France’s far right uses the war to shift away from antisemitism

France’s far-right National Rally, which has been infamously antisemitic in the past, has used the war between Israel and the Hamas terror group to move away from antisemitism and focus its malignancy against radical Islam.

The party made a significant U-turn by voicing support for French Jews and attending the march against antisemitism in Paris, while in the past, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen famously called the Holocaust a „detail” of history, reports the EuropeNews.

Days after the Hamas attacks on Israel, Marine Le Pen received applause for a speech in parliament calling the attacks „pogroms”. She then called for French Jews to be protected „physically, but also morally”.

The presence of Marine Le Pen and the leaders of the far-right National Rally at the front rows of the demonstration drew significant criticism from the left. The mainstream politicians at the front of the march refused to walk beside members of the National Rally, so they went to the back.

By shifting away from antisemitism and focusing on the threats of radical Islam, Marine Le Pen is transforming far-right tactics in a way that has divided French politics.

Some in France are readier to accept the change than others. While Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne commented that the presence of the National Rally at the march was „not fooling anyone”, other mainstream politicians were more optimistic about the party’s participation.

Marine Le Pen took over the party’s leadership from her father in 2011. She soon started moving away from its antisemitic roots, ending up expelling her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, from the party in 2015 because he has been tried and convicted for antisemitism and hate speech several times over the years, and he would not stop. The presence of the National Rally at the demonstration marked the culmination of more than a decade’s deliberate effort to get rid of the party’s antisemitic past.

The shift from vilifying Jews to focusing on Muslims appears to be working for the National Rally, which has seen a jump in the polls for next June’s European parliament elections. Last year, the National Rally achieved its best results to date in French legislative elections, going from seven seats in parliament to 89, making it the largest opposition group in France’s National Assembly.