French election special

- 12 04 17


In the first round of the presidential elections, Macron won.

What’s left is to wipe Le Pen out.


Make Le Pen’s ‘first step’ the last

Make Le Pen’s ‘first step’ the last

CHAPTERS: 1 2 3 4 5



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Chapter 1: Introduction

France stands at a political crossroads. Its direction of political travel, to be determined by voters in the presidential elections first round on 23 April and most likely a second round on 7 May, is a matter of concern to all of us.

Reflecting that, HOPE not hate is publishing this French Election Special to provide our supporters inside and outside the UK with vital background information produced by highly reliable analysts.

On 23 April, eleven candidates will stand, only four of whom, currently hovering at or close to 20% in the opinion polls, can be considered serious contenders.

The quartet numbers

Emmanuel Macron – former banker and Socialist minister – 22% in polls

Marine Le Pen – for the right-wing extremist Front National– 22% in polls

Jean-Luc Mélenchon – a former Socialist minister and candidate of the left-wing Unsubmissive France – 20% in poll

François Fillon – for the centre-right Republicans – 19% in polls

The first-round outcome will probably be very narrow and mirror the deep cleft within a French society mired in political crisis, enmeshed in gargantuan distrust of the establishment, entangled in economic difficulties and hit repeatedly by terrorism that not only kills lots of people but deepens ethnic and cultural divisions.

The likely second round run-off between Macron and Le Pen promises to be a bitter affair with Macron hopefully mopping up enough of the first round anti-Le Pen vote to trounce Le Pen.

That, at least, is how it looks but there are first round imponderables, not least the level of abstentions among the young in particular.

© Christoph Schrey

Ifop pollsters recently forecast that the intention to abstain has rocketed to a democratically corrosive 52% in the 18-25 age group. In all, the reputable Ipsos additionally suggests, the abstention rate could reach 34%, a low turnout seemingly helping Le Pen.

The defence of democracy against the encroachment of the extremist Le Pen can be guaranteed if French voters exercise democracy by going to the polling booths in record numbers to prevent their country from staring into the abyss.

We fervently hope they will.


Can Marine Le Pen win?

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Chapter 2: Can Marine Le Pen win?

Just days before the first round of the French presidential election, opinions polls show Front National (FN) candidate, Marine Le Pen, will most probably stand in the second ballot and may be come ahead of the other 10 contenders on the first one.

She could get around 22-23% of the vote and is in a neck-and-neck race with Social-Liberal candidate Emmanuel Macron, dubbed the French Tony Blair.

Le Pen, however, is most likely to be soundly defeated on 7 May, polling around 39% against Macron (61%), 45% against Conservative candidate François Fillon (55%) and 43% against Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the radical left candidate who is now the rising star of the election with a prediction of a stunning 18% in the first round.

So, can Le Pen win against all odds? Or is the National Front doomed to remain in permanent opposition despite being a potent and sinister force in French politics?

© European Union 2016 – European Parliament

This is probably the most uncertain, and certainly most fascinating French Presidential election since the inception of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

Two months ago, the stage was set with outgoing President, François Hollander, deciding not to seek a new term. The Socialists (PS) were certain to head back to the opposition benches and lose the position of Head of State.

The Conservative Right candidate François Fillon, who had won the primary of the Right by a near landslide, was near the stage of picking his Cabinet, as he was the outstanding favourite.

Marine Le Pen, leading the polls with 28%, was set to be defeated in the second round, albeit with a much higher share of the vote than the 19% her father captured in 2002.

The scandal that erupted when Fillon was accused of employing his British-born wife on his staff, paying her with public money for a job she most probably did not do, has turned the Conservative candidate into an underdog in the campaign, now polling just 19 to 20%.

The winner of the Socialist Party primary, Benoit Hamon, is trailing badly at 9% and his Jeremy Corbyn-like political platform has divided the party more than it has ever been since the early 80s.

With the Socialist Party fighting for its life, Emmanuel Macron, who is now the frontrunner, has emerged. Marine Le Pen is making a lacklustre campaign and has sank to 22-23% over the last two weeks.

It is very difficult to predict the outcome of the race on the first ballot, as there are now four candidates (Macron, Le Pen, Fillon and Mélenchon) who are flirting with the 20% threshold and are so close with each other that the differences on polling intentions are within the mathematical margin of error.

The first question is: what does Le Pen actually stand for?
Her new election Manifesto is made of 144 “commitments” that she says contain the basic tenets of her ideology.

On 11 April, Donald Trump-style she selected 10 of them that she promises to enacted just after inauguration on 15 May. Those include having a referendum on imposing a new Constitution, leading to making préférence national – that is superior civil rights for French nationals – legal; opting out of Schengen; the compulsory repatriation of all foreigners who have a file with the Anti-Terrorist Department; having a retirement age of 60 and lowering the income tax thresholds for the working and middle-classes.

Next, she declared, she will open negotiations with the European Union (EU) to get Brussels’ approval for leaving, followed by a referendum on “Frexit” if the Commission does not give her a green light.

What she does not say, however, is that those measures need to be voted through Parliament and, as the legislative elections will be held on 11 and 18 June, they cannot be approved before the opening session is convened in July and unless the FN has a parliamentary majority. Without proportional representation, that is highly unlikely.

Those 10 measures are only the most visible part of what the FN wants to do when it comes to power. The Presidential Manifesto, which, in the typical fashion of an authoritarian party, was never discussed by a party Convention or AGM, contains a set of measures that, if adopted and enforced would dramatically change the very nature of the French Republic, leading to what would be, at best, a most illiberal democracy.

The core issues, for FN voters, are unemployment (18% of the voters chose the party because of that), law and order (17%) and immigration (15%).

It is therefore to be expected that Le Pen focuses her policies on those issues. If elected, she advocates a return of the State in the economy to regulate the financial markets, fight the closure of factories which are relocated out of the country, set a protectionist 35% tax on imported goods and and impose a similar tax on companies hiring “foreigners” instead of French nationals.

Alongside restoring protectionism goes leaving the EU, although the electorate is split on this issue, with only 58% of her voters agreeing with Frexit and even fewer wanting to drop the Euro.

This platform is strongly opposed by Fillon who is an old-style free-marketeer and, for opposite reasons, by Mélenchon whose growing appeal among the working-class (18%) and the white-collar (20%) could drain away votes from Le Pen.

In line with her “France first” and “France for the French” policies, Le Pen, sees a direct correlation not only between unemployment and immigration but also between immigration and law and order in a context of great anxiety that another Islamist attack might take place.

Despite the fact that Fillon, and the independent Conservative candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (credited with 3%) have made very harsh statements on Islam and immigration (Fillon has used the word Islamofascism and Dupont-Aignan said he believed “some kind of population substitution” was now taking place, the two of them want to restrict legal immigration, Marine Le Pen has a clear edge on those issues, first raised by Jean-Marie Le Pen more than 35 years ago.

She is the only one, for example, who wants to shut down “fundamentalist” mosques, the term “fundamentalist” being so vague that it easily satisfies those voters who are prejudiced against all Muslims, not just the radicals.

The Front National is also the only party that claims that it will deport all undocumented immigrants and close the doors to legal immigration (except for 10,000 legal entries per year).

The high level of distrust in the political élites – 77% of the French think that their MPs are corrupt, a little fewer have the same opinion of the Executive Branch) – gives Marine Le Pen the hope that she will be attract the voters who are so exasperated they are ready to cast their vote for whoever says (she) will “drain the swamp”.

One repeated argument is that Le Pen may lose votes because she is under scrutiny of both the European Parliament and the French judiciary, because of alleged financial misdemeanours and misuse of public funding.

This is unlikely, however, because such allegations have been made before, even against Jean-Marie Le Pen, without hurting him. The “anti-system” dimension of the FN vote remains its biggest asset, as in 2015 74% of FN voters did so in order to sanction the Cabinet, and 29% said they voted against all the “establishment” parties.

Who are these prospective FN voters? At this point, what can be said for sure is that Le Pen retains the core of her working-class and middle-class voters, that she is popular among the youth (18-24 year olds) with a low educational level but has to face the reluctance of the more educated young people, especially on the issue of Frexit.

The map of the FN vote is changing fast too. The party has made strong inroads in regions that were hostile just 10 years ago, such as in Brittany where the party now grabs around 20%, as well as in the rural South-West, and that is part of a broader effort to reach out to farmers among whom she polled 20% in 2012 and is now credited with more than 30%.

One of the big issues for Le Pen is how to take voters away from the mainstream Conservative party, Les Républicains?

On the first ballot, she can hope to attract them by playing the Gaullist card and lying that her party is the true heir to the late Résistance hero. Ironically, this can work as, de Gaulle having stepped down in 1969, the memories of who he was and what he stood for have now faded away.

On national sovereignty, opting out of NATO, restoring national pride, Le Pen explains that her opponents have betrayed de Gaulle’s legacy.

As incredible as it may be, when on 10 April, Le Pen said that France was not responsible of the 1942 round-up of the Jews in Paris, leading to their deportation and subsequent death in the Nazi extermination camps, she explained her statement by saying that the Vichy regime was “a collaborationist and illegal government” whereas “the true France was in London with de Gaulle”

The problem for her is that people with her mentality, ideology and politics stood steadfastly behind Pétain and his Vichy collaborators!

A final point is that, as the race gets closer, as of 14 April 14, a third of the voters are still undecided and it seems that the opinion polls underestimate the Fillon vote. Marine Le Pen remains a strong contender for the second ballot, but there is a (slim) possibility that she might not even qualify.


Islamist terrorism and its impact on French society

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Chapter 3: Islamist terrorism and its impact on French society

France has been blitzed by major Islamist terror attacks – with multiple losses of life – on four occasions in the past five years.

The bloody toll of death in this onslaught is as follows:

11-22 March 2012 – Toulouse and Montauban – 7 shot dead

7-9 January 2015 – Île de France – 17 shot dead at Charlie Hebdo magazine and at a kosher supermarket

13-14 November 2015 – Paris – 130 killed in shootings, hostage taking and suicide bombing

14 July 2016 – Nice – 86 killed in vehicle ramming of pedestrians

Inevitably the grim death toll resulting from these murderous activities and the relentless society-wide fear they have generated has result in loud demands – from across the political spectrum – for harsher security measures and varying degrees of a crackdown on the Muslim population.

The impact of the various terrorist episodes has played intensely on short-term opinion but does not seem to have reversed the long-term evolution of the French society towards more tolerance.

SP slides towards authoritarianism

Laws regulating immigration in France have already been modified several dozen times in recent in a generalised beefing up of regulations.

Inevitably, however, the wave of terror attacks has directly sparked tougher security laws as part of a government-installed state of emergency after the attacks multiplied the security measures.

The effectiveness of these measures is not easy to demonstrate. More than 3,800 house searches and raids led to just nine prosecutions for terrorism and 27 for supporting it.
Demonstrations, however, continued to flourish, and Paris was the scene of the most massive clashes in decades in protests against the reform of the labour laws.

On 14 July 2016, at midday on the occasion of the national holiday, Bastille Day, President François Hollande announced that the state of emergency (which had been extended three times since 2015) would not be renewed. “We can not eternally prolong the state of emergency. We now have a law to act against terrorism,” he said.

The same evening in Nice, an attack killed 86 people and dozens of wounded among the crowd who came to witness the holiday fireworks, prompting the government to resort anew to a measure … that had just demonstrated its radical inefficiency.

The abortive attempt to “constitutionalise” deprivation of nationality in the wake of the terrorism led to a divorce between human rights organisations associations and the government, destroying a long-time secular symbiosis between these associations and the socialists.

The extension of the state of emergency was criticised by the Constitutional Council and – four times – by the Council of State, France’s highest administrative jurisdiction.

The easing of conditions for the use of weapons by the police was lashed as the provision of a “license to kill” by associations of families of the victims of police crime and also criticised by the “Defender of Rights”, a state organisation, the Bar Association, the Judicial Union and the League of Human Rights among others.

A comic book, The President, a political fiction best seller by Farid Boudjellal and François Durpaire, describes an imagined authoritarian seizure of power by Marine Le Pen.

The content of the book shows the implementation of  “exceptional measures” by the Le Pen regime, their legal basis being the laws adopted in recent years at the behest of the Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls.

Parliament has rubber-stamped the battery of post-attack security measures easily with clear majorities, often understanding them more as reassuring signals to voters more than for their supposed effectiveness.

As a result, the debates have given rise to multiple – my proposals are tougher than yours – overbidding; either security (internment or expulsion of the “S files”, persons who are the subject of simple dossiers by the intelligence services) or direct religious discrimination (expulsion of veiled Muslim students from universities, public places and whole categories of employment, knowing that the ban on the wearing of the veil in the public office already has consensus backing in France.

In each political family in France, there are numerous identities and people who are attentive to the risks of religious discrimination.

Thus, on the right, presidential candidate Francois Fillon has adopted an objectively Islamophobic approach to radical Islamism and demands the immediate dissolution of all the movements like Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood, while his rival at the primary of the right Alain Juppé, forged an alliance with the Imam of his city, one of the main cadres of the UOIF, which is considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood!

Among the liberal “progressives”, former premier Manuel Valls says: “Of course, there is economy and unemployment, but the main things are the cultural and identity battles.”

The different currents of the French Communist Party are divided on these subjects, as are the Trotskyists, the anarchists, feminist organisations, freemasonry and so on.

Terrorism not reversing the trend towards tolerance

The CNCDH National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), is a state body that independent advises the government and in the field of human rights. It has developed, and uses every year, a synthetic index of tolerance.

Derived from a set of carefully selected questions asked by survey, this composite index measures the degree of tolerance shown by the French vis-à-vis those who are “different” from an ethnic or religious point of view as well as their views on immigration or multiculturalism.

Examining variations in the index over several decades gives important pointers.

After four consecutive years of decline, stopped in 2014, the longitudinal tolerance index in France, ranging from 0 to 100, marks a clear increase towards more tolerance (+10 points since 2013), valid for all groups that seem to be better accepted.

The CNCDH comments: “It is not least surprising to note that the context is apparently not conducive to the acceptance of the other (terrorism, migrant arrivals, unemployment, the weight of security themes in the media, certain political positions etc.


A mainstream far right?

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Chapter 4: A mainstream far right?

French society is probably still neither more racist nor more sexist than it was before but the presence of the extreme right is more and more tolerated, even by those who declare they do not share its ideas.

The banalisation (and sometimes legitimation) of the extreme right is being made possible both by the context of the economic and social crisis that favour absurd notions of the country withdrawing into itself and by the political “novelty” enjoyed by the nationalist movement that has not been associated with any government for more than 70 years.

At the same time, its move into the mainstream is also the fruit of the work carried out by the groups and personalities of the extreme right themselves who have known for the past fifteen years not only how adapt to situations but also how to evolve to the point of sometimes being unrecognisable.

Above all, they have learned to spread a racist, nationalistic and sexist political culture that creeps in everywhere without meeting much resistance and know very well how to use all the resources offered by new modes of communication and discussion, especially on the Internet.


In the aftermath of World War II, because of the appalling legacy of its past Nazi and fascist crimes, the extreme right had no choice but to make a masked comeback, pretending that it emerged out of nowhere.

Today, although there are always nostalgic assumptions about Pétain’s Vichy or Mussolini’s Italy in France, most contemporary French nationalist groups and personalities lay claim to a certain modernity and a form of political “virginity”.

The Front National (FN), the extreme right’s main representative, although founded by genuine heirs to historical fascism, today presents itself as a party that defends freedom and the republic and, even more recently, as a party of social emancipation, all the time retaining its obscenely anti-egalitarian and discriminatory basic ideas.

“Neither Right nor Left: Front National” – by adopting this slogan, lifted from the infamous pre-war fascist Jacques Dariot – and updated in the 1990s by its youth outfit, the Front National de la Jeunesse (FNJ), in a national revolutionary perspective – it is less the idea of ​​a “Third way” between capitalism and communism that is being defended than a wish to be found on the mainstream political chessboard in order to appear as the only solution after decades of alternation between the left and the right.

On the radical far right, in the early 2000s the so-called Identitaires, though founded by racial nationalist-revolutionists, were partly able to junk fascist folklore or at least modernise it (especially its visual symbols) without ditching its substance…thus creating a modern wrapping attractive to youth of a generation judged much less hostile to the far right than in the past and using all the resources of the Internet and social networks.

All “anti-system”

Many of those carrying this extreme right-wing baggage now want to find a voice and falsely claim the term “extreme right” is an invention used by the “system” which, feeling threatened by disturbing truths”, uses the term to defame and disqualify its enemies.

Of course, this “system” is never defined, and is never confused, for example, with capitalism as such. The “oligarchy” that purportedly controls the “system” and the globalism “that serves as its ideology” can equally well be the work of Jews, Freemasons, Americans, Brussels or, even, obscure parts of the “secret state”.

The so-called “national community” is outside the “system” and thus – supposedly – is not prone to sectarian party conflicts or class conflicts and is defined only by the exclusion of those who do not belong to it.

Some in this extremist spectrum even go so far as to suggest ​​a convergence of all its “enemies”, right and left into an opposition of the centre (the “system”) with a periphery (the far right) fighting them. This is an old extreme right-wing idea in the nationalist-revolutionary current that, today, has found new vitality especially in new spaces of politicisation real and virtual.

In line with this, the new style extreme right-wing does not hesitate to steal, for its own purposes, the vocabulary, the positions and even the symbols of progressive protest movements. Certain personalities, regarded rightly or wrongly as being “of the left”, have participated in this confusion.

This has been the case with the “comedian” Dieudonné who, together with the opportunist Alain Soral, launched an internet site, Equality & Reconciliation (E&R), in 2007 that was (self)defined as “anti-system”. It has achieved notoriety for the most delusional, especially rabidly antisemitic, conspiracy theories and for the most outrageously racist or sexist statements, regularly developed by the mere assertion that they run counter to the “dominant thinking” that rejects them.

For E&R, the “resistance fighter” is now the one that casts doubt on the reality of the Shoah, the “dissident”, the one that supports Putin’s increasingly authoritarian Russia. Soral and Dieudonné do not make or outline any policy but rather spread a political culture, through lectures (mostly filmed), publication of books written by pseudo-specialists, and by flagging up their bogus “dissidence” that has quickly become a very lucrative business.

Beyond the particular case of E&R, which is now a little losing momentum, it must be recognised that by investing very early and massively in the internet, the far right in general has been able firmly to implant its own codes and catchphrases in this new political territory and managed to make its voice heard again, maintaining an alternative position to the hated “system” while, at the same time, its messages are picked up in the established media by neo-conservatives like Éric Zemmour and Alain Finkielkraut.

“Great Replacement” and “Reinformation”

The French extreme right, in its project of cultural and political reconquest, has not merely adopted a posture but has actually succeeded in popularising some of the concepts that have emerged from the nationalist ghetto to pollute public debate. Thus, the instrumentalisation of immigration by the nationalist movement underwent a new development in 2010 with the so-called “big replacement” theory elaborated by the obscure writer Renaud Camus, who was inspired by the theory of “Eurabia”, developed by Britain’s Gisèle Orebi (aka Bat Ye’or).

This aforementioned “great replacement” would be that of the European and Christian population by another population: immigrant, coming from Africa and Muslim. Ethnically and culturally, the French population and identity would thus be doomed to disappear in favour of a Muslim world.

Adapting certain characteristics of political antisemitism (for example, the alleged conspiracy against European civilisation) to a racism inherited from French colonial history, the “great replacement” supports its claims by making any public manifestation of the Muslim faith – veils, halal restaurants or even the mere presence of non-white people in the streets – a “visible” proof of this “replacement.”

The Identitaires, who have done much to publicise Camus’s thesis, have also made pig meat products a sort of branded talisman to repel the “invader”: bacon soup, street parties to glorify the pork sausage and, even, a vile so-called “March of the Pigs”.

In 2005, a blog made its debut – under the name “François de Souche” – by Pierre Sautarel, a former official of the FN’s website, that produced no evidence but selected negative news involving “foreigners” in general, and Arabs in particular, stigmatising Islam as a danger.

The blog’s success has been dazzling (more than 50 million visitors since its creation), and the site has even become a kind of reference point…and not just for the far right. Sautarel was able to sustain the illusion of providing “objective” information, leaving his readers to “analyse” it in commentaries, greatly reinforcing xenophobic clichés.

This example perfectly illustrates the concept of “re-information”, initially theorised in 2002 by Jean-Yves Le Gallou and defended in his personal think tank, Polémia. “Re-information” is defined as a “critical reading of information broadcast by the mainstream media with the aim of restoring the facts and dragging the manipulations of the powers-that-be into the light”.

Le Gallou, inspired by the Italian Communist and victim of fascism, Antonio Gramsci, made a pitch in 2008, inviting the Identitarian milieu to make a systematic criticism of the traditional media – accused of wanting to mask the truth from the French – but above all to invest in cyberspace (described as “an instrument of mobilisation of the silent majority against the elites”) by developing its own media.

This has since developed into what some call the “faschosphere”, a heterogeneous set of sites that are linked to each another, despite sometimes blatant ideological divergences but united by the same virulent Islamophobia and the same venomously reactionary thought.

These sites serve as fora for more or less known “personalities” who can unrestrainedly dump their xenophobic views and their untruths without risking contradiction.

Selective “freedom of expression”

Somewhat paradoxically, the extreme right-wing personalities or groups that support some of the most authoritarian and freedom-killing regimes on the planet (be it, according to the tendency, the Syria of Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Putin’s Russia) and who advocate the most brutal and cruel methods of “settling” social problems (camps, expulsions, death penalty, etc.) are also those who have only the words “democracy” and “freedom of expression” in their mouths.

Of course, this is not a freedom of expression for those (Roma, undocumented workers, clandestine workers…) who have no political or media voice but the freedom of speech that matters to them, namely their own.

When they criticise the “politically correct”, it is, in fact, their exclusion from debate, resulting from the dictatorships of the 1930s that they denounce. It is not by chance that Holocaust denial and racist, sexist and masculinist ideas are the first causes they defend.

The other advantage of screaming “freedom of expression” is that the fanatics can to adopt a “victim” stance. However, this victim pose is generally safe, since the overwhelming majority of racist, antisemitic or sexist statements circulate on social networks with total impunity in any case.

Worse, while this type of communication literally overwhelms any open discussion on the internet through trolling, any disputing it is immediately claimed to be a form of “censorship” and it is the anti-fascists who find themselves accused of being the true fascists.

This anti-anti-fascism fuses with the “anti-system” posture when the nationalist groups claim that anti-fascism is remotely controlled by the powers-that-be (police, secret services, unspecified “lobbies” etc.).

If this conspiracy thesis is not enough to denigrate anti-fascists, the extreme right insists on branding their alleged “violence” without hesitating to call them “fascists” or, even “Nazis”, in a rather comical role reversal.

Though this has not yet found an echo in the media and public opinion, the FN has taken up the theme by promising dissolution of “ antifa militias” if Marine Le Pen becomes president.

We have been warned…


Fear remains high in France

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Chapter 5: Fear remains high in France

As antisemitism from Islamic radicals grows and mainstream parties are disavowed by many Jews, observant or not, voting for the Front National’s (FN) Marine Le Pen has now become an option for 10-12% of Jewish voters, despite warnings by communal leaders of the dangers of her being elected.

For almost 40 years, the leaders of CRIF, the French equivalent of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, have clung to a clear attitude that it is not acceptable to vote for FN.

Indeed, FN officials are never invited to any Jewish commemoration, festival or meeting. Neither are those of the Communist Party and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche because of their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Nevertheless, the vote by Jews for the FN’s candidate in Presidential elections has grown from a mere 6.1% in 2002 (the combined vote of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Bruno Mégret) to 13.5% in 2012, according to a landmark study by the polling institute, IFOP.

This does not mean so many votes. According to IFOP, there are only an estimated 260,000 Jewish voters in France, that is 0.6% of the population, and not all of them are registered voters, nor, if they are, do they always vote.

Nevertheless, it seems that, with the volcanic Jean-Marie Le Pen being out of the picture and his daughter Marine now the FN’s torchbearer, the party has become more acceptable to Jewish voters.

Why is that? First of all, Marine Le Pen does not make those disgusting and shameful puns about the Holocaust that helped make her father infamous and she is not obsessed with Jews and the Second World War. She is not a Holocaust-denier and is not an antisemite.

She simply does not understand the specific history of the Jews in Europe and the sensitivity of such issues as ritual slaughter and being able to wear the kippa on the street. She wants to forbid that while most Jews think it is part of their religious freedom.

If some Jews do feel ready to sacrifice their basic religious rights by voting for FN, it is because they feel under attack by radical Islam and think that the mainstream left and right have been ineffective in fighting Islamism. It is estimated that “only” 294 antisemitic incidents took place in 2016, compared with 808 in 2015.

Yet, the tally of 294 is much more than before the start of the second Intifada in 2000 and 808 is about 8 times the number of the incidents in the 1990s.

As a consequence, many Jews feel insecure, especially those who live in the cities of Paris, Lyon and Marseille or in their suburbs, where most of the incidents have taken place.

This feeling is strong not only because of the terrorist attacks in Toulouse (2012) and the kosher supermarket in Paris (2015) but because of the harassment many Jews, especially those wearing Orthodox garb, as well as schoolchildren attending religious schools and people on their way to synagogue, are now experiencing constantly.

These incidents are occurring not only when events related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict lead to a peak but even when the situation is relatively quiet in the Middle East.

What has made FN an option for a number of Jews is that the party stridently boasts it will “bring Islamism down to its knees” including by closing down “fundamentalist” mosques.

Many Jews now believe that antisemitism from the far right, if still alive, is relatively benign nowadays. They take it for granted that Marine Le Pen has expelled the fascists and Holocaust-deniers in the FN’s ranks and tend to downplay what remains of traditional extreme right-wing ideas within the party.

In other words, they no longer think the FN is an existential threat while Islamism is seeking to root them out of France and destroy Israel at the same time. It is true, furthermore, that most antisemitic incidents are not the work of the extreme right.

Although we do not have exact figures – France is not very good on this front – people with a cultural Muslim background account for the majority of such incidents and, unlike in the UK, the US and Germany, there is no known terrorist capability from the far right, much less of terrorism targeting Jews, as Islamophobia now sets the patterns and the targets for whom the fascists and nazis want to hit.

The FN has launched a minuscule “Jewish” satellite organisation, the Union des Patriotes Français Juifs (UPFJ), led by Michel Thooris. The FN’s number three, Nicolas Bay, travelled to Israel, in January 2017, visiting the Yad Vashem Memorial. There, he repeated Marine Le Pen’s statement that the “camps were the acme of Nazi barbarity”.

It is to be noted that this verbiage does not mention the deportation and extermination camps nor the Holocaust or the orchestrated policy of exterminating the Jews simply because they were Jews.

The fact that between 12-15% of the Jewish voters are ready to turn a blind eye to this and vote for the FN shows the extent to which the “new antisemitism” has estranged Jews from the left which is accused of working hand in hand with the Islamists in scapegoating Israel and Zionism.


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