Jewish groups have warned that “the politics of hatred are making a comeback” after Marine Le Pen’s far-right French party Front National (FN) made significant gains in municipal elections this week.
The party won control of 11 towns across the country, as well as the seventh district of France’s second largest city, Marseille, whose population of 150,000 made it the party’s biggest win in an election marked by low voter turnout.
“The glass ceiling has been shattered,” declared Le Pen. “No one can seriously deny this has been a huge victory for us.”
However, European Jewish groups warned against the potential consequences of the FN’s gains.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: “The French electorate is either not taking the threat from the far right seriously or it does not care.
“In either case, this result should sound alarm bells across Europe that the politics of hatred are making a formidable comeback.”
FN founder and honourary president Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of the current leader, has several convictions for Holocaust denial and incitement against Jews and other minorities.
However, a charm offensive has been launched in recent years, with some European Jewish groups, such as the European Jewish Parliament, having met Le Pen, as she has sought to assuage concerns.
Florian Philippot, the FN’s deputy leader and the party’s spin doctor, has been instrumental in purging it of its thuggish, anti-Semitic and racist image, trying to replace it with a more acceptable face.
Yet in 2012 Marine Le Pen caused outrage by her call to ban religious headgear, including the kippah, being worn in public, and that kosher and halal food should be banned in schools.
Some groups, such as the Union of Jewish French Students had last week urged the country’s Jewish community to foil the nationalist group’s endeavours.