Clouds Over the French Horizon

French Jews will have to leave.
That was the recent statement by Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia, discussing what would happen if Marine Le Pen, of the right-wing National Front, wins the French presidency.

Rabbi Lazar made his comments last Friday before the first round of the French presidential elections occurred this past Sunday, but Le Pen indeed was one of the two top candidates in the voting, which will send her on to the second round of voting on May 7…and which will give French Jews an uncomfortable couple of weeks.

Le Pen’s political fortunes have been buoyed by the problems caused by immigration to France, with first civil unrest and then acts of mass terrorism over the last two years creating the belief for a large number of French citizens that an anti-immigrant candidate with politically incorrect views would be the best for the country.

While Jews have been the targets of some of the terrorist attacks in recent years, such as the Hypercacher attack and others before that, and there has been strong concern about anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants, even to the extent that some Jews saw Le Pen as a possible positive, much of the Jewish community has been very concerned about her ascent towards power, worried that Jews would be targeted along with other minorities.

It was the subject of Jews, in fact, that forced Le Pen to spend years remaking the image of the party that her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had stepped over the line of Holocaust denial repeatedly over the years, had long headed.

Raised in a single-parent household by her xenophobic and anti-Semitic father, with far-right figures parading in and out of the house, Le Pen would have seemed likely to follow strictly in his footsteps. But, in fact, Marine marginalized her father and threw him out of the party after he made yet another set of controversial remarks about the Holocaust. She toned down the rhetoric of the National Front, removing flagrant anti-Semitism while keeping the anti-immigrant messages that would grow to have ever more resonance in modern France.


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