Forward Thinking

Le Pen's Candidacy, Secured by French-Israeli

By Robert Zaretsky

  • Print
  • Share Share

We all know politics makes for odd bedfellows. Just how odd, though, was revealed in this morning’s news. The presidential candidacy of Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right wing Front National, has just been made possible by a French Israeli citizen.

In order to run for president in France, an individual must secure five hundred signatures from elected officials serving in local or national office. This constitutional requirement was, in principle designed to prevent “frivolous” candidacies from making a mockery of the deadly serious business of electing a president. Given that this year’s candidates include Madame Cindy Lee, the scantily-clad nominee for the Party of Pleasure, and Dédé de l’Abeillevaud, the bee-costumed representative for a bio-diversity movement, the law has not quite had its desired effect.

Unless, that is, you are Madame Le Pen.

For several weeks, the FN candidate had been scrambling to find five hundred officials willing to sign her petition before Friday’s deadline. Le Pen’s mad dash has made great copy for the media. There was, after all, the striking disparity between Le Pen’s solid ranking in national opinion polls — shifting between 16% and 20% — and her difficulty in convincing a mere 500 officials, out of a pool of 42,000, to endorse her candidacy. Were officials reluctant to be identified with Le Pen? (By law, the names of those who sign are a matter of public information.) Was President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, the UMP, twisting arms to prevent officials from signing? (The hemorrhage of traditional UMP voters turning to the FN has become an acute concern for Sarkozy.) Or was Le Pen simply gaming the system and waiting until the last moment in order to depict her candidacy as one the traditional parties wanted to suffocate before the voters could have their say?

The questions are now of a different order: Why did Sylvain Semhoun, who represents Israel as a deputy in the Assembly of French Citizens Living Abroad, elect to be the official to push Le Pen’s campaign over the bar of 500 signatures? According to Semhoun, the reason is simple: “Civic duty.” As he told a journalist from the magazine Le Point, “It would have been intolerable to see millions of voters deprived of their preferred candidate.” Semhoun added that political battles are best fought at the ballot box, not in the street.

And yet, simple answers are rarely simple. In 2007, Semhoun had campaigned for Sarkozy and was an active member of the UMP. But his enthusiasm, it appears, could not withstand the serial disappointments of Sarkozy’s presidency. The president “did not keep all of his promises” — most important, it seems, his promise to “recalibrate France’s position on the Arab-Israeli conflict.” It is not clear if Semhoun means by this the widely perceived sympathy for the Palestinians at the Quai d’Orsay (France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the French government’s criticism of Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories, or both.

Nor is it clear what Semhoun thinks about Le Pen. On the one hand, he supported her candidacy out of a sense of civic engagement; on the other hand, he doesn’t rule out supporting her in the elections next month. He is waiting to see “all of her policy statements” before he decides, all the while denouncing the “prejudices” Le Pen has received from the media.

There has been much discussion of late in France over Le Pen’s efforts to woo Jewish voters. It may well be that as turns Semhoun next month, so turns part of the French Jewish community.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: France, French Jews, Marine Le Pen, Nicolas Sarkozy

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Selma. Nearly 50 years ago it was violent Selma, impossibly racist Selma, site of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful civil rights marchers made their first attempt to cross the Pettus Street Bridge on the way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama." http://jd.fo/r50mf With the 50th anniversary approaching next spring, a new coalition is bringing together blacks, Jews and others for progressive change.
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.