Analysis

Le Pen’s Party Insists It’s Fighting anti-Semitism, Just Never Mind the anti-Semitism

A few days before the European Parliament elections, populist parties are making sure to squelch any sign of Jew-hatred among their members, but it’s hard to keep a lid on everything

France's far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) president Marine Le Pen addresses a press conference, Milan, May 18, 2019.
AFP

BRUSSELS — It’s less than a week before the European Parliament elections, and far-right and populist parties are predicted to do well. One tactic of politicians of this ilk is to reject their parties’ classic preoccupation with Jew-hatred. It’s not fashionable, it often violates the law, and there are more pressing issues at the polls – like the Muslim immigrants.

This tactic gets the far-rightists showing vigorous support for Israel, and boasting about their ties with its ruling party and leader over the past decade, while not forgetting to mention their visits to Jerusalem. That was one reason the elderly Jean Marie Le Pen was pushed out by his daughter Marine, who understood that his anti-Jewish statements were creating a glass ceiling for the National Front party, now called the National Rally.

And now, at a time when some polls say the Le Pen movement will win first place in the French vote for the European Parliament, a photo was posted on Twitter of a member of that party wearing a Hasidic-style hat with side curls. The photo wasn’t doctored, it was an intentional caricature; the subject is holding his hands palms up with his fingers curled talon style – “an imitation of caricatures from the 1940s,” wrote the daily Le Figaro.

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The man in the photograph? It’s Guillaume Pradoura, the parliamentary aide and close confidant of Nicolas Bay, no. 2 on the National Party slate after Marine Le Pen. The person who put the photo on her Twitter account is Sophie Montel, a member of the outgoing European Parliament and a former National Front member who was ousted in 2017 amid an internal dispute.

A few weeks ago she released a book settling accounts with Marine Le Pen and the party’s other leaders. And now she has released the photo, adding that “Pradoura, who is close to members of the American KKK, likes to be photographed this way. This particular picture, which was taken in 2015, has made the rounds among members of the movement, parliamentary aides, MPs and has elicited a lot of laughs.”

Bay incidentally visited Israel in January 2017 and met with the chairman of Likud Youth and senior Health Ministry officials.

A few days ago, speaking to France’s Radio Classique, he tried to make light of the issue. “It’s an old photo, there’s no need to punish Guillaume Pradoura because of it …. I saw it a long time ago and asked him to explain it, and he promised me that it’s a humorous thing, a private joke,” Bay said. “I admit that it’s a tasteless joke, but it was done in a totally private manner.”

Bay concluded: “Such behavior could be discovered anywhere. It doesn’t change the fact that we’re voluntarily fighting anti-Semitism, which is a result of Islamism, among other things.”

But what can be glossed over in ordinary times doesn’t disappear so quickly a week before an election. The leaders of Le Pen’s party did a damage assessment, and several hours later the party spokesman said that “Pradoura is suspended from all activity, and he is invited to appear before the movement’s disciplinary committee – before his anticipated expulsion.” After all, it was just a few days before an election.