Fact is, NF no longer a demon for some Jews

February 26, 2015 12:35

In a rare attempt to solve an interfaith crisis, on Tuesday French President François Hollande summoned to the Elysée Palace the chairman of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organisations (Crif), Roger Cukierman, and the head of the National Council of Muslim Worship, Dr Dalil Boubakeur.

The previous day, Mr Boubakeur had accused Mr Cukierman of Islamophobia and declined to attend the annual Crif dinner, where Mr Hollande was due to deliver a speech.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Cukierman had pointed out in a radio interview that all perpetrators of antisemitic violence in France were Muslims. While he said that only a "very small minority" of Muslims was involved, Mr Boubakeur called the statement "irresponsible".

Other observers scolded Mr Cukierman for an additional remark about Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front. While distancing himself from the NF, Mr Cukierman said that Ms Le Pen was personally beyond reproach when it came to antisemitism. He added that the reason why she had not been invited to the Crif dinner was that she had not clearly condemned the antisemitism of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Mr Cukierman's words were interpreted by some, especially on the left, as a veiled endorsement of Ms Le Pen and her political programme.

The same commentators argued that the French Jewish community was moving to the far right. According to Ifop, a leading pollster, 13.5 per cent of the Jewish voters supported Ms Le Pen in the 2012 presidential election, a sharp increase from the 2007 poll in which only 4.3 per cent of Jews had supported her. Even so, the proportion of Jewish NF supporters lags behind a national average of 18 per cent.

Clearly, Ms Le Pen has been successful in recasting the NF as a "democratic" party that cannot be confused with neo-Nazi groups.

Moreover, a report on antisemitism released three months ago by the Foundation for Political Innovation showed that NF supporters are, on the whole, not antisemitic. While 61 per cent of the NF saw Jews as fully-fledged citizens, only 23 per cent saw Muslims as true nationals. Likewise, 68 per cent of NF voters agreed that fighting antisemitism must be a national priority. This was lower than a national average of 85 per cent, but it was very high nevertheless.

The fact is that the NF is no longer the demon it once was for some French Jews. This is could be because crude antisemitism is not the issue.

Most French Jews do still feel uneasy about the NF, however. They are concerned that an NF government may restrict some Jewish practices in the name of secularism, and they note that Ms Le Pen has never explicitly backed Israel.

February 26, 2015 12:35

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