have conferred such honors on convicted Palestinians.

“Hollande can speak against anti-Semitism as much as he likes,” Azria said of French President Francois Hollande, “but when public officials hold up Barghouti as an example, we will see the result in blood on our streets, which are emptying of Jews.”