PARIS (JTA) — French Jewish leaders condemned the far right leader Marine Le Pen at a rally in Paris.
Monday’s rally was presaged by a French-Jewish radio station’s plans to interview Le Pen, the daughter of notorious French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen and president of the National Front Party, which many French Jews consider anti-Semitiic. The interview was canceled amid broad community outrage.
"It’s sad to come to such an event to warn Jewish people against the National Front," said Pierre Besnainou, president of the Unified Jewish Social Fund, a Jewish welfare agency.
Many French Jews see Le Pen as a somewhat more palatable but fundamentally unchanged politician from her father. In January, she gave an interview to the Israeli daily Haaretz and is believed to be trying to sanitize her party’s image in an effort to make inroads with the Jewish community.
At the rally, organized by the French Union of Jewish Students, several speakers emphasized that the National Front Party is structurally anti-Semitic and that Le Pen’s efforts notwithstanding, French Jews should be careful not to give her their seal of approval.
"I don’t want to exclude the National Front from the republican debate, but to speak on community Jewish radio, there is a margin," said Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions known as the CRIF. "If the Jews host her, she is respectable."
In 2002, Le Pen’s father shocked the country by finishing second in the presidential election, defeating the Socialist candidate before being trounced by Jacques Chirac in the second round.
Several polls over the past few weeks have indicated that Le Pen might be able to repeat her father’s success in next year’s elections. A poll published in Le Parisien earlier this month reported that 23 percent of respondents would vote for Le Pen in 2012, ahead of both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist Party candidate, Martine Aubry.