Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was the long-time leader of France’s neo-Nazi port, the National Front (Front National – FN). Besides racism, he had numerous lawsuits for Holocaust denial, calling the Nazi gas chambers “just a detail of World War II!”
His daughter expelled him from the party, renaming it the “Rassemblement National” (Rassemblement National – RN). Still, many party members maintain their National Socialist views, likely to receive government sinecures or even Cabinet membership, if elected.
Marine Le Pen, elected to the European Parliament, brought the RN into the far-right group, close to the German AfD, the Austrian FPÖ, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the British UKIP, the Italian Lega, the Hungarian Fidesz, Spanish Vox and other emerging extremists who meet regularly across Europe to exchange practices and coordinate international action.
In 2014, for the Regionals, the FN turned to Putin’s Russia for a loan of nine million euros, in the process of being reimbursed. Eight years later, Marine Le Pen of the RN secured another €10.6m loan from a Hungarian bank to fund this week’s presidential campaign. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is believed to have facilitated the loan between a meeting in Budapest in October 2021 and a January 2022 conclave of like-minded populist parties in Madrid.
Le Pen’s ambiguous international agenda begins with his statement of shared values and admiration for Vladimir Putin as the new world leader. Little is said about the war in Ukraine or its victims. She stressed that better relations with Moscow would prevent Russia from getting too close to China. She added: “I would place my troops neither under an integrated NATO command, nor under a future European command”, adding “the end of joint Franco-German military programs…rather than a Macron policy of bow before Berlin!
On Brexit, she said wistfully that “the British got rid of European bureaucracy from Brussels, but a Frexit was not on their agenda”.
Le Pen’s anti-Muslim and anti-migrant agenda in the first round even seemed toned down – except for declaring the headscarf illegal – especially compared to far-right candidate Eric Zemmour.
Meanwhile, during his first term, President Macron had promised to create a “French Islam”. The Forum pour l’Islam de France (FORIF) met for the first time last February. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had closed several mosques strongly influenced by foreigners, frequented by jihadists or involved in the financing of terrorism. Imams are now required to comply with the new “law on separatism”, which aims to retrain them in accordance with French law.
The former French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM) has been dissolved. One of its member groups included the organization that sued me for defamation. I was exonerated by the French Court of Cassation after a four-year trial.
On Jewish issues, Le Pen had curiously called for Jerusalem to have “international status.” It would ban “shechita”, the ritual slaughter of animals. Le Pen also claimed that she was “most likely to effectively protect ‘French people of the Jewish faith'”.
In conclusion, a warning to misguided French Jewish voters for Le Pen, who believe that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
First, an extremist Le Pen government under RN control, will first attack the People of Friday, but will then attack the People of Saturday.
The experiment of the first Macron administration must continue with the teaching of reading the Passover Hagaddah: to govern “with a clenched fist and an outstretched arm”.
This is not the path of the National Rally or Marine Le Pen.
Shimon Samuels is Director of International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He was deputy director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European director of the ADL and Israeli director of the AJC. He was born in the UK and educated in the UK, Israel, USA and Japan.