Anger as Jewish lead­ers meet French far-right

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SHIRLI SITBON PARIS

FOR THE first time ever, last week a French Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tion met rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Na­tional Front.

In do­ing so, the lead­ers of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of French Jews and Friends of Israel (CJFAI) broke a Jewish com­mu­nity rule: never talk to the far-right.

The as­so­ci­a­tion, cre­ated six years ago, met the Na­tional Front’s Vice Pres­i­dent, Louis Aliot, and the party’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Par­lia­ment, Gil­bert Col­lard, send­ing shock waves through the wider com­mu­nity.

On Wed­nes­day night, the main Jewish um­brella as­so­ci­a­tion, the Coun­cil of Jewish In­sti­tu­tions in France (Crif), de­nounced the move.

“This meet­ing is morally shock­ing and po­lit­i­cally ir­re­spon­si­ble,” said Crif in a state­ment. “It’s an at­tempt by the Na­tional Front to ex­ploit French Jews.”

French Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions and me­dia be­lieve the tra­di­tion­ally an­tisemitic party is reach­ing out to Jews as part of a long-stand­ing strat­egy to ap­pear more mod­er­ate and, by do­ing so, be­come more electable.

“Jews feel strongly that the Na­tional Front should be kept at a dis­tance be­cause they know that iso­lat­ing the party ben­e­fits the nation and French Jews as well,” said Crif pres­i­dent Fran­cis Kal­i­fat.

The CJFAI be­lieves, on the con­trary, it should talk to all par­ties.

“I’m any­thing but a Na­tional Front sup­porter but we have to see the ob­vi­ous: this party is backed by a third of the French pop­u­la­tion and it will get more MPs in com­ing elec­tions,” CJFAI chief Richard Abit­bol told the JC.

“The Na­tional Front has two main trends: one is led by Ma­rine Le Pen, Louis Aliot and Gil­bert Col­lard; the other is more rad­i­cal and led by Bruno Goll­nisch. Do you want the more mod­er­ate branch to pre­vail or the other? I’d rather elim­i­nate the fas­cists,” said Mr Abit­bol.

Un­der Ms Le Pen, the party is stronger than ever and as other pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates strug­gle, vot­ers have started to pay at­ten­tion to the NF man­i­festo.

Omi­nously for the Jewish commu- nity, how­ever, Ms Le Pen re­cently pro­posed block­ing dual cit­i­zen­ship for any­one whose se­cond na­tion­al­ity is not Euro­pean — a ma­jor is­sue for dual French-Is­raeli cit­i­zens — and ban­ning the Is­lamic veil and kip­pah in pub­lic.

Asked on French TV whether big crosses would also be banned in pub­lic, Ms Le Pen said: “Big crosses don’t ex­ist. I’m not go­ing to in­vent them.” She then mixed up re­li­gious sym­bols, say­ing, “Small kip­pahs are ac­cepted,

Reach­ing out to Jews is NF’s elec­tion strat­egy

I mean small Jewish crosses, I mean Jewish stars.”

Re­gard­ing the ban on hold­ing a se­cond, non-Euro­pean pass­port, Ms Le Pen was ques­tioned specif­i­cally about Is­raelis. “Are you telling French Jews they should re­nounce their dual cit­i­zen­ship?” asked jour­nal­ist Lea Salame.

“Israel is not a Euro­pean coun­try. I think that even Israel agrees with that,” an­swered Ms Le Pen. “Is­raelis will be treated like every­one else.”

Sev­eral Jews said they were of­fended by the jour­nal­ist’s in­sin­u­a­tion that French Jews au­to­mat­i­cally have Is­raeli cit­i­zen­ship.

“Ac­cord­ing to Lea Salame, France’s Jews have dual French and Is­raeli cit­i­zen­ship. Scan­dalous!” tweeted Philippe Meyer the Vice-Pres­i­dent of B’nai B’rith France.

Le Pen at a Na­tional Front rally in Fre­jus, south­ern France

PHOTO: AP

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