Saturday, July 03, 2004

Today's New York Times has this article about the rise in French immigration to Israel. The question raised in the article is: given that more Jews are moving from France to Israel, are they doing so because of anti-Semitism in France, or for other, less tangible, reasons?

I found this paragraph interesting:

Some Jewish leaders in France contend that the Jewish Agency has sent squads of "emissaries" to recruit Jews for aliyah, or the return to Israel. The agency denied the charge, saying that it has the same staff of eight recruiters and that they merely try to persuade Jews thinking of emigrating to the United States or Canada to consider Israel instead.

1. Assuming it is true that the Jewish Agency has the same number of recruiters as before, then the reporter missed out on asking a crucial question: Are more Jews leaving France, or are more Jews leaving France for Israel? If the same number of Jews are leaving France, but lately more of them are deciding to make aliyah, rather than go to North America, then obviously the anti-Semitism isn't a factor. The reporter would have done well to look into this.

2. Why is the assertion that the Jewish Agency is recruiting Jews for aliyah a "charge"? Did the unnamed Jewish leaders in France call it an accusation? Did the Jewish Agency take it as an accusation? Or did the reporter interpret it as an accusation?

If it was the French Jewish leaders, then why is Israel recruiting for immigrants a bad thing? Do they not support the idea of Aliyah? Are they afraid their community will disappear?

And shouldn't the correct response of the Jewish Agency be "well, hell yeah, we're recruiting. Israel needs more Jews to make aliyah, and France has a lot of Jews. Is there a problem?"

Knowing what I know about the Jewish Agency, there is almost definitely a long, ugly, political story behind this (unless the word "charge" reflects the reporter's interpretation of events, rather than actual events). From what I understand, Jewish communities, including often America's, are wary of the Jewish Agency going around recruiting Olim. Maybe it's because diaspora communities are afraid of taking mass aliyah to its logical conclusion: the shrinking of those same communities for those left behind.

But also, the Jewish Agency has a history of making Israel out to be a utopia to unsuspecting Jews in anti-semitic countries, such as the ones who came to Israel in the 1950's from Arab countries. If the French Jewish leaders were in fact making a "charge," it could be against the Jewish Agency's methods, not its function.

In any case, that paragraph left a few questions unanswered. I don't entirely blame the writer, because we're all human, but I would have at least expected that an editor at the Times would have asked my Question #1 and sent the writer back to find out the answer.

That's my 2 agurot for the day.

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