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Terror, anti-Semitism and peace: Israel's Ambassador to France meets euronews

More than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, these are dark days for France’s Jews. The fear of being attacked is every present in a

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Terror, anti-Semitism and peace: Israel's Ambassador to France meets euronews

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More than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, these are dark days for France’s Jews.

Point of view

The fact that Jews would like to go to Israel because they don't feel safe... it is not the way

The fear of being attacked is every present in a community repeatedly targeted by Islamist militants, whether it be Mohamed Merah gunning down small children at a Jewish school, or Amedy Coulibaly shooting dead shoppers at a Jewish supermarket.

As a result, record numbers of French Jews are taking up Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer and seeking sanctuary in Israel.

To discuss terror attacks and anti-Semitism in Europe as well as the stalled Middle East peace process, euronews spoke to Israel’s first female ambassador to France, Aliza Bin-Noun.

Lesley Alexander, euronews:
You took over the job in Paris 5-6 months ago now. How does it feel to be Israel’s top diplomat in a country where soldiers are posted outside synagogues and where people are being physically attacked, and even killed, just for being Jewish?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Well, first of all, I am very happy to be in France as an ambassador – the first woman ambassador. For me, it is really a dream that is coming true.
“Of course, it is not a good feeling to see soldiers everywhere and to see people, you know, being very concerned and feeling insecure. But for us, being Israeli, it is not a new situation. Unfortunately, we are used to that.
“About the last events, of course it is very saddening that two-three months after I arrived, suddenly we witnessed this horrible terror attack in France.”

euronews:
In Paris, 130 people were killed. Your husband was nearly caught up in that violence, wasn’t he?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Yes. He was on the way to the stadium and luckily enough he had a change of plan at the last minute. But I was really shocked because I was at home and I was watching ‘Homeland’ – an episode of ‘Homeland’ – and when the news broke out, the first moment, I didn’t know if this was a part of the film -or part of the series – or is it reality. Unfortunately, it was a very sad reality.”

euronews:
There is this debate – you’ll be well aware of – going on within the Jewish community – after the attack of (on) a Jewish teacher, with a machete. And now French Jews are asking themselves, all these years after the Holocaust, whether they should hide their faith in public, whether they should stop wearing the traditional skullcap – the kippa – for their own safety. What do you make of that?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Look, this is a very personal, of course, decision and I think it is up to each and everyone to decide whether he wants to wear a kippa or he doesn’t. But I think it is very sad, either way, that people, Jewish people, have even to think about this issue – that they have to think whether they would take the risk or not take the risk.
“The French government is doing its utmost to provide security for the Jewish community. They have policemen and soldiers deployed in schools, in kindergartens, near the synagogues so…I think…we appreciate, we really appreciate very much the efforts that the French government is doing in that respect.”

euronews:
Given this context, the offer made by your prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to welcome French Jews with ‘open arms’ has more resonance than ever. Many thousands have already made the move to Israel Would you recommend more do so?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Again, I think that the decision to make Aliyah to Israel is a very personal decision. This is up to each and every Jew to decide where he wants to live.
“Israel, of course, is a Jewish state. Israel is welcoming all the Jews that want to come to live in Israel because this is the only Jewish country in the world. But I think, again, that the fact that the Jews would like to go to Israel because they don’t feel safe or because they are afraid, it is not the way. This should not be the reason.”

euronews:
You previously served as Israel’s ambassador in Hungary. And anti-Semitism has been a problem there since the war. That was a particularly poignant posting for you, wasn’t it?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“It was. Because I am from Hungarian origin and my grandparents were executed in the Holocaust. My father was also a Holocaust survivor so this was actually the country from where my grandparents were deported to Auschwitz and it was a very difficult personal experience for me. Therefore for me, it is very important to do everything that is possible in order to fight anti-Semitism, to encourage education in that respect.”

euronews:
It is worth pointing out that France is home to both the biggest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe. And while anti-Semitic acts last year topped 800, the number of Islamophobic acts tripled to around 400. Do you think the two communities are doing enough to come together and to stand united against all this hatred?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“I think they are doing a lot. I think the inter-religious dialogue does exist, here and elsewhere. I think maybe more should be done.
“It is very important for the societies to get to know each other and to live together and to cooperate together against threats, against hate, against anti-Semitism, against Islamophobia, against people who really fight against democracies and human rights.”

euronews:
Israel is unhappy at the moment about the EU’s decision to label products from the Israeli settlements. But given that most of the world considers Israeli settlement activity to be illegal, why shouldn’t European consumers have the choice as to what they are buying?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Because I think that it is not fair to discriminate (against) Israel on that regard. There are more than 200 disputes – territorial disputes – in the world and the EU decided to focus on Israel and Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
“I think that the conflict that we have with the Palestinians is known and the only way, the only way, to try to solve it is to sit down around the negotiation table and discuss.
“The fact that the Palestinians are refusing to come – and our prime minister called them on several occasions in the last months – shows that there is no real will to do that.
“And the fact is that Mahmoud Abbas – he received a strategic decision, 2-3 years ago, when he decided to go via the international community to exert pressure on Israel, hoping that by cornering Israel, he will see the concessions by the Israeli government. Unfortunately, Israelis are not abiding by pressure and we showed it in the past. When we were ready to make territorial concessions – with Egypt and with Jordan – it had to be because the population, the Israelis, saw that the other side is coming in good faith and when the other side is not perceived as coming in good faith, then the chance of concessions is really not very high.”

euronews:
Obviously, that is a particularly Israeli way of looking at things…

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Of course, I represent the Israeli government!”

euronews:
And the Palestinians would take a very different view and say that it was down to Israeli inflexibility that peace talks are not progressing…

Just finally, I know relations with Sweden have been particularly difficult – between Israel and Sweden – since Sweden recognised Palestinian statehood And now the Swedish foreign minister wants an independent investigation into the killing of over 150 Palestinians amid the recent spate of stabbing attacks against Israelis. What’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t we look into whether Israeli security forces could have shown more restraint?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Because I think it’s outrageous. I think that the aspiration or the desire to come and to interfere into internal affairs – something that is not happening nowhere in Europe – I think it is outrageous.”

euronews:
No matter what is going on in Israel…the world doesn’t have a right to…?

Aliza Bin-Noun, Israeli Ambassador to France:
“Everybody has the right to everything but there is a limit to which one picks on Israel, being a democratic country which is really fighting for its democratic values. It is the only democratic country in the Middle East.
“The context into which we have to look at things is very, very worrying. The situation in the Middle East is deteriorating. Israel is surrounded by enemies and to come and to start asking Israel, or demanding from Israel, to open up to an international investigation because there is no trust or not enough belief in our democratic system, I think it is an insult, really it is an insult.”