Earlier in the week, The Jerusalem Post commended a certain political figure for their recent electoral success. A figure who might evoke skepticism among some, for being praised by the Post. Yet essentially, she has brought about an unprecedented shift in a right-wing nationalist party towards supporting Jewry. Her name is Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Pro-French, Eurosceptic ‘Front National’.
Some were dubious of the Post for doing this. This is understandable. After all, far-right political movements in Europe are notorious for vilification of Jewry — either on a global scale, or on a national level; often affirming that: wherever there are Jews, there’s trouble! It’s rhetoric that contracts from one fascist group to another.
Marine Le Pen has broken away from this stigma, however. In a bid to form a populist movement that breaks away from the fringes of the political spectrum, where far-right movements are restricted from being taken seriously, she has stamped out the regressive elements of her father’s legacy. For her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was nauseatingly anti-Semitic, and a renowned fascist. Since she took power in 2011 however, his daughter Marine has actually banished him from the party. A commanding move indeed. Clearly, she is making a clear stand to rid the party of its ghastly annotations; to repair tattered relations with French Jewry, and to formulate a respectable party image.
And this has worked. In the French Local Elections last Sunday, Le Pen’s Front National captured a historic victory, accumulating 28% of the vote; ahead of the Republican Party which won 27%, and the incumbent but trailing Socialist Party of President Hollande, which gained a measly 23.5%. Le Pen now has her eyes set on round two of the local elections next week, and eventually, the 2017 Presidential Election.
So after all, an ideology which is a renowned adversary of the Jewish people, has now manifested into a party which is supportive of their interests. Some have speculated that this success will vibrate onto surrounding nations, and also increase friendliness to the state of Israel. Yes, Le Pen has declared her unambiguous support for Israel. However, it is too early to tell if it will rub off on the rest of the continent.
Either way, it is a victory for French Jewry for now. Sure, you could accuse Le Pen of exaggerating her support for Israel and abhorrence of anti-Semitism, to gain a political advantage over her rivals. Yet a desire of hers, which she most certainly unanimously shares with the Jews of France, is for Islamic Extremism to be crushed.
French Jewry has seemingly been somewhat of an isolated group, in recent years. With the incumbent government showing warmth towards liberalism, Islamophilia (much to the disdain of many French citizens) and pro-Palestinian convictions; the Jews have likely retreated to the sidelines, in fear of being targeted. Yet despite being a small community, anti-Semitism is still a scourging problem. One study suggests, in 2014, it was as high as 51% of all racist attacks in France; with a disproportionate number of incidents instigated by Islamist extremists.
Clearly it’s a growing problem, and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has likely added fuel to the fire. Marine Le Pen has promised to tackle something that is not only an arising issue for Jews, but for the rest of France too. Despite the long standing demonization of Jews by nationalist movements, one must ask: what is a greater threat to French Jewry today, far-right Neo Nazis, or Islamic Extremists? Neo Nazism is a marginalised issue nowadays, and seemingly poses an ever diminishing threat towards Jews in Europe. Yet with the increasing threat of Islamic extremism (which deviates from most moderate/tolerant Muslims), Marine Le Pen’s promise to stem this menace is a breath of fresh air.