As the results of Sunday’s 28-nation European Parliament elections became apparent, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls didn’t mince words.
“It is a shock, an earthquake,” Valls said. “The moment we are living through is serious, very serious, for France and for Europe.”
While Valls might have been primarily motivated by the fact that his governing Socialists were trailing in a humiliating third place, his portrayal of the gravity of the situation was very much on target.
The big winner in France was the far-right National Front party led by Marine Le Pen, which shook France’s political landscape by beating both the mainstream conservatives and the governing socialists.
Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the infamous founder of this extremist party. Jean-Marie, who formally handed over leadership of the party to his daughter in 2011, was repeatedly convicted for racist or anti-Semitism remarks, which are crimes in France.
Though Marine Le Pen has sought to dissociate herself from her father’s explicit anti-Semitism and his offensive remarks downplaying the killing of Jews during the Holocaust, make no mistake: the current party — including Marine — is very much anti-Semitic.
The National Front party “is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” says Monty Mason, a noted historian and researcher who is an expert on Vichy France. “Ms. Le Pen is more formidable, more media savvy, than her father.”
In a 2011 interview with Haaretz, Ms. Le Pen insisted, “I’ve already declared 8,293 times that I don’t share [my father’s] view of history.”
But in the very same interview she steadfastly refused to denounce the regime of Marshal Philippe Petain and the Vichy collaboration with the Nazis. She also had the audacity to claim that “there’s no anti-Semitism today in Europe. This expression of hostility disappeared after World War II. The growing [Islamic] anti-Semitism in our territory is related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “
Even more alarming is her ardent support for edicts that would have severe repercussions on the ability of Jews to live a Torah life.
Last month she declared in towns where the National Front party won local elections that non-pork options will no longer be offered in school menus for Jewish and Muslim students.
“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen said in an interview on RTL radio on Friday. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere; that’s the law.”
When queried by a reporter in 2012, she made it clear that her calls for a ban on women wearing Muslim veils would extend to Jewish head coverings as well.
“Obviously, if the veil is banned, the kippah [should be] banned in public as well,” she told the French daily Le Monde .
“The European far-right wing — historically ranging very hostile to genocidally anti-Semitic — have in recent years shrewdly toned down their anti-Jewish rhetoric and aimed their overt animosity toward the European Muslim communities,” Mason pointed out to Hamodia.
“But in this strategy lie the seeds of trouble. The European rightists engage in a ruse; these political figures use the very laws they officially promulgated to restrict and limit Muslim communities as themeans to oppress European Jewish communities, above all traditionally religious ones.
“I believe this phenomenon — oppress two communities with one set of laws — is in the darker tradition of ‘Christian’ animosity to non-Christians, above all Jews,” added Mason, who was raised in England by Christian parents.
There is no doubt that European Jews facevery real threats from Islamic terrorists. They also are under attack by left-wingers who cloak their anti-Semitism behind a vicious, libelous, anti-Israel campaign.
But we must not underestimate the venomous danger posed by right-wingers like Le Pen. It is imperative that we recognize that those who seek to restrict Halal also want to ban shechitah, and those seeking to block the building of mosques also want to close shuls.
While it may be currently politically correct for some on the extreme right in the EU to try to differentiate between Jews and Muslims, in reality, ever since the Crusaders, anti-Muslim fervor in Europe has almost invariably gone hand in hand with anti-Semitism.
Regardless of how well it is packaged, the xenophobia and bigotry that lie behind the views espoused by the far-right, both in Europe and in the United States, should be a cause for great alarm to Jews everywhere.
“France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world after Israel and the U.S. As France goes, so goes the rest of Europe. A lot of these sentiments exist here in the United States as well,” Mason warns.
May the Shomer Yisrael protect Am Yisrael everywhere in the world, and shield them from all harm.