French aliyah down under Sarkozy

French Jewish emigration to Israel has plummeted since Nicolas Sarkozy took office, data suggest.

Tuesday’s Ma’ariv published figures provided by Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry suggesting that the rate of aliyah from France so far this year has been 42 percent less than in the same period in 2007.

But Jewish Agency for Israel officials in Paris dispute the figures. “Yes, aliyah from France is down and yes, there is a Sarkozy effect,” said David Roche, JAFI head in Paris, “but the figures are exaggerated, and don’t mean that much in any case.”

Roche said according to JAFI figures in Paris, about 300 people made aliyah from France in the first three months of 2008, compared to about 400 last year. “That is a drop of 25%, not 40%,” he noted. “And in any case, this time of year is always slow for aliyah compared to July and August, so we really have to wait until then to establish any kind of trend here.”

French community officials said the increase in aliyah from France was the result of a rise in violent anti-Semitic incidents committed mostly by North African Arab and African youths, linked to the Al-Aksa intifada. Jews also said they thought about moving to Israel partly because of what they perceived as indifference by the general French population to the violence and the fear it created, especially in suburban Jewish communities.
 
The expression the “Sarkozy or Sarko-effect” has been used in a positive sense by the French Jewish media to describe the ongoing warming of relations between France and Israel since Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president last May. A drop in aliyah is seen by many people as a potential down side.

 

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