Gaza War

Israel urged to prep for influx of European Jews


As hundreds of Jews descended on Amsterdam for an “emergency summit” on Monday, the chairman of the European Jewish Association called on Israel to prepare for a mass influx of immigrants as antisemitism skyrockets across the continent.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who had previously criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for encouraging European Jewry to make aliyah, has, given the current situation, changed tack.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, we are not there yet but be ready. Get your government agencies ready. Because if European governments carry on as they have so far, if they continue to tolerate this flood of Jew-hatred, they can expect hundreds and thousands of us to leave,” Margolin said in his address to open the summit.

“Europe is our home, and whilst Israel is our insurance policy, we will not call it in until absolutely necessary,” he added.

The EJA summit is taking place on Monday and Tuesday in the Dutch metropolis on the backdrop of widespread antisemitism that has reached concerning heights amid Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

“Every logical person, every person who looks after his family and children wants to live in security, and if this very basic condition does not exist, people will look to find an alternative. So the answer is yes, I fear for the future of European Jewry,” Margolin told JNS in Amsterdam on Monday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz expressed his support in a pre-recorded video message.

“You are our brothers and our family. I wish you success and extend my hand in partnership. The people of Israel lives,” Katz said.

The conference was organized in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, the Centraal Joods Overleg (umbrella group of Dutch Jewry), the Jewish communities of Hungary, Paris and Porto, Portugal, the Federation of Synagogues (UK), Christians for Israel and others.

Also attending was Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.

“We have the ambition to say we want a European Union free from antisemitism. We know we are far from it at the moment,” Schnurbein told JNS. “It is for all of us, the society at large and governments to address these issues,” she said.

One panel discussion focused on policies and solutions to strengthen European governments’ response to antisemitism, and was moderated by EJA senior adviser Ruth Wasserman Lande, a former Israeli lawmaker.

“We must unite in order to be able to deal with this challenge, which is very significant. I appreciate the privilege and the opportunity to come and meet with leaders of Jewish communities throughout Europe and bring in operative solutions and best practices so that Jewish peoplehood can improve,” Wasserman Lande said.

She cited a EJA forum that took place on May 22, in which the organization brought in legal experts to discuss existing and potential legislation in European countries to counter Jew-hatred.

“We focused on how to explain to law enforcement agencies current laws and how they can be applied to actually combat antisemitism, as opposed to having laws on the books that agencies don’t know how to enforce,” Wasserman Lande said.

Based in Brussels, the EJA works to strengthen Jewish identity, expand Jewish activities in Europe and defend Jewish interests, including by creating political initiatives against the BDS movement and by representing Jews in European conversations affecting minorities.

“The situation is becoming as dangerous as it was in the Holocaust days, there are so many similarities,” said Tal Rabina, EJA director of strategy and head of EJA’s Israel office. “The extremism, the hate speech, writing antisemitic messages on walls, this is how it all began. One should remember that the Nazi regime started in ‘liberal’ universities.”

Rabina explained that Jewish communities in Europe were not seeking decision-makers’ sympathy but rather action.

“Some leaders are following populist trends instead of leading and this is a catastrophe,” he said. “Blaming Israel and the Jewish people, which you don’t do in any other conflict in the world is terrible and effectively increases antisemitism. We must fight back.”

On Tuesday, conference participants were to visit Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue, the National Holocaust Museum and the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Hollandic Theater) museum (used as a deportation center during the Holocaust) and tour the Anne Frank House.

“It is our priority to make sure that Jews can live their culture and their identity in the freest way because that is the core value that we built our European society on,” Eddo Verdoner, national coordinator on combating antisemitism in the Netherlands, told JNS.

“The government is working on a plan to make sure that students receive in-class education but also give them incentives to go out of the class and visit Holocaust memorial centers. This is one of the most effective tools against disinformation and conspiracy theories,” he said. 

“Some Jews have said that they left the Netherlands because of antisemitism, and this is very regrettable. If people want to move to Israel, that’s their right, but it must be done out of choice. It must never be done out of fear. When that happens, we fail as a state and we fail as a European Union,” said Verdoner.