One of France’s best-known anti-racism campaigners faces expulsion from the French Socialist Party after posting an anti-Semitic tweet last week targeting President Emmanuel Macron.
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Gérard Filoche was co-founder of the SOS Racisme organization in the 1980s. Last Friday, he tweeted an image of Macron with his arms aloft, standing over the world and wearing a Nazi armband where the swastika is replaced with a dollar sign. Behind him, American and Israeli flags are superimposed with images of three renowned Jewish figures: French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi; British banker Jacob Rothschild; and French writer and economist Jacques Attali. The slogan says “Marching toward world chaos,” a reference to Macron’s party En Marche.
The image clearly suggests Macron is involved in a global Jewish conspiracy to subvert the world order – a stereotype reminiscent of Nazi propaganda against the Jews.
Though Filoche, 71, has been a marginal political figure for many years, he is still considered a pillar of the French far-left. He took part in the 2017 Socialist Party presidential primary, but was eliminated at an early stage.
He has a decades-long history of fighting for workers’ rights, and his uncompromising position on issues such as work hours, the retirement age and minimum wage seemed until now reflected in an equally strong stance against racism and xenophobia.
SOS Racisme, whose slogan “Don’t you dare touch my friend” is ubiquitous in France, is one of the country’s most respected anti-racism groups.
This is why Filoche’s tweet has been received with such shock and disbelief, even among his own supporters.
“Filoche is definitely not anti-Semitic,” said Paris-based journalist Paul Gasnier, who has been following the story since it broke over the weekend. “He has a history of genuine engagement against all forms of discrimination,” he added.
“Like most members of France’s hard-core left, he can’t stand Macron’s more liberal approaches and tweets anything against him without putting much thought” into it, Gasnier explained.
French daily Le Monde reported that Filoche had not created the offensive imagery. It said the image was taken from the website Egalité et Réconciliation, a political movement headed by convicted Holocaust denier Alain Soral. Filoche reportedly retweeted the image with the heading “A dirty guy, the French people will find out soon,” referring to Macron.
Following public outrage, Filoche moved quickly to delete the offending tweet, apologizing for what he himself called an “idiotic tweet.”
Antoine Colonna, a journalist at the ultra-conservative Valeurs actuelles, said the tweet shows “there is a problem with the increasingly anti-Zionist tendencies of the French left, partly due to the growing reliance on French-Arab voters and their idea that Israel is a racist state.”
Valeurs actuelles is a weekly magazine, often accused of Islamophobia due to front page stories such as one warning against “the Islamic invasion of France.” Its sales have soared by 100,000 in the past five years.
“I’m not surprised the Socialist Party is trying to expel him, as the pro-Macron [supporters] in their ranks want to marginalize staunch left-wingers in the party,” Colonna told Haaretz, adding that Filoche is no stranger to “bad-taste comments.”
Indeed, following the death of Total oil corporation CEO Christophe de Margerie in a plane crash in 2014, a disrespectful tweet by Filoche triggered calls for his expulsion from the Socialist Party.