European countries are fighting back against calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Jews to migrate to Israel in the wake of deadly attacks in Denmark and France.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel is the only place where Jews can truly feel safe.
"This wave of attacks is expected to continue," Netanyahu told his Cabinet. "Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home."
Natan Sharansky, who leads the Jewish Agency for Israel, which describes itself as an organization that helps “rescue Jews from countries where they are at risk,” reiterated Netanyahu’s sentiment on Tuesday.
“There is no future for Jews in western Europe,” Sharansky said in an interview with the Arutz Sheva news website, claiming that the number of French Jews moving to Israel doubled to around 7,000 last year, Bloomberg reports.
But Netanyahu's comments triggered an angry response from European leaders, including Copenhagen's chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said he was "disappointed" by them.
And French President Francois Hollande promised firmness in arresting and prosecuting those who carry out anti-Semitic or racist acts.
"We know there are doubts, questions across the community," Hollande said. "I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and in France, in particular."
Jews also “belong in Denmark, they are part of the Danish community and we wouldn’t be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said.
On Sunday, hundreds of Jewish tombstones were found vandalized in eastern France, hours after a Danish Jew guarding a synagogue in Copenhagen was shot to death. Frenchmen have been accused of three deadly attacks on Jewish sites since 2012: one at a school in the southern city of Toulouse, another at a museum in Brussels and finally one at a kosher market in Paris last month. Twelve people died in total.
Hollande, speaking at the vandalized Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre-Union on Tuesday, noted that anti-Semitism and acts against Muslims are both on the rise in France.
Hollande said anti-Semitic acts doubled in 2014 compared with 2013, and acts against Muslims in just the month after the attacks totaled the same as the entire previous year.
Those figures were underscored in a report on France released Tuesday by the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks. The upward trend was part of an overall rise in racism in France, which shows that acts of discrimination and hate speech are resisting government efforts to beat back persistent intolerance.
"How do we understand the unnamable, the unjustifiable, the unbearable?" Hollande said. "This is the expression of the evils eating away at the Republic."
France's top security official says thousands of police and security forces are now protecting Jewish sites in France after the Paris terror attacks in January, and indicated Netanyahu could be taking advantage of the issue amid a tight election campaign.
"But, election in Israel aside, there is also a reality in France, which is the will of this government to ensure the protection of the Jewish community," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told The Associated Press.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said Monday that her government will do everything possible to make sure Jewish sites are secure.
"We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again," Merkel said in Berlin. "And we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.