The fight against anti-Semitism is not a fight "à la carte" | CRIF President Francis Kalifat in Le Figaro

This article was published in Le Figaro on 9 April 2018. Click here to read the original in French

EXCLUSIVE - In an article in Le Figaro, Francis Kalifat, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), responds to criticisms that were addressed to him after declaring that Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon "would not be welcome to the White March for Mireille Knoll."

Islamist terrorism and deadly anti-Semitism hit France again on March 23. That day, among the victims, two faces of France: that of a hero giving his life to save a hostage, Arnaud Beltrame, and that of an 85-year-old Jewish lady stabbed and burned in her apartment, Mireille Knoll. At the announcement of the murder of Mireille Knoll, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) called for a White March. As soon as the Prosecutor's Office announced the anti-Semitic character of this assassination, the White March became a march against anti-Semitism.

Some, on this occasion, criticized CRIF for having "broken the national unity" by indicating that the leaders of the Front National and France Insoumise "would not be welcome" at this event. In this tumult, I distinguished the vociferations of the usual enemies of the French Jews from the sincere emotion of friends, embarrassed by our approach.

I heard the criticism of these friends. I wish here to examine them and explain the reasons for our positions.

The memory of a murdered woman must be dignified and solemn. First, I condemn, without reserve and forcefully, the boos that welcomed Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. CRIF has nothing to do with the minority of protesters who broke the contemplation of the rest of the demonstrators and even less with the so-called Jewish Defense League, which beyond these disorders publicly attacks CRIF and its leaders for nearly twenty years.

I precisely feared these excesses; it is also one of the reasons why I said that the leaders of the Front National and the France Insoumise would not be welcome. These incidents, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon anticipated them too. But that did not deter them from coming. On the contrary, they, the intolerant ones, have been able to pose as victims of intolerance. We can see right through it, but in these times of confusion and runaway, it works, alas, rather well.

Some have accused CRIF of breaking the national unity needed to fight anti-Semitism, depriving the country of the photo-souvenir of a collective time of indignation. To those, I declare my mistrust of a unity that would have been only of facade. The fight against anti-Semitism certainly requires a capacity for collective indignation in the face of ignominy. But it requires above all a work of republican mobilization and political clarification. It is precisely in the name of this need for clarification that the participation of France Insoumise and Front National, appeared to us, for different reasons, illegitimate and counterproductive.

First, with regard to Front National, I must express my concern at the criticism suddenly turning 40 years of "cordon sanitaire" against the extreme right. Since when would there indeed exist a republican tradition of gathering, at the head of the procession and behind the same banner, ministers and elected officials of right and left with Le Pen? Have we seen such a picture before? Why is it precisely on the occasion of a demonstration against anti-Semitism that one invokes precisely a new rule aimed at including and thus legitimizing the leaders of a party founded by nostalgic Vichy admirers? The organizers of the historic event of January 11, 2015 spared - rightly! - such a "protocol" and such "unity", they who had not invited Marine Le Pen. But perhaps some wanted to see Le Pen acclaimed and Mélenchon booed in a demonstration organized on the initiative of CRIF and thus help to break the moral lock on the Front National. I ask Front National a simple question: that the republicans from left and right remain united and continue to resist the "offensive of de-demonization" of Marine Le Pen.

Some understood that Marine Le Pen has no place, but were offended that France Insoumise was not welcome. To those, I have a lot to say about the far-left's complacency with anti-Semitism but also with Islamism. What can be said about the support given, for example, by the Parliament member Danièle Obono to Houria Bouteldja of the Parti des Indigènes de la République, when she is presented with the recurrent anti-Semitic remarks of the latter? What do Jean-Luc Mélenchon's words mean when he takes up the well-known chorus of the allegation of double allegiance in his account of the march of March 28? Jean-Luc Mélenchon is too educated to ignore the symbolic weight of such statements. Why does France Insoumise have so much trouble to state the danger posed in France by the development of Islamism? Finally, how can one explain – If not perhaps by electoral interest? – the blindness of France Insoumise facing the inextricable part of anti-Semitism present in anti-Zionist rhetoric? Let's be precise: the criticism of the Israeli government can be legitimate, as for any other government, but what does Israel's absolute hatred mean when this hatred only targets this one state in the world? What can be said about Jean-Luc Mélenchon's remarks in July 2014, congratulating the pro-Palestinian protesters for "standing up and embodying the founding values of the French Republic better than anyone" when groups came out of these processions in Paris or Sarcelles to attack synagogues? It is all these ambiguities that a sincere mobilization against anti-Semitism must call for clarification.

The fight against anti-Semitism is not a fight "à la carte". If the leaders of these parties really want to contribute to the unity of the nation against anti-Semitism, then let them do the housework and remove all ambiguity on their friendships and complacency with true anti-Semites. Let them publicly denounce all forms of anti-Semitism, including anti-Zionism described as the "reinvented form of anti-Semitism" by the President of the Republic himself, but also any rejection of the other.

These are the conditions for a sincere and unparalleled gathering, to eradicate together the cancer that gangrenes our society and makes the life of French Jews more and more difficult. It is the fate of France, and of the Republic.

CRIF is ready to take up the challenge.



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