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French Jews squeezed from far-right and left



“It’s not a good time for French Jews,” says a French Jewish businessman who has strong ties to South Africa and lived in Johannesburg many years ago.

Father of three, Laurent Lamy, 56, who lives in Paris, told the SA Jewish Report French Jews were in a vulnerable, confusing space.

“Things are bad, and it’s getting worse and worse,” Lamy said this week.

The uncertainty follows the latest French legislative elections on 30 June, which dramatically altered the political scene, potentially having massive implications for the French Jewish community.

The far-right National Rally party, under controversial politician Marine Le Pen, zoomed ahead after the first round of voting at the weekend, raising the prospect that a party with staunch antisemitic roots will command a majority in Parliament.

Le Pen’s party got about 34% of the vote, followed by a coalition of left-wing – and anti-Israel – parties, the New Popular Front, which got 29%.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, Renaissance, came in third with 22%.

The results were unfortunate for Macron, who called the snap election less than three weeks ago following National Rally’s strong showing in elections for the European Parliament. In that election, the far-right parties had gains across the continent.

Macron’s hopes to impede the far-right’s rise backfired.

National Rally was founded more than 50 years ago by Le Pen’s father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who has repeatedly been convicted of antisemitic hate speech and accused of being a Holocaust denier. Le Pen has steadfastly tried to distance herself and the party from him to revitalise its image and attract more voters.

The party vehemently opposes immigration, and has supported Israel following the Hamas massacre of 7 October. Having said this, French Jews remain sceptical. Many Jews also regard the far-left coalition with enormous suspicion.

The left-wing coalition, known as the New Popular Front, comprises various factions with a history of anti-Israel sentiment. It poses risks for France’s foreign policy, relations with Israel, and the well-being of its Jewish community, say political insiders.

The New Popular Front includes Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed; the Greens; Socialists; and Communists. These factions, particularly under Mélenchon’s leadership, have a history of strong anti-Israel rhetoric. Mélenchon’s party has been particularly vocal in its criticism of Israel, accusing it of human rights violations, and it has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian causes, often framing his viewpoint in a way that critics argue crosses the line into antisemitism.

As the country grapples with a fragmented political scene, the rise of both far-right and far-left forces raises questions about the future of Jewish life in France and the country’s stance toward the Middle East.

This, together with rising antisemitic incidents, is cause for concern, say many.

Following the success of the National Rally Party in Sunday’s first round of French parliamentary elections, Grande Synagogue of Paris Chief Rabbi Moshe Sebbag cast doubt on the future of Jews in France, and said the youth should immigrate to Israel or other safer countries.

“Le Pen may have perfect speech regarding Israel, but history tells you a different story when people like this get into power,” said Lamy.

Though Macron’s primary objective is to prevent the far-right National Rally from gaining more power, aligning with the extreme left, he said, would be like committing treason for Jews, who have been alienated by its vehement anti-Israel stance.

“It’s about power and politics,” said a French-speaking Johannesburg businessman who recently made aliya and wishes to remain anonymous.

“The far-right wants to get into power and will do and say anything. Traditionally, it hated the Jews but right now, it hates the Arabs more. It’s a very uncertain time.

“My family carry on with their daily lives, but the situation is troubling for them,” he said.

Said Lamy, “I’ve been living in France since 1970, and this is the worst time I’ve had in my life as a French Jew. I live in a safe neighbourhood, but there’s hatred all around. For the first time, I fear for my kids, especially if they wear a Star of David”.

French Jews are still reeling from the rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl by two teenage boys in a suburb of Paris on 29 June, which led Jewish groups to take to the streets to protest rising antisemitism.

The second round of voting on 7 July, in which the top two candidates in each constituency face each other in a runoff, will determine the makeup of France’s National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. Sunday’s results suggest that the National Rally could get an absolute majority, allowing it to choose the country’s prime minister. Le Pen’s candidate is Jordan Bardella, 28. If elected, he will replace Gabriel Attal, who took office only in January and has Jewish ancestry.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gary

    July 4, 2024 at 11:42 am

    What rubbish. Marine Le Pen and the National Rally are not a threat to Jews in any way shape or form. they are favourable to the Jewish state, The enemy is the Muslim community and the left. Jews must stop this fixation with fearing the ”fr right” Viva National Rally! Viva Marine Le Pen.

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