France's far-right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a political rally in Six-Fours, near Toulon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A planned meeting between European Jews and representatives of several far-right political parties drew harsh criticism from the European Jewish Congress on Wednesday, which accused the organizers of “seeking to whitewash racist and anti-Semitic opinion within the European Parliament.”
The meeting was arranged to bring together Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s populist National Front, and other members of the Europe of Nations and Freedom Bloc within the European legislature, together with the leadership of a group calling itself the European Jewish Parliament.
“That European Jews would ever consider themselves available to fig-leaf racists and anti-Semites is shocking in the extreme,” EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor said in a statement.
“It goes without saying that these people are as unrepresentative of the vast majority of European Jews as this collective of Le Pen’s MEP’s is of the vast majority of European citizens.”
Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, is known for racist and anti-Semitic statements, once saying that the gas chambers used to murder Jews in concentration camps were a “detail” of the Second World War. The Freedom Bloc, meanwhile, contains parties such as Austria’s Freedom Party, which has been dogged by accusations of Judeophobia and Holocaust denial.
During its annual meeting in Kiev this June the EJP’s members voted to meet with Le Pen only if she “would make an unequivocal statement to the media regarding fighting anti-Semitism, supporting Jewish life in Europe, and supporting Israel.”
If so, the group said in a statement, “then she will be invited to an EJP [General Assembly] as a speaker for a debate, together with leaders of left and center parties.”
The EJP was formed in 2012.
It’s delegates were chosen through online balloting and while its website states that several hundred thousand people took part in the balloting, making it a widely representative body, one delegate told The Jerusalem Post in 2013 that she did not feel that the group was particularly in tune with European Jewry and that she was unsure exactly how the selection mechanisms truly worked.
Former EJP co-chair and current president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism Joel Rubinfeld expressed his disappointment in the decision to meet with Le Pen, stating that organization leader Vadim Rabinovich had already raised the idea in 2013 and that he “strongly opposed it” along with the “overwhelming majority” of delegates.
“I am deeply troubled and shocked” by the meeting, he continued, stating that “European Jews are facing difficult times for 15 years and the continued rise of anti-Semitism in our countries. But it should always be kept in mind that we don’t cure the plague with cholera. We die of both...”
It is possible that the meeting was prompted by both the “growing desperation” of European Jews in the face of anti-Semitism and may be a “reflection of weakness” on the part of the organizations, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman issued a statement condemning the meeting with Le Pen: “CRIF, which represents the French Jewish community, does not meet with Marine Le Pen. Its president, Roger Cukierman, has said the National Front should not just be avoided, but fought against.
For another Jewish group to meet with her, especially at the European Parliament where the National Front created a xenophobic bloc, shows extremely poor judgment and will be used by Le Pen to try to make the National Front seem kosher.”