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February 15, 2022 2:12 pm

‘Useful Idiot of Antisemitism’: Far-Right French Jewish Presidential Candidate Eric Zemmour in Fresh Controversy

avatar by Ben Cohen

Far right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour arrives at an election rally in Burgundy, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Teun Voeten/Sipa USA

Eric Zemmour, the maverick far-right contender in France’s forthcoming presidential election, is once more at the center of a fresh controversy regarding his alleged antisemitism.

Rival presidential candidate Yannick Jadot of the Ecology Party attacked Zemmour as an antisemite in two separate media interviews this week.

Speaking to the Jewish broadcaster Radio J on Sunday, Jadot sparked controversy when he described Zemmour — a pundit and columnist who hails from an Algerian Jewish immigrant family — as a “service Jew” for French antisemites.

Jadot’s barb came as he explained his view that the main difference between Zemmour and Jean-Marie Le Pen, the postwar French neo-fascist who launched the now defunct far-right National Front (FN), is that Zemmour is Jewish.

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“The difference is perverse: Zemmour is Jewish,” Jadot said. “He acts as a service Jew for antisemites.”

Jadot’s highlighting of Zemmour’s Jewish origins drew widespread criticism, including from politicians who reject Zemmour’s political platform entirely.

The expression “service Jew” was an “unhappy” one, said Olivier Faure, the first secretary of the Socialist Party (PS). “It isn’t necessary to qualify people by what they are, we don’t have to essentialize anyone.”

The founder of the left-wing Republican Spring movement, Amine El-Khatmi, tweeted that he felt “hurt deep inside when I am called a ‘service Arab.'”

Continued El-Khatmi: “I hate Zemmour, but I can’t bear to see him reduced to the status of a ‘service Jew.’ Yannick Jadot, you’re better than that.”

Jadot stepped up his rhetorical offensive against Zemmour in a new interview on Monday, however.

“There is an entire part of the population which has found that supporting Zemmour is a practical [way to express] antisemitism,” Jadot said, before calling Zemmour the “useful idiot of antisemitism.”

Jadot addressed Zemmour’s widely disputed claims about the modern history of Jews in France, pointing out that the pundit has suggested that Alfred Dreyfus — the French-Jewish army captain falsely convicted of espionage in 1894 amid a wave of violent antisemitism in France — was in fact guilty, and that he seeks to “rehabilitate” Marshal Philippe Pétain, the leader of the collaborationist wartime Vichy regime. Zemmour has repeatedly insisted against the weight of historical evidence that Pétain’s goal was to save French-born Jews from the clutches of the Nazis by sacrificing those born outside the country.

Zemmour has outraged French Jews on several occasions, including by claiming in an interview last year that the burial in Israel of the victims of the massacre by an Islamist gunman at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 proved that they were not properly French.

The victims — Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons, six-year-old Arieh and three-year-old Gabriel, and another little girl, eight-year-old Miriam Monsonégo — were buried in Israel because “they were foreigners above all and wanted to stay that way even beyond death,” Zemmour said.

The first round of the French presidential election will take place on April 10, with the final second round scheduled for two weeks later. Current polling shows the present incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, ahead with 25 percent of the vote, with the remaining support divided among the six other candidates from left and right-wing parties.

According to Politico EU’s “Poll of Polls,” Zemmour is snapping at the heels of his immediate rival, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally (RN), with 14 points against her 17. Jadot’s Ecology Party is trailing at the bottom, meanwhile, with just four percent of those polled pledging their support.

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