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June 16, 2020 3:56 pm

French Far-Left Leader Criticized for Dismissing ‘Dirty Jews’ Chants at Anti-Racist Demonstration

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Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise party. Photo: Gwendoline Le Goff / Reuters.

The leader of France’s main far-left political party has continued to face criticism for dismissing chants of “Dirty Jews!” that were heard at last Saturday’s huge anti-racism demonstration in Paris as “gossip.”

Jean-Luc Melenchon — leader of the left-wing LFI Party (La France Insoumise) — tweeted an indignant response to an announcement from the Paris Prefecture of Police that the antisemitic chants had been reported to judicial authorities for further investigation.

“A statement from the police prefecture incites hatred by peddling antisemitic gossip,” Melenchon wrote. “Unworthy methods for dividing, sowing hatred and disfiguring the peaceful march of anti-racists.”

Writing on Monday in the French review L’Obs, Marc Knobel — a historian and director of studies at the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF — charged that Melenchon had failed to grasp that the demonstration’s “objective of denouncing racism and discrimination that endanger the values ​​of the Republic” had been damaged by the antisemitic chants.

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Knobel observed that “these racist slogans did not provoke the disapproval of the people around, as if there was nothing to hear.”

He added that the “same goes for Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose indignation seems selective and who, in a tweet, speaks of ‘antisemitic gossip,’ as if the cries of ‘Dirty Jews’ in an anti-racist demonstration are from the register of gossip.”

The LFI currently occupies 17 of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly. In the 2017 presidential election, Melenchon won 7 million votes — nearly 20 percent of the total number cast.

Several leading French politicians condemned the brief burst of antisemitic chanting captured on video by participants at Saturday’s gathering in the capital’s Place de la Republique.

Parliamentary deputy Nathalie Loiseau accused protesters of damaging the anti-racist cause, while the mayor of the city of Nice, Christian Estrosi, expressed his “indignation” at the presence of anti-Zionist banners and antisemitic slogans at a demonstration to oppose racism.

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