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Netanyahu defies French pleas to push Zionist agenda

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Reprinted from Jonathan Cook

The Israeli prime minister was asked to avoid Sunday's march in Paris, out of a fear he would use the occasion to exploit divisions in French society.

From youtube.com/watch?v=CJjqKdUmadU: Netanyahu joins world leaders against Terrorism
Netanyahu joins world leaders against Terrorism
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It was hardly surprising that France's president, Francois Hollande, is understood to have implored Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to participate in Sunday's mass march in solidarity with the victims of last week's killings in Paris.

Netanyahu was probably the least welcome of the 40 world leaders who participated in the rally in the French capital to demonstrate their outrage at an attack that left 17 people dead, including four French Jews.

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According to Israeli media, Hollande's advisers had urged Netanyahu not to come, concerned that he would exploit the visit -- and the deaths -- to increase divisions in French society.

They had good grounds for concern. Shortly before he set off for Paris, Netanyahu issued a statement saying Israel would welcome with "open arms" any French or European Jews choosing to move to Israel.

Earlier, he tweeted: "To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home."

Netanyahu also declared on Saturday that he would be convening a special ministerial committee this week to investigate ways to encourage Jewish migration from France and from other European countries.

Meanwhile, in a coup for the Israeli prime minister, it was announced that four Jewish men killed at the HyperCacher supermarket in Paris on Friday were being flown to Israel for burial in Jerusalem on Tuesday. None of them were Israeli citizens.

The four will be officially recognized as "terror victims," possibly entitling their relatives to large payments from the Israeli government.

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Zionist anthem

Hollande's concerns were doubtlessly fueled by Netanyahu's behavior at a ceremony for the victims of an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.

On that occasion, Netanyahu called on Jews to leave France for Israel and then burst into a rendition of the Zionist anthem "Am Yisrael Chai," or "The people of Israel live." Hollande was reportedly incensed, saying Netanyahu had used the event "as an election rally."

This time, presumably in response to Hollande's rebuke, Netanyahu did slightly temper his language during his speech at the Great Synagogue in Paris. Conceding that Jews had a right to live in France, he also averred: "Jews today have been blessed with another right, a right that didn't exist for previous generations: The right to join their Jewish brothers in our historic homeland -- the land of Israel." Hollande had, by then, left the building.

The clear implication of Netanyahu's statements has been that France and other western states are not doing enough to protect their Jewish populations from violent extremism, and that Israel is the only safe haven for Jews.

But it would be wrong to view this as some kind of ideological aberration on Netanyahu's part. Most other Israeli politicians joined him in urging French Jews to move to Israel.

Yair Lapid, seen as a centrist politician, said: "I don't want to speak in terms of Holocaust, but ... European Jewry must understand that there is just one place for Jews, and that is the State of Israel."

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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