01:27 GMT +318 June 2018
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    People cheer as Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for the French 2017 presidential election, attends the 2-day FN political rally to launch the presidential campaign in Lyon, France February 5, 2017.

    Jewish Congress Says Le Pen's Party Has 'Very Dark Past'

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    French far-right National Front (FN) party, led by French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, is still under historical anti-Semitic influences, rallying nationalists’ votes despite efforts to mollify the party’s hard-right rhetoric and promises to defend Jews from radical Islam, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor told Sputnik.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Marine Le Pen, one of the front runners of the upcoming French presidential elections, worked hard to change her party’s image as anti-Semitic by focusing more on the populist anti-migration platform amid an unprecedented migrant crisis and the growing threat of Islamic radicalism and terrorism in Europe. During her presidential campaign she pledged to defend rights of the minorities "under threat," such as Jews, saying that the National Front is in fact "the best shield" to protect them and defend their "freedom of thought and worship" from the Islamic fundamentalism.

    "We see Marine Le Pen’s efforts to clean up the French National Front, but it is still the party of the far-Right with a very dark past and with very problematic followers. She is trying to ride the wave of populism that is sweeping many parts of the world but this is merely leading to greater radicalization on both sides of the political spectrum and we hope that the mainstream Left and Right-wing parties will react and find answers to the discontent of its citizens," Kantor said.

    Le Pen sought to distance her party from the anti-Semitic ideology inciting racial hatred and denying of the Holocaust, that defined the party in the era of FN founder and her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was eventually expelled from the party by Marine for his anti-Semitic statements.

    Head of the European Rabbinical Council Pinchas Goldschmidt told Sputnik on Wednesday that French Jews are wary of the potential victory of French far-right National Front party leader and most of them will then leave the country. He believes that the return of ultra-nationalism to European countries will lead to wars between them, turning Europe into the most dangerous place in the world as it was in the 20th century.

    According to Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), which monitors Jewish security in France, following a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and then the attack on a kosher grocery in Paris in 2015 over 8,000 Jews left France for Israel.

    In March, the Council of Europe Anti-Racism Commission (ECRI) noted its concern about the high level of race-related crime and the rise of hate speech in France, involving attempted murder, particularly in connection with anti-Semitism. The anti-racism commission, however, also noted an increase in Islamophobic violence in the country.


    Monday’s interview of Marine Le Pen with Israel’s Channel 2, has been in the spotlight of the French and Israeli media after she stated that radical Islam was a threat to her country’s values and called on Jews to avoid wearing any items representing religious affiliation for the interest of equality. She suggested that Jews should stop wearing the kippah as a way of defeating radical Islam. She also promised to defend Jews from radical Islam.

    Commenting on Le Pen’s statement, the European Jewish Congress president wondered why Jews are asked to make a sacrifice for matters unrelated to them.

    "People of religious faith should be able to wear articles that are important to them, unless of course it impinges on the rights of others. The kippa is an important item for religious Jews that has absolutely no bearing on anyone else and thus should not be up for debate. I don’t see why Jews should be asked to make a sacrifice for something completely unrelated to them," he said.

    Kantor believes that in order to prevent radicalization, the French authorities have to educate better tolerance, especially in the school system. "Jews are an excellent example of an integrated and loyal community that can serve as a paradigm for other groups and communities," he said, adding that law enforcement authorities must be given stronger powers to work against radical communities and leaders.


    Kantor also pointed out that the Jewish community around the world does not get involved in local or national politics, however, called on all parties and politicians to refrain from using the Jewish community as a bargaining chip in their election campaigns and to stand by the Jewry which is facing threats from the far-right, the far-left and radical Islamists.

    "The Jews have a long history in Europe where we have contributed far beyond our numbers in many areas, but when the situation, economic or social, becomes challenging, many use the Jewish community as a scape-goat. We call on all politicians to refrain from using the Jewish community as a rallying issue," Kantor concluded.

    According to the latest polls, Marine Le Pen is expected to win the first round of the presidential election in France with 26 percent of votes. Former Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron is set to gain 23 percent of votes while the Republican’s party candidate Francois Fillon – 20 percent. The first round of the elections is scheduled for April 23, with the second one slated for May 7.


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