If Marine Le Pen wins in France, French Jews mull aliyah to Israel

Officials in Israel’s national institutions do not see any potential rise in interest in aliyah to Israel as a result of the possible political change.

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.
(photo credit: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS)

“If Marine Le Pen wins the presidential election, we’ll need to change the text in our Passover Haggadah from ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ to ‘Next month in Jerusalem,’” a French Jew told his rabbi in a Parisian synagogue Monday morning.

Le Pen, of the extreme-right National Rally Party (previously the National Front), qualified for the second round in the election to take place in two weeks. She received 23.1% in the first round, while President Emmanuel Macron garnered 27.8%.

According to French media, Le Pen supports banning shechita (ritual slaughter) and restricting brit milah (religious circumcision) – something that would harm Muslims and Jews. Both groups would not be able to live by their faiths if they are not allowed to display their personal beliefs outwardly – something Le Pen is interested in promoting.

“I think most of the Jewish community voted for Macron,” a rabbi of a large synagogue told The Jerusalem Post last Thursday. He said about 10% of the Jewish community voted for Jewish extreme-right candidate Eric Zemmour, who won 7.1% nationally.

“They voted for Zemmour since they live in difficult suburbs of Paris with many Muslim neighbors and a high rate of antisemitism,” the rabbi said. “Therefore, they are confused by the whole situation.”

A combination picture shows five of the twelve candidates for the 2022 French presidential election, L-R: Marine Le Pen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Valerie Pecresse and Eric Zemmour, after the official announcement in Paris, France. Picture taken in 2021 and 2022. (credit:  REUTERS/STAFF)A combination picture shows five of the twelve candidates for the 2022 French presidential election, L-R: Marine Le Pen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Valerie Pecresse and Eric Zemmour, after the official announcement in Paris, France. Picture taken in 2021 and 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STAFF)

If Le Pen is elected, how will this affect the Jewish community?

“If Le Pen is the same old leader we’ve known for many years or even close to the ideology of her father, who headed the party before her, then this is a big problem. Le Pen and her party members have antisemitic views that can be very dangerous for Jews.”

“But from conversations I’ve been having with French Jews, it doesn’t sound like the community feels under pressure from this potential threat.

“There is this inner feeling that many human beings have to continue living their lives the way they have done until now. This is also what happened to Jews in the 1940s. The Jews didn’t think they would be taken from their homes to concentration camps. I don’t think that’s necessarily what will happen if she is elected, but there definitely are bad things that may occur if this happens.

“Chances are Macron will win, but that’s not certain. There must be no complacency. In our community, anyone who will speak to the president of the synagogue will hear his clear opinion: Vote for Macron. I don’t tell people who to vote for, only that the extremist camps have never been good in any country.”

Do you personally know any Jews who will vote for Le Pen?

“Sure, I know some Jews who are planning to vote for Le Pen, but they are not normal. These are usually very simple people who vote from psychological and impulsive motives.”

The rabbi said many of his congregants were worried that an extreme-right candidate with the last name Le Pen might become president of the republic.

“Many of my congregants are very scared of what is coming,” he said. “There is a matter of xenophobia in Le Pen.”

ACCORDING TO Dr. Dov Maimon of the Jewish Peoplehood Policy Institute, “Le Pen is a friend of Putin, Iran and other dictatorial regimes.”

“Le Pen has no sympathy for Israel,” he told the Post. “She is not antisemitic herself, but she is not positive toward Jews. She would not be more supportive of Israel than Macron. It’s not like he was the best president for Israel, but at least he was not hostile toward Israel.”

Regarding French Jewry, he said Le Pen “spoke about her agenda of banning slaughter and banning the ability to display religion in public, such as wearing a kippah. Of course, she wants to harm Islam, but it will hurt the Jews.”

Maimon said he thinks there will be a major financial hit for Jewish schools in France if Le Pen becomes president.

“Jewish schools will suffer since about 80% of their budget is funded by the federal government or local municipalities,” he said. “There are certain laws that the Jews are supposed to completely abide by, such as accepting any student to a school regardless of background. Jewish schools only accept Jews, and if these laws are stricter, it can cause lots of harm to Jewish education.”

In France, there are no public polls showing how people voted according to their religious faith. But voting in Paris neighborhoods with a very high percentage of Jews showed many voted for Zemmour. One of these neighborhoods put Zemmour at almost double his national result in the election.

In addition, unofficial data showed Zemmour received more than 50% of the vote of French expats in Israel, not including Jerusalem. But Israeli officials said they did not expect an upsurge in immigration.