Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he appreciated the “very firm position” taken by French leaders against “the new anti-Semitism and terrorism” in France, speaking after millions of French gathered to rally for unity in the face of terror.
He also thanked Lassana Bathily, the Muslim employee of a Jewish supermarket who saved several hostages during a jihadist attack on Friday.
“Our common enemy is radical, extremist Islam — not normal Islam,” Netanyahu said in an address at the Grand Synagogue in Paris, after briefly joining other world leaders in a mammoth march against extremism through the capital that drew up to 1.6 million people.
Four of the 17 fatalities in France’s three-day wave of violence were Jews killed in an attack on a kosher supermarket hours before the start of the Jewish Shabbat on Friday.
The sister of attack victim Yoav Hattab, one of four Jews killed in the attack at the Hyper Cacher market, urged those gathered at the memorial to light four extra candles each Shabbat “so they may remain etched in our hearts.” The sister, who asked not to be named, also played a recording of Hattab singing the Modeh Ani prayer.
Netanyahu called on Europe and the rest of the world to support Israel’s fight against terror. Supporters chanted his “Bibi” and “Israel will live, Israel will overcome.”
“Israel is today at Europe’s side, but I would like Europe to be on Israel’s side too,” Netanyahu said.
“Those who killed and massacred Jews in a synagogue recently in Israel and those who killed Jews and journalists in Paris are part of the same global terror movement,” he added, referring to a deadly November attack at a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof.
“We must condemn them in the same way, we must fight them in the same way.”
The prime minister asserted that the danger imposed by global terror had the potential of deteriorating into a serious threat to all human kind if radicals were to achieve nuclear capabilities. He then demanded of world powers to thwart Iranian nuclear aspirations.
“We cannot let Iran achieve nuclear capabilities,” he said. “Israel stands with Europe, and Europe must stand with Israel [on this issue].”
Netanyahu went on to once again extend an invitation to French Jews to emigrate to Israel, just a day after he said the Jewish state was their home.
“Jews have the right to live wherever they want,” the prime minister said.
“But Jews these days have an opportunity that did not exist in the past, to live freely in the only Jewish state, the State of Israel.”
“Any Jew who chooses to come to Israel will be greeted with open arms and an open heart, it is not a foreign nation, and hopefully they and you will one day come to Israel,” he said.
“Am Israel chai! Am Israel chai!,” Netanyahu concluded. The crowd loudly repeated his final remarks. Some could be heard chanting Netanyahu’s name.
Israeli TV reported earlier Sunday that the French government was unhappy about a series of calls by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders over the past few days to French Jews to immigrate to Israel.
France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia told Israel’s Army Radio earlier Sunday he implored Netanyahu not to to issue an overt call for French Jewry to make aliyah to Israel during the speech. Were he to do so, “this would be a big problem” for the French Jewish community, says Korsia. Netanyahu’s choice of wording may have reflected that concern.
France’s large Jewish community is increasingly on edge after a series of anti-Semitic incidents including Friday’s hostage-taking at the supermarket in eastern Paris.
Figures cited by the SPCJ, a French-Jewish security watchdog, show that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose by 91 percent in the first seven months of 2014 compared with the same period a year earlier.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has sought to reassure his country’s half-million strong Jewish community, saying during a visit to the Paris area where the supermarket siege took place that “France without the Jews of France is not France.”
The gathering Sunday evening was planned and organized by the Consistoire, the body responsible for religious services for the French Jewish community. It was held immediately after a march in which millions walked through the heart of Paris in support of democratic values.
Korsia said the march Sunday shows the French Jewish community “is not as isolated as we thought. For months we have been asking where is France? Today we saw France, and the France we saw was a spitting image of biblical descriptions of Jerusalem, where brothers unite.”
The synagogue rally also featured the singing of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, followed by the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.