Mélenchon will exploit and leverage France’s large Muslim vote

The powerful orator welcomes immigration for opportunistic reasons


Jean-Luc Melenchon, founder of La France Insoumise, addressing supporters on the eve of the French elections July 7 (photo:Getty Images)

July 09, 2024 17:28

Pierre Arditti, 79, one of France's best theatre actors, has always been a champion of the left and the far-left. Memories of the Holocaust had a lot to do in this respect. Like many French Jews of his generation, Arditti tended to see the left as the ultimate rampart against racism and antisemitism.

He is now a broken man. “The left is my home”, he confided a week ago. “But I can no longer bear what is happening there.” Clearly, he was referring to the rise of an extremist far-left party, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), led by a former socialist minister turned demagogue, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. 

Some observers have described Mélenchon as a Corbyn on steroids. The editor of L’Express, the centrist weekly magazine, recently offered another comparison: Mélenchon is today what Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right agitator, used to be for about 20 years, from the early Eighties to the early Noughties.

Le Pen was 76 in 2002 when, having come in first in the first round of the 2002 presidential election, he was the only candidate facing Chirac in the second round; Mélenchon is now 72 and ambitions to come first or second in the next presidential election.

Le Pen liked to play the provocateur and make scandalous remarks; so does Mélenchon. Le Pen ruled his political party, the National Front as if it was his personal property; so, again, does Mélenchon within France Unbowed. Both men have been ready to be hard-nosed rulers, Le Pen as a second Marshall Pétain and Mélenchon as a new Robespierre. Both are incredibly powerful orators, with a command of both the literary and the popular French language. 

The main difference is that Jean-Marie Le Pen opposed immigration and multiculturalism (while being in friendly terms with the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein), and that Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on the contrary, welcomes it, no doubt for opportunistic reasons.

The French Muslim community grew from one million in the early seventies to at least 7 million in 2024 , thanks to much higher communal birth rates than the French national average, massive legal and illegal immigration from Arab countries, West Africa, Turkey and even the former USSR (500,000 souls a year), and conversions. 

Two decades ago, Pascal Boniface, an academic specialising in international relations, advised the then pro-Israel Socialist Party to embrace the Palestinian cause in order to co-opt the growing Muslim vote. This is exactly what Mélenchon is doing now, in his brutal, devastating way. 

France Unbowed’s strident “anti-Zionist” hysteria is thought to be related to the rampant exclusion of Jews from higher learning institutions (such as Sciences Po, the French equivalent of LSE), the “cancellation” of “Zionist” artists or intellectuals and a 1,000 per cent rise in anti-Jewish violence (from the beating of senior citizens or teenagers to the sordid rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl in the name of Palestine).

"Mélenchon is a person who is a threat against the Jews," said Yonathan Arfi, the chairman of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (Crif) in a interview with The Jerusalem Post earlier this week.

The French Jews’ main fear so far is that as the leader of the New Popular Front, a leftwing coalition that won a plurality of seats in the new National Assembly on July 7, he will be asked to form the next cabinet or at least to support it.

Right before the general election’s second round, Arfi joined Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia and two other communal leaders to warn French Jews against voting for France Unbowed or alternatively for the right-wing National Rally, the party that replaced the National Front more than a decade ago and whose leader is Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter.

However, many French Jews, including former Crif chairman Richard Prasquier or Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, the famous Nazi-hunters, don’t subscribe to such a parallel. They point to the National Rally’s transformation under Marine Le Pen into a law-abiding, democratic conservative party, that has repudiated antisemitism thoroughly (and expelled Jean-Marie in the process).

Moreover, the National Rally, who garnered 10.1 million votes on July 7, is currently the most pro-Israel party in France.

Even more awkwardly, discarding both Mélenchon and the younger Le Pen would mean voting and supporting President Emmanuel Macron. But French Jews wonder whether he is really a friend.

He shocked them last autumn, when he declined, unlike almost everybody in his cabinet, to take part in a march against antisemitism. He shocked them again, one month ago, when he banned 74 Israeli firms from EuroSatory, France’s World Armament Fair. A move seen as BDS’ biggest victory so far in a democratic country.

Michel Gurfinkiel is a French journalist 

This figures in this article on the size of France’s Muslim population and repoting on ‘bloc’ voting intentions among the Muslim community have been amended or deleted


July 09, 2024 17:28

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