Jews in Marine Le Pen's party make blacklist of candidates with neo-Nazi ties

‘Marine Le Pen doesn’t want her party associated with Jews’

Marine Le Pen, member of parliament and leader of French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party, delivers a speech during a debate on migration at the National Assembly in Paris, France, October 7, 2019. (photo credit: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS)
Marine Le Pen, member of parliament and leader of French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party, delivers a speech during a debate on migration at the National Assembly in Paris, France, October 7, 2019.
Jewish officials and activists in Marine Le Pen’s National Rally are preparing a list of officials in the French far-right party with neo-Nazi affiliations, ahead of the planned regional elections in France in June.
Prof. Jean-Richard Sulzer, a regional councilor in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region who is not running for reelection, is leading the effort. Sulzer is the head of the National Jewish Circle, an informal group established in 2018 for Jewish officials, including four members of the national council, of the National Rally, the far-right French political party previously known as the National Front, to combat antisemitism in the party’s ranks.
“We are asking [Le Pen] to remove neo-Nazis from the lists of candidates,” Sulzer told The Jerusalem Post this week. “If they are allowed to run, it is not good for our party’s reputation…We don’t want these men or women on the list to run, because they belonged to neo-Nazi groups in the past or because of antisemitic behavior.”
According to Sulzer, Le Pen “knows unofficially” that his group is working on a list, and he expressed hope that she will take the initiative to remove some of the problematic candidates before official party lists are submitted.
Sulzer and his associates are still compiling their blacklist, which they plan to release via an open letter later this month, a few weeks before the deadline for parties to submit their lists for the regional elections on May 17. The regional elections are scheduled to be held throughout France on June 13 and 20, after having been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions, though the possibility that they will be pushed off again remains.
Sulzer also accused the party of disqualifying a suspicious number of Jewish potential candidates from running on National Rally lists.
The National Jewish Circle has a history of butting heads with the National Rally. In a document obtained by the Post, the party’s attorney sent a letter threatening to sue the group in 2019, when it was called the National Jewish Rally, if they do not change their name.
“Clearly [Le Pen] does not want the National Rally to be associated with Jews,” Sulzer said. “We want to remind her that Jewish people exist, Jewish supporters exist, and Jewish people elected under the National Rally party exist, and she cannot deny our existence.”
One candidate Jewish party members are trying to have removed is Gilles Pennelle, the head of the National Rally’s list running in Brittany and a member of the National Rally’s national bureau, a senior party institution.
They accuse Pennelle of being a member of the pagan white nationalist “Terre et Peuple” (Land and People) association, whose website touts the slogan “European identity resistance.” The group’s name echoes the “blood and soil” slogan of the German Völkisch movement, which provided some of the intellectual underpinnings of Nazism. Pennelle wrote an article about The Lord of the Rings for the movement’s magazine in 2003.
A 2002 Le Monde article described Pennelle’s leading role in a far-right event on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, at which T-shirts with Nazi slogans were sold. Pennelle was quoted as calling for the defense of “identitarian ideas,” to keep “Muslim Turkey” out of the EU, because “if we don’t do anything, they will settle in our cathedrals and sleep with your daughters.”
Another candidate likely to be on the list is Jordan Bardella, National Rally’s vice-president and head of its faction in the European Parliament. Bardella is a former aide to Jean-François Jalkh, a leading figure in the party, who admitted to reading Holocaust deniers, praised some of them, and questioned whether Zyklon B was used to kill masses of Jews. Jalkh also participated in events glorifying Nazi collaborator and Vichy France leader Gen. Philippe Pétain.
Numerous requests for comment from the National Rally, including from Bardella and Pennelle, went unanswered.
The National Rally is a far-right anti-immigration party founded as the National Front by Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972. Both father and daughter have come second in a French presidential election, in 2002 and 2017, respectively.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has a history of Holocaust denial and making other antisemitic comments, as well as xenophobic remarks against other minority groups in France, especially Muslims. Marine Le Pen has tried to distance the party from those roots, even courting Jewish voters by saying she is a partner in the fight against radical Islam, while maintaining its anti-immigration stance.