JC: “What does the rise of Mélenchon mean for French Jews?”

“In a result almost no one anticipated, France has rejected the far-right in favour of the far-left alliance the New Popular Front (NPF), put together over the past week to fight Sunday’s second round of assembly elections.

Led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has a long history of accusations of antisemitism, the NPF’s surprise victory has understandably concerned French Jews.

Mélenchon, who leads the far-left party La France Insoumise (LFI), has been accused of underplaying antisemitism, dog whistling, and playing into antisemitic stereotypes, over his long career in politics – all of which he denies.

A spokesperson from the European Jewish Congress (EJC) told the JC that LFI’s success “is a serious cause for concern due to Mélenchon’s repeated antisemitic statements and targeting of French Jewish organisations”. They continued: “The decision of other left-wing parties to align with the LFI in these elections represents an abandonment of French Jews at a time when they are increasingly threatened by the far-left in the public sphere”.

The socialist politician has repeatedly underplayed antisemitism in both his party and across France. In June 2020, Mélenchon dismissed reports of chants of “Dirty Jews” at a left-wing demonstration in Paris. He alleged the reports were fabricated by police, who he accused of “peddling gossip about antisemitism”.

As antisemitic incidents surged post-October 7 – with four times as many reports of antisemitism in 2023 compared to the year before – Mélenchon continued to deny there was a problem. In a blog post published last month, he asserted that antisemitism was “absent” from anti-Israel rallies in France.

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