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French Jews sit tight and pray as country votes

Polls put Macron in front but Jewish community refuses to be complacent

    Emmanuel Macron remains the strong favourite to be France’s next president as the country votes today in the second and final round of the election.

    Mr Macron, a pro-European centrist, has a 23- to 26-percentage-point lead over his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen.

    However, the fear that Ms Le Pen - whose party has a history of antisemitism and racism - could win the election has prompted faith leaders across France to join together in urging voters to back Mr Macron in the run-off ballot.  

    Together with Muslim and Christian faith leaders, France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia on Thursday issued a letter to voters titled “Call to Vote for Mr Emmanuel Macron”. It was co-signed by Pastor François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France, and Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

    The letter said: “Fully aware that our roles require us to be non-partisan, we are, however, first and foremost responsible citizens and therefore openly are calling for a vote in favour of Emmanuel Macron.”

    Meanwhile, French Jews remain nervous. 

    Antoine Levy, 24, a PhD candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is voting by proxy, told the JC: “I feel people are not as stressed as they should be about Le Pen getting in, she appears to be trying to win the Jewish vote by saying that Islamist extremists are the real problem. For my Jewish friends, voting ‘blanc’ is not an option. They are essentially afraid of Le Pen.”

    Alexi Ucko, 25, from Strasbourg, an entrepreneur with a business in France, said: “I am really worried. Fifteen years ago, over a million people demonstrated in the streets against Jean Marie le Pen, people were passionately fighting against extremism. It’s not the same spirit now. If Le Pen is elected I will be gone within the month.”

    Reiterating remarks he made in April, Mr Macron said in a TV interview on Friday he backs a two-state solution, and that unilaterally recognising Palestine would provoke instability and harm France’s relations with Israel.

    In the interview, he recalled that he when visited Israel as economy minister in 2015, “I defended the principle of a two-state solution, and France’s commitment to that.” He also said he criticised settlement-building. “Those are my consistent positions,” he said.

    Ms Le Pen’s party, the National Front, was founded in the 1970s by her father, a Holocaust denier with convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews.

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