A Jewish group affiliated with French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s National Rally Party called on her to remove campaign posters in which she is making a gesture used by white supremacists.
The poster features Le Pen leaning on a desk in a dark blue suit with the slogan “for all French people.” One of her hands is gripping the desk as her left thumb and index finger make a circle, while the other fingers are fanned out on the desk.
That hand gesture, also known as the “OK” sign, has been used as a white supremacist signal in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League added it to a list of white supremacist symbols in 2019, while noting “particular caution must be used when evaluating this symbol” because of its usual, innocuous meaning.
The new Le Pen posters have been posted at town halls across France ahead of the runoff between Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron on April 24.
The National Jewish Circle, a group of Jewish supporters of Le Pen’s far-right party, wrote a letter calling for the candidate to replace the posters with the campaign photo she used in the first round of voting, which did not feature the hand signal.
Affiche de Marine Le Pen pour la campagne de second tour. Cela ne vous rappelle rien ? pic.twitter.com/eDpIS7HIBj— Christophe Capuano (@Ch_Capuano) April 12, 2022
“If she does not change the photo, we will call to vote for Macron,” National Jewish Rally leader Jean-Richard Sulzer said on Sunday.
Sulzer argued that Le Pen knows the significance of the hand gesture, because she had been involved in a controversy involving it in 2019, after Le Pen took a photo with Estonian legislator Ruben Kaalep – who has a long history of associations with neo-Nazis – in which they both made the gesture. At the time, Le Pen said she thought it only meant “OK,” and asked that Kaalep take down the photo from his Facebook page. He obliged, but it can still be found online.
Marine Le Pen and Ruuben Kaalep, a well-known neo-nazi, being super happy here in Tallinn. pic.twitter.com/XpsEzalzN7— Vahur Koorits (@VahurKoorits) May 14, 2019
“I know this signal and I know her well,” Sulzer said. “I think she often uses dog whistles.... This time, it’s too much. It’s a wink to the supremacists, saying I am one of you.”
Sulzer was a longtime National Rally activist and worked on Le Pen’s 2012 presidential campaign. He represented the party on regional and municipal councils, but he supported Eric Zemmour, a far-right candidate who is also Jewish, in the first round of voting this year. In 2019, Sulzer compiled a list of National Rally officials with neo-Nazi affiliations, calling for the party to drop them. National Rally threatened to sue the National Jewish Circle because of its previous name, the National Jewish Rally.
The National Rally is a far-right anti-immigration party previously known as the National Front. Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the party in 1972 and has a history of Holocaust denial, antisemitism and xenophobic remarks, especially about Muslims. The younger Le Pen has tried to distance the party from her father, shifting focus in the current election campaign from immigration to broader economic issues.