President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry aren’t the only American leaders who have been AWOL since last month’s anti-Semitic murders by Islamic terrorists of four French Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris and two French Jews at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.
Prominent members of Congress and Jewish community leaders have, for the most part, also not responded as forcefully as have Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who have urged French Jews to immigrate to the Jewish state (7,000 already did so last year).
Sharansky and Lieberman are among the more than 1 million Soviet Jews who immigrated to Israel after Congress in 1974 passed the Jackson–Vanik Amendment, which was signed by President Gerald Ford, requiring the Soviet Union to permit free emigration of its citizens in exchange for favorable trade agreements with the United States. Another 500,000 Soviet Jews immigrated to America as a result of the remarkable leadership of Senator Henry Jackson and Representative Charles Vanik.
Forty years after the passage of that landmark law, 500,000 French Jews – who have been under unremitting attack by a radicalized segment of the 6.5 million-strong French Muslim community– need a senator and representative to legislate for their expedited immigration to the United States.
The immigration of French Jews can be justified not only by our country’s history of offering a haven to persecuted Jews but also by America’s pivotal role in saving Jews in North Africa and France métropolitaine (metropolitan France) during World War II. The 500,000 Jews of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia escaped Nazi Germany’s planned extermination because American soldiers landed in Morocco and Algeria on Nov. 8, 1942 (Operation Torch), and quickly defeated the Vichy French troops.
After the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the independence won by Morocco and Tunisia in 1956 and Algeria in 1962, nearly all of the half-million North African Jews were forced to emigrate, mostly to Israel and France, by the virulent anti-Semitism of the sort that has now followed them to mainland France.
Today, approximately three-quarters of the 500,000 Jews in France have roots in North Africa. Five of the six Jews who were killed last month in Paris were from families that fled Tunisia or Algeria. These Sephardic Jews are now facing a second uprooting in the lifetimes of the community’s senior citizens.
France’s other 125,000 Jews either survived World War II or are the descendants of the survivors. During the war, 75,000 of the 300,000 French and foreign Jews in residence throughout France were arrested by the Vichy police and SS and deported to Nazi extermination camps.
Approximately 90 percent of France was freed by the skill and sacrifice of American soldiers, while the rest was liberated by British, Canadian, French, and Polish soldiers. (My late father, Barney Schulte, fought with the crack Sixth Armored Division in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany. His first cousin, Simon Levy, a medic in the 29th Infantry Division, was killed in mid-August 1944 in France and is buried beneath a Jewish star in the St. James American Military Cemetery, about 15 miles south of Avranches.)
Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a senator from Washington, a state with a small Jewish population, was motivated to become a principal liberator of Soviet Jews as the result of a visit, with seven other congressmen, to Buchenwald 11 days after its liberation by the Sixth Armored Division. In an Associated Press article from Buchenwald on April 22, 1945, Jackson declared: “We heard atrocity stories from the last war which were not verified, but now we have seen them with our own eyes and they are the most sordid I have ever imagined.”