In Israel, concern over fate of France's Jews

Jerusalem (AFP) - For many in Israel, the deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris was further evidence that France is becoming hostile territory for Jews and authorities are unable to protect them.

"I'm angry with French Jews. Why are they hesitating to pack their bags and come here? France has become a dangerous place for the Jews," said Manuel Allal, a 26-year-old French-Israeli sitting in an Internet cafe in Jerusalem.

Such comments reflect a growing consensus in Israel over threats to France's large Jewish community, which is increasingly on edge after a series of anti-Semitic incidents including Friday's hostage-taking at the supermarket in eastern Paris.

For many the incident, which ended with four shoppers dead and an Islamist gunman killed in a police assault, brought back memories of deadly shootings in southern France in March 2012.

The Toulouse attacks -- which saw Islamist Mohamed Merah shoot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school -- appears to have set off a wave of French immigration to Israel which last year hit a record high of 6,600.

And many believe the Paris slayings will only accelerate the trend.

The latest bloodshed, which began on Wednesday when two Islamic extremists gunned down 12 people in a raid on the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, is being seen as something of a watershed.

- Pressure to 'leave France' -

"French-Israelis are in shock. This is the straw that has broken the camel's back," said Avi Zana, director of AMI, an organisation that helps French Jews integrate into Israel.

"They are going to put pressure on their families to join them and we can expect that the number of Jews looking to leave France will grow," he told AFP.

Since the attack, Israel has openly called on French Jews to move to the Jewish state.

"To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place towards which you pray, the state of Israel is your home," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday in remarks that were not well received by Paris.

Many in Israel expressed hope that the latest attacks would hammer home to Europeans the threat posed by Islamist militants, which Israelis say they have been facing for years.

"The French are not used to terrorism like we are here in Israel," said Asher Zaguri, a 51-year-old teacher at a coffee shop in central Jerusalem.

"After what happened, I hope they are going to take the Islamist threat seriously."

France's Jewish community, which numbers between 500,000 to 600,000 people, is the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States.

Friday's attack follows a string of recent events which has created a growing sense of insecurity for the community, starting with the 2006 death of a 23-year-old Jewish man after he was kidnapped and tortured in a housing estate south of Paris.

The Toulouse attacks, which ended with Merah killed in a police assault, followed, along with what officials say is a significant increase in anti-Jewish incidents.

- Belated wakeup call -

Figures cited by the SPCJ, a French-Jewish security watchdog, show that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose by 91 percent in the first seven months of 2014 compared with the same period a year earlier.

For some Israeli commentators, comparisons in the public response to the supermarket attack and the Charlie Hebdo killings have also been revealing.

"On Wednesday evening, all of France declared 'Je suis Charlie' in what became the symbol of resistance to the barbarity... On Friday evening, there was no similar wave of pronouncements saying 'I am a Jew'," wrote Sefy Hendler in the left-leaning Haaretz daily.

"This gap is hard to explain."

Pundits also berated the "colossal failure" of the French intelligence services in monitoring homegrown extremists.

Writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper, Alex Fishman said the attacks were a belated wakeup call for France.

"Until now, Islamic terror was of not much interest to the French, since it focused on Jews. As long as only Jews were killed, they didn't really give a hoot," he wrote.

"Today they, and all of Europe, are shocked to the depths of their soul since French police and journalists were killed.

"All the red lights that should have gone off years ago, when Islamic terror killed Jews, did not even blink for a moment," he wrote.

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