Top French Jewish Organization Rips Far-Left Party Leader Mélenchon After Politician Says Corbyn Should Not Have Apologized for Antisemitism
France’s top Jewish organization slammed a leading left-wing politician over the weekend after he made remarks widely viewed as antisemitic.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the La France Insoumise (FI) or “France Unbowed” party, said in a Facebook post on Friday that recently defeated UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn should not have apologized for the antisemitism in his party.
He claimed the “churlish anti-Semitism claims” were trumped up by “England’s chief rabbi and various influence networks” linked to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
“Instead of riposting, he spent his time apologizing and making pledges. In both cases, he showed weakness,” he said, according to a translation by The Telegraph.
He then accused French-Jewish umbrella organization Crif of “violent and aggressive sectarianism” and “arrogance and communitarian ukases,” particularly against himself. “Ukase” is a term used to refer to authoritarian dictats issued by the Russian government under the tsars.
In a response, Crif stated, “The remarks of Mr. Mélenchon accusing the Crif of ‘arrogance and communitarian ukases’ are part of a shocking and surprising amalgam: what is the link between Crif and the British elections?”
“Mr. Melenchon, whose electoral audience has melted, falls into a conspiratorial drift, which speaks about the evolution of his thinking,” Crif stated.
Francis Kalifat, President of Crif, also compared Mélenchon’s remarks to the Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, saying, “The inadmissible remarks of a drifting Melenchon eager for media visibility are inspired by a Vichyst rhetoric of the Jewish conspiracy.”
He also compared Mélenchon to 20th century French fascist collaborator Jacques Doriot, asking, “Would Doriot be the new mentor of Mélenchon?”
The French government also condemned Mélenchon’s comments, with education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer branding them “foul” and liable to “fuel anti-Semitism,” the Telegraph added.
Last month, Mélenchon stated, “Sectarianism’s always been a problem for the republican idea. Take Crif. It practices blatant, violent and aggressive sectarianism, namely against me, right? To the point of encouraging people to hit me during a demonstration like the one for Mirelle Knoll.”
Mirelle Knoll was a Holocaust survivor murdered by her Muslim neighbor in what is widely seen as an antisemitic hate crime. In March 2018, Mélenchon took part in a memorial rally for her despite being asked not to attend by the organizers, including Crif. Demonstrators met Mélenchon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who had also been asked not to attend, with shouts of “get out” and “go home.”
This is not the first time Mélenchon has been accused of antisemitism. In 2013, he said of French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, “Moscovici behaves like someone who has stopped thinking in French, like someone who thinks only in the language of international finance.”
The use of the term “international finance” was denounced as a dog whistle related to classic antisemitic accusations of excessive Jewish financial power.
In 2017, Melenchon appeared to deny French involvement in the Holocaust, saying, “Never, at any moment did the French choose murder and antisemitic criminality. Those who were not Jewish were not all, and as French people, guilty of the crime that was carried out at the time.”