French Jewish Leader in Hot Water Over Apparent Endorsement of Sarkozy

Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, writes in Haaretz op-ed that he is worried by a possible victory by Francois Hollande.

Shirley Sitbon
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Shirley Sitbon

The leader of the French-Jewish umbrella group CRIF has attracted critical headlines following a piece he wrote in Haaretz apparently endorsing France's incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Richard Prasquier lost his honor" was just one of a dozen headlines attacking or quoting the CRIF leader after his piece appeared, explaining why he thinks Sarkozy is still the best candidate for the presidency. "He has a deep knowledge of Israel and a deep sympathy for this country," wrote Prasquier.

Richard Prasquier, center, with President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande. Credit: Reuters

Political analysts say Sarkozy is expected to lose, but Prasquier wrote he was worried by a possible victory by Francois Hollande. What would be the influence of "the leftist parties and the Greens which express a deep hostility towards Israel"? asked Prasquier, before answering: "I expect a surge in leftist and Communist manifestations of anti-Zionism."

Prasquier appeared to express more concern about the far left and the "new anti-Semitism" than about far-right leader Marine Le Pen, and that's why many journalists criticized him.

Le Pen is not expected "to exert any influence on policies toward Jews in France" wrote Prasquier, because "there is no possibility of political agreement between" Sarkozy and the far right. The head of CRIF added: "The Muslim community and immigration issues were at the forefront of their campaign. 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."

Several journalists, mainly from the weekly Marianne, which is vehemently hostile to Sarkozy, said the article shows that CRIF is no longer against the far right so long as it doesn't openly criticize Jews.

"When the National Front aggresses immigrants and Muslims, the man who represents French Jews doesn't see anything deeply wrong and writes this to the people of Israel," wrote Claude Askolovitch in an article called "CRIF loses its morals outside the Ghetto". The Huffington Post and website Rue 89 published similar articles.

Prasquier released a statement saying he has repeatedly condemned the National Front. "I've always said that party's history and its positions are contrary to the values of tolerance and respect that have allowed Jews to live freely in France. I didn't change my opinion when that party obtained its highest score in history on April 22."

The controversy reveals that religious communities are still at the heart of the campaign. Days ago Sarkozy criticized Hollande saying "hundreds of imams" supported him, according to an article in Marianne. Muslim site oumma.com noted that when the head of CRIF supports the incumbent president in an opinion piece, Sarkozy doesn't appear bothered at all.

Read this article in Hebrew.

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