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Blog by Dr Shimon Samuels published in The Times of Israel
18 April 2022

Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, ran the long-time French harbour of neo-Nazis, the National Front (Front National – FN). Apart from racism, he had manifold lawsuits for Holocaust denial, calling the Nazi gas chambers “just a detail in World War Two!”

His daughter expelled him from the party, then renaming it “National Rally” (Rassemblement National – RN). Yet many members of the party maintain their national-socialist views, likely to receive government sinecures or even membership in the Cabinet, if elected.

Marine Le Pen, as an elected Member of the European Parliament, brought the RN into the extreme-right group, close to the German AfD, the Austrian FPÖ, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the British UKIP, the Italian Lega, the Hungarian Fidesz, the Spanish Vox and other emerging extremists who meet regularly across Europe to exchange practices and coordinate international action.

In 2014, for the Regional elections, the FN turned to Putin’s Russia for a loan of nine million euros, now in the process of repayment. Eight years later, RN’s Marine Le Pen obtained another loan, reportedly of 10.6 million euros, from a Hungarian bank, to finance this week’s presidential campaign. It is thought that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had facilitated the loan between a Budapest meeting in October 2021 and a January 2022 conclave of likeminded populist parties in Madrid.

Le Pen’s ambiguous international programme begins with her declaration of sharing the same values and admiration for Vladimir Putin, as a new world leader. There is little mention of the war in Ukraine or its victims. She has emphasized that better ties with Moscow would prevent Russia getting too close to China. She added: “I would place my troops neither under an integrated NATO command, nor a future European command,” adding, “the end of France-German joint military programmes… rather than a Macron policy of bowing to Berlin!”

On Brexit, she wistfully declared that “the British got rid of the Brussels EU bureaucracy, but that a Frexit was not on her agenda.”

Le Pen’s anti-Muslim and anti-migrant agenda, in the first ballot, looked even tuned down – except to declare the headscarf illegal – especially in comparison to the more extreme-right candidate Eric Zemmour.

Meanwhile, in his first term, President Macron had promised to create a “French Islam.” The Forum for Islam of France” (FORIF) met for the first time in February this year. The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had closed down several mosques heavily influenced from abroad, frequented by Jihadists or implicated in the financing of terror. Imams are now expected to comply with the new so-called “Separatism Law,” that is meant to retrain them in accordance with French law.

The previous French Council for the Muslim Cult (CFCM) has been disbanded. One of its member groups included the organization that had sued me for defamation. I was exonerated by the French Supreme Court after a four-year trial.

On Jewish issues, Le Pen had oddly called for Jerusalem to have “International Status.” She would ban “shechita,” the ritual slaughter of animals.. Le Pen also claimed she was “the one most likely to protect effectively the ‘French of Jewish faith'.”

In closing, a warning to misguided French Jewish voters for Le Pen, who believe in “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

First, an extremist Le Pen government under RN control, will first go after the People of Friday, but then take on the People of Saturday.

The experience of the first Macron administration must continue along the teaching of the Passover Haggadah reading: to govern “with a clenched fist and an outstretched arm.”

That is not the way of the National Rally or of Marine Le Pen.

Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served as Deputy Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European Director of ADL, and Israel Director of AJC. He was born in UK and studied in UK, Israel, U.S. and Japan.