The French anti-antisemitism march shakes the far right and far left

The recent Paris protest against antisemitism is unprecedented, as it is the first time a major demonstration has been attended by representatives of major political parties, including the far right. The demonstration was called by the Speakers of the two houses of parliament to show their support for French "Republican" values and their rejection of antisemitism, in the face of a steep rise in antisemitic actions since 7 October. Marine Le Pen, three-time presidential candidate for the National Rally (formerly the National Front), and the party's young president, Jordan Bardella, announced their presence. However, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France Unbowed (LFI), announced his party would not be attending the march due to the "rendezvous for unconditional supporters of the massacre [of Gazans]."

For decades, French politics erected a bulwark against the far right, whose views were deemed "anti-Republican". The old National Front under Marine's father Jean-Marie Le Pen was seen as beyond the pale, and it was shunned. The far left, including the Communists, Trotskyists, and new formations like Mélenchon's LFI, were attacked for their views but were never excluded. This change in political order predates the Gaza war and is mirrored in varying ways across other European countries.

The far right, rebranded "hard right" or "national right," has forgotten its obsession with Jews and its claims of a "Jewish lobby." Its primary focus now is the three I's - immigration, insecurity, and Islamism - issues on which it finds common cause with many Jews. Meanwhile, the far left in France sees Gaza through the anti-colonial lens and shouts "Solidarity!" Having lost the support of the old working class, many of whom vote National Rally, it has a new natural base among politicised immigrants.

However, many people still think that the far right, by virtue of its French-first ethos, cannot help but be anti-Jewish. Jordan Bardella refused to explicitly call Jean-Marie Le Pen antisemitic, a faux pas that enemies of the National Rally (RN) have reacted with glee. On the far left, there are signs of division around Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose prickly personality and autocratic methods are driving some colleagues to exasperation.

In conclusion, the far right under Marine Le Pen is successfully entering the mainstream, while the far left is moving away from antisemitism.



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