Marine Le Pen, leader of the French Front National, really is determined to muzzle her father Jean-Marie Le Pen once and for all after his latest refusal to shut up about the Holocaust. On Monday, she won round one after it was revealed that her father would no longer stand in the regional elections.
During the departmental election campaign last month, Monsieur Le Pen flouted his daughter’s orders and deployed his usual stock put-downs of the Holocaust as, for example, ‘a detail of history’. Marine was furious with her father, the founder and honorary president of the FN, and ordered him to appear before a party disciplinary committee at which, if no alternative were found, she would ensure he be banned from standing in the key December regional elections. They have not spoken, it is reported, for a fortnight.
His ‘vulgar provocations seemingly designed to damage me but that unfortunately hit the whole movement’ are ‘political suicide,’ Marine told the press. But then her father revealed in an interview with Le Figaro magazine that he has decided ‘for the sake of the movement’ not to stand in the regional elections in the FN’s stronghold of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur even though he thinks he is ‘the best candidate’.
He warns that the FN will ‘implode’ if his daughter goes further at the disciplinary committee hearing and expels him from the party, and in a malicious jibe few fathers could make of a daughter, he says he favours his 25-year-old granddaughter, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the youngest French MP, to Marine as leader of the FN.
Marine Le Pen is right to banish her father. She is right because firstly it is a brave and bold thing to do – a dramatic but necessary break with the past and with her father who she calls ‘Le Pen’. He meanwhile calls her ‘Madame Le Pen’. It cannot be easy for such a daughter to do such a thing to such a father. I doubt whether a son, if he had one, would have had what it took.
By banishing her father from the political front line, Marine Le Pen will gain votes, not lose them, but only if she sticks to her guns. The old rascal, who is 86, now threatens to stand on his own as a Presidential candidate in 2017. She must put a stop to that as well by force – if necessary.
But above all she would be right to banish him because, being modern and astute, she realises that there are no votes to be won by the FN even talking about the Holocaust or the Jews - only votes to be lost. The only people in France who want to hear that stuff these days are geriatric Nazi collaborators and possibly some French Muslims. But there’s not much point in the FN reaching out to them is there?
Marine Le Pen has made it a personal crusade to shake off the FN’s reputation for anti-Semitism and has convinced many French Jews of her sincerity. Yet her father keeps wittering on about the Holocaust. Sacre bleu!
Last year, I interviewed the new Mayor of Fréjus on the Côte d’Azur, David Rachline, 27, who is one of FN’s rising stars and has just been elected a Senator of the Republic as well. The Côte d’Azur is Jean-Marie Le Pen’s stronghold where he is a Euro-MP, supported by among others Brigitte Bardot, and so Rachline got to know him well. I asked him: ‘Is Jean-Marie Le Pen anti-Semitic?’ ‘Assolument pas,’ he replied. Rachline, though atheist, is of Jewish origin.
Anyway, just how anti-Semitic was the FN really, I wonder, even in the bad old days? Yes, undoubtedly, it is a derivative of fascism, but fascism is not necessarily anti-Semitic either. Italian fascism, for example, was not anti-Semitic. Its class enemy – the equivalent of the bourgeoisie - were the parasites (of whatever class or race), its class heroes the producers (of whatever class or race). Hitler based National Socialism on Italian fascism but made the Jews his class enemy. Fascist Italy became anti-Semitic only after its fatal alliance with Nazi Germany in the second half of the 1930s.
That is why so many of Italy’s Jews were fascists, including Benito Mussolini’s main mistress Margherita Sarfatti. It’s also why no Jews were deported from Italy to the Nazi death camps until after the fall of Mussolini in July 1943. In the next two years, the Nazis deported 9,000 Jews from Italy to the camps with a certain amount of collaboration from the new puppet Fascist regime in the North. Compare that to the nationalist Vichy government of Maréchal Pétain, which actively collaborated with the Nazis in the deportation of 75,000 Jews from France between 1942 and 1944.
When Jean-Marie Le Pen says, as he so often does, that the Holocaust is ‘a detail of history’, he tries to justify the remark by saying that he is stating a fact rather than expressing an opinion – but it does not wash: it is, of course, an opinion. His real target, I am convinced, though, is not the Jews but the big banks and of course Israel. This puts him in perfect tune with standard left-wing anti-Zionism: it’s not the Jews (good), it’s the Israelis (bad). It is fascinating how the soft-shoe shuffle Left has shifted the goal posts from race (so loved by the Left) to nation (so hated by the Left) on the Jews. But you cannot call the BBC, or the Guardian, fascist anti-Semites can you?
Whatever. For someone like Jean-Marie Le Pen even to mention the Jews is fatal. This is why his daughter has insisted that the FN abandon all discussion of the Jews unless positive. What Marine Le Pen has not abandoned though is the FN’s hostility to rampant immigration and radical Islam. Indeed, she defends the Jews against Muslim anti-Semitism. As a result (there are of course other factors, notably economic ones, such as withdrawal from the EU and the euro) support for the FN has increased dramatically in France as a whole (according to opinion polls it will win the first ballot at the Presidential elections in 2017) - and notably for the first time among French Jews.
When Islamic terrorists carried out their mass slaughter at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket in January there was a flurry of articles on the record numbers of French Jews leaving France in recent years because of increased anti-Semitism. But most were reluctant to point out one of the main reasons for this increase: the rise of radical Islam. Instead, it was glossed over and written in such a way as to make it appear – dishonestly - that the French far-Right was if not entirely to blame then certainly up to its neck in it. The truth is that the recent surge in French anti-Semitism is a result of radical Islam, and its useful collaborators, the ‘anti-Zionist’ Left. So, however weird the idea might seem, the best bet for a Jew in France right now is a Front National government led by Marine Le Pen.