PARIS (Sep. 7)
The right-wing National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen was seriously weakened Wednesday when two prominent members announced their resignations in protest of Le Pen’s “racist statements and autocratic methods.”
The two, Francois Bachelot, a physician, and Pascal Arrighi, former dean of the Marseille Law School, represented the so-called “respectable wing” of the party and had been trying to use conventional methods to promote their ideas.
The National Front stands on a platform opposed to immigrants in France, most of them North African. Arabs. Le Pen has been accused of anti-Semitism, a charge he has denied.
Last week, however, he made his second derogatory reference to the killing apparatus in the Nazi death camps.
In a crude play on words, Le Pen referred to a political opponent, Michel Durafour, as “Durafour-crematoire.” The French word for crematorium oven is “four crematoire.”
His remark came in the context of an over all insult to Durafour, recently named minister of public service in the Socialist government of President Francois Mitterrand. Le Pen also called Durafour an “imbecile” and a “sod.”
Last September, Le Pen angered Jews and others with his comment that the gas chambers were a “minor footnote to history.”
French Justice Minister Pierre Arpaillange announced Saturday evening that legal action will be brought against Le Pen for “insults to a member of the government.”
Bachelot said he was shocked by Le Pen’s comments and expressed his compassion for the Jewish community of France.
JEWISH GROUP BEHIND BURGLARY
Political observers credit the personal prestige of Bachelot and Arrighi for a large share of Le Pen’s success during the spring presidential elections, when he scored more than 14 percent of the popular vote in the first of two rounds.
Many French voters refused to believe that “everything could be evil” with the front while it enjoyed the backing of such prominent men, political analysts said.
On Tuesday, the two men were censured by the front’s political committee for having rapped Le Pen’s latest declaration, in which he made the coarse pun.
Le Pen himself urged the committee to “tolerate no rebellion within our ranks” and asked the front’s members to back his statement.
In the meantime, the right-wing leader may have suffered another blow: an underground Jewish organization assumed responsibility Wednesday for a burglary carried out in Le Pen’s Paris office.
The Jewish Defense Organization, which has already struck at extremist right-wing and racist movements, said it had carried out the burglary and was in possession of important confidential files, which h it said will be released in due time.