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French Jewish Leader Attacks Hollande

While potential far-right spoiler Le Pen throws Sarkozy under the bus

Marc Tracy
May 01, 2012
Richard Prasquier in 2010.(Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images)
Richard Prasquier in 2010.(Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images)

Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader who finished a strong third in the preliminary round of France’s presidential elections last week, could perhaps have driven center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy, the underdog compared to Socialist François Hollande, to victory had she decided to endorse him. But instead, she has decided to endorse no one and submit a blank ballot Sunday. The strategy is to hope Hollande wins and further destabilize Sarkozy’s party, in turn placing the FN—imminently to be renamed the Rassemblement Bleu Marine (the “Navy Blue Union,” but the pun only works en français!)—in a stronger position for June’s legislative elections. This is how the far-right becomes legitimized, so keep close watch.

As for ever-more-likely winner Hollande, a few days ago he visited a memorial to the 76,000 French Jews deported to the camps during the Holocaust and said that Iran’s nuclear program “disturbs me.” At the same time, Richard Prasquier, head of France’s official umbrella group of Jewish organizations, penned an article worrying about a Hollande victory. Sarkozy “has a deep knowledge of Israel and a deep sympathy for this country,” he wrote, adding that a Hollande victory would lead to “a surge in leftist and Communist manifestations of anti-Zionism.” And what of Le Pen, whose party actually has a not-at-all-distant anti-Semitic past? “The Muslim community and immigration issues were at the forefront of their campaign,” he explained. “Indeed, Marine Le Pen even tried to attract Jewish voters as if the past of the National Front and/or the view of some of its still influential leaders had not been known.”

In turn, other French Jews criticized Prasquier and the Jewish establishment he represents for making common cause with a resurgent far right and focusing disproportionate ire on a marginalized far left. Golly gee, that sure sounds familiar!

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.