Jean-Marie Le Pen parts from political scene with anti-Semitic slur

Marine Le Pen has been elected as leader of the extreme-right and xenophobic National Front (FN) movement, succeeding her father Jean-Marie. In his farewell speech, Jean-Marie Le Pen, 82, made a new public anti-Semitic slur when suggesting that Jews were crying wolf, unduly claiming to be victims of anti-Semitism. He was referring to a Jewish French journalist who had filed an official complaint against the FN last weekend. Mickaël Szames, a reporter for the French media station ‘France 24’, said had been violently pushed out of a private National Front gala and injured by a group of security guards, reportedly because he was Jewish.

In response, Le Pen – who in 1972 founded the FN and led it until this weekend – jokingly told journalists that “the person in question thought he could say that he was kicked out because he was Jewish. It didn’t show, either on his (press) card, or on his nose, if I dare say.” The parting FN leader’s comments came as little surprise. In his speech on Saturday he said he had no regrets for calling the Auschwitz gas chambers a “detail in the history of World War II”.

France’s largest Jewish umbrella organization CRIF said in a statement: “We understand that Jean-Marie Le Pen feels the need to show that he still exists to a small extent, and that he is not foregoing any of his obsessions.” The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants also said in a statement that Holocaust survivors “are shocked but not surprised that Le Pen would once again revert to foul and offensive Jew-baiting in remarks at the close of his notorious political career. Until it distances itself from such comments, the National Front party will live in the shadow of these words of hate.”

Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the run-off of the 2002 presidential elections in France, coming second after the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac. He was defeated by Chirac in the second round of voting. His daughter Marine, 42, has been a vice-president of the party since 2003. With 67.5 percent of the 24,000 party members' votes, she beat her rival Bruno Gollnisch. According to opinion polls, Marine Le Pen could pose a threat to President Nicolas Sarkozy at the 2012 presidential elections, boasting popularity figures well above those of her father.

At the party convention in Tours, she refused to distance herself from her father's tumultuous leadership of the FN. She had recently made an incendiary comment saying that members of France's Muslim community, when they pray outside overcrowded mosques, were comparable to the presence of Nazis during the occupation of the World War. A poll last week revealed that 22 percent of French voters agreed with the policies of the National Front, which is deeply hostile to immigration and wants a tougher stand on law and order, including the reintroduction of capital punishment.

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