PARIS (AP) — Despite desecrated Jewish graves in France and a deadly attack at a synagogue in Denmark, European leaders on Monday rejected calls from Israel's leader for a mass migration of the continent's Jews to Israel, urging unity instead.
Hundreds of Jewish tombstones were found vandalized in eastern France on Sunday, hours after a Danish Jew guarding a synagogue in Copenhagen was shot to death. Frenchmen have been accused of three deadly attacks on Jewish sites since 2012: one at a school in the southern city of Toulouse, another at a museum in Brussels and finally one at a kosher market in Paris last month. Twelve people died in total.
"We know there are doubts, questions across the community," French President Francois Hollande said Monday. "I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and in France in particular."
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Monday the government would defend French Jews against what he described as "Islamo-fascism."
"A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone," Valls told RTL radio.
Hollande was to visit the desecrated Jewish cemetery in the small town of Sarre-Union on Tuesday, his office said. Of the 400 tombs in the Sarre-Union cemetery, 250 had been vandalized.
Investigators were questioning five minors, 15- to 17-years-old, in connection with the vandalized cemetery, said Philippe Vannier, prosecutor of the eastern Bas-Rhin region. One of the five had turned himself in.
All were from the region and none had any criminal record, he said. They can be held for up to 48 hours before being either charged or released.
In 2014, more than 7,000 French Jews in a community estimated at around 500,000 left for Israel, more than double the number for 2013. And the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a $46 million plan to encourage still more Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine.
The exodus from France accelerated after the March 2012 attacks by Mohammed Merah, who stormed a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing three children and a rabbi.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel is the only place where Jews can truly feel safe.
"This wave of attacks is expected to continue," Netanyahu told his Cabinet. "Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home."
Netanyahu's comments triggered an angry response from Copenhagen's chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said he was "disappointed" by them.
France's top security official noted that thousands of police and security forces are now protecting Jewish sites in France after the Paris terror attacks in January, and indicated Netanyahu could be taking advantage of the issue amid a tight election campaign.
"But, election in Israel aside, there is also a reality in France, which is the will of this government to ensure the protection of the Jewish community," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told The Associated Press.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that her government will do everything possible to make sure Jewish sites are secure.
"We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again," Merkel said in Berlin. "And we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today."
Associated Press writers Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed.