Despite the right-wing party’s history of tenuous ties to the nation’s Jewish community, a new survey finds surging popularity for the National Front among France’s Jews, likely triggered, in part, by a wave of anti-Semitism that is driving hundreds of French Jews to immigrate to Israel.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the National Front is experiencing near-unprecedented levels of popularity among Jewish voters. Of those surveyed, 13.5% said they had voted for the party, currently run by President Marine Le Pen in 2012. This number is more than twice the percentage of Jewish voters supporting the party in both 2002 and 2007, when Jewish voters gave 6.1% and 4.3% of their vote to the National Front, respectively.
The rise in the party’s popularity among French Jews will come as a surprise to many, particularly given comments by former head of the party Jean Marie Le Pen, who has previously gotten into hot water over anti-Semitic remarks. Most recently, the younger Le Pen distanced herself from her father’s criticism of French-Jewish singer Patrick Bruel, who, after criticizing the National Front, apparently inspired Jean Marie Le Pen to say, “We’ll do an oven load next time.” The party has also advocated against specialty Kosher meals in schools, citing separation of church and state.
Despite these incidents, however, French Jews appear to have aligned themselves increasingly with the party, in part, due to a prodigious surge in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country–that is, those who have not already left France for Israel. One poll found that three out of four Jewish citizens of France are considering leaving, while hundreds have made the trip this year, defying Hamas rocket barrages and the threat of war to find relative peace in Israel with their families. Violence against Jewish French nationals has escalated in recent months, with pro-Palestinian protests devolving into destruction of Jewish businesses, looting, and anti-Semitic chants. The situation has led to a large migration of French Jews into Israel.
In addition to increased support from France’s Jewish community, the National Front has been experiencing a surge in popularity in general in recent months. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned this week that the National Front is at the “gates of power” in France, as poverty and economic turmoil help fuel support for the party. “I, as a man of the left, will never be able to resign myself to that because it will be the weakest who will be the first to suffer,” Valls concluded of the rise of the party.