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French Jewry Concerned over Growing Popularity of an Extremist Group

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French Jewry is seriously concerned over the growing popularity of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his extreme rightwing National Front Party which seems ideologically akin to the Vichy regime of World War II. But the Jewish community should approach this phenomenon cautiously, according to Theo Klein, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) in a Rosh Hashanaheve interview published in Le Monde.

“We have no sympathy with Le Pen’s policies but we refrain from intervening constantly against him for one reason, good or bad: By heading the opposition against Le Pen, the Jewish community would serve his interests more than it would do him a disservice,” Klein explained.

He warned that an alliance between Le Pen’s National Front and other opposition parties would have very negative consequences. But French opposition leaders have assured him that such an alliance is out of the question, Klein said.

Le Pen’s party received a substantial boost and won respectability by its surprisingly good showing in the elections last June to the Parliament of Europe, based in Strasbourg. Klein described the National Front as reminiscent of certain politics that were ascendant in France in the period before the collaborationist Vichy regime was established and its ideas very much like those who constituted the Vichy government.

Klein attributed Le Pen’s popularity to his ability to exploit peoples’ insecurity and economic tribulations. He is unabashedly racist, though his polemics have been directed mainly against immigrants and “guest laborers” who have been a source of friction in West European countries as a result of job shortages.

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