When we first met (in March 2004) she was still her daddy's little girl. Already well known, even popular, but still hovering in his large shadow. When Marine Le Pen spoke, Jean-Marie looked at her with his healthy eye (the other has a glass replacement following a violent confrontation). It was enough to see his glance, his body language and the dynamic that was created in the room to understand that she still had a way to go before she would be able to fill his shoes.
At our second meeting, at the beginning of her election campaign, she was already threatening to overshadow her father's achievements in anticipation of her expected success. "Our rivals are shaking already," she declared. "Soon the unworthy ruling establishment will be defeated," and she, Marine, would be in the Elysee Palace.
True, "President Le Pen" is still an imaginary vision. But Marine, who has led her party to its greatest achievement (17.9 percent of the vote in the first round ) has turned into the "anointer of kings" and has already made Nicolas Sarkozy the first president in the history of the Fifth Republic to lose in the first round of an election.
Time after time, she declares that this is merely "the first stage in the struggle for France." Her aim is to become a realistic alternative to the left, by forming a "new right" that is "real." After the "fake" right last year lost the Senate and will lose the presidency next week, she believes, she will cause its final disintegration when she enters the National Assembly in June. Then the ground will once again shake under all of Europe.
Le Pen conducted a clever and sophisticated election campaign and thanks to it, she is where she is now. But obviously she should also be grateful to quite a few factors that seem to have come together to help her.
She owes a big thanks to Mohamed Merah, the terrorist from Toulouse, who "proved" that the migrants and the Muslims are indeed the republic's Enemy No. 1. The right man, who was in the right place at the right time - so very right that one could almost have thought he was an agent or "shahid" planted there by the extreme right.
She also owes many thanks to the economic crisis, to the soaring unemployment and the waning buying power of consumers that made it possible to considerably increase the number of people who believe the fabrication that Europe and the euro are Enemy No. 2.
She owes a warm thanks to the outgoing president who tried forcibly to grab the Front National's agenda and thus contributed to the realization of her earnest aim - its "de-demonization."
And she can say a heartfelt "thank you" also to a number of friends from Israel. To our ambassador to the United Nations who honored Le Pen by attending an event she hosted in New York and contributed a joint photo-op worth more than gold; to the deputy cabinet minister Ayoob Kara (Likud ) and other right-wing friends who are responsible for nurturing a covenant with the well-known nationalists and anti-Semites of Europe, Le Pen's spiritual brothers; and to the Jewish state, the official one, which has remained totally mute in the face of these phenomena, so that some even suspect that this is an intentional policy that fits in well with the way its leaders have been turning the Holocaust into something banal.
History will judge the support for Le Pen and her ilk. But it seems that even now it is possible to state that this is folly. Even according to the line of reasoning of the supporters themselves. Because after all, if Iran is Nazi Germany, and if Sarkozy is the Western leader most determined to prevent it from becoming nuclearized, it is tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot to topple him and strengthen his most bitter rival.
This is folly because 2012 is not 1938, but if the euro falls and the European Union disintegrates, it is a sure-fire way to return to the chaotic era of nationalism and bloody wars.
It is folly because Le Pen is not capable of breaking away from her father's heritage and the Vichy-ist and anti-Semitic core of her party: In interviews with Haaretz, she attacked former president Jacques Chirac for accepting responsibility in 1995 for the crimes of the Vichy regime. This "demagogic" declaration was made to please the Jews, she said.
When the possibility was raised that she should follow in the footsteps of Gianfranco Fini, who previously headed Italy's fascist party and in 2003 apologized to the Jewish people, she was unnerved. For a moment, the hidden demon raised its head. Under no circumstances, she made it clear, would she "speak evil of her country" and condemn the crimes of French fascism. And folly, finally, because Le Pen does not try to curry favor nor does she refrain from criticizing the policies of the right in Israel.
She does not hide her opposition to the settlement policy or her support for recognition of Palestine at the United Nations. She does not hide her opinion that the Iranian nuclear plan is "defensive" and that she is opposed to attacking its nuclear facilities, an attack that she says would be "a flagrant violation of international law".
Perhaps it's 1938, after all?
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