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B’nai B’rith: Le Pen allegations are `outrageous and insulting’

PARIS, March 4 (JTA) — Jewish groups are denouncing French extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen for alleging that French President Jacques Chirac is controlled by Jewish organizations.
Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Front, was quoted as saying that Jewish organizations had paid the conservative Chirac not to make an electoral alliance with Le Pen’s party. A book to be published next week features an interview with Le Pen, in which he is quoted as saying, “Chirac is in someone’s grasp. And whose? Jewish organizations and especially the notorious B’nai B’rith.” “In agreement with them, in exchange for enormous sums of money and pressure, and with exceptional international support, [Chirac] agreed to lose the presidential election in 1988 rather than make an agreement with me,” Le Pen says in the book, “A President’s Novel,” written by Nicholas Domenach and Maurice Szafran. Some of Chirac’s conservative colleagues had tried to convince him in 1988 to make such a deal to prevent then-Socialist President Francois Mitterrand from being re-elected. The French branch of B’nai B’rith said it refused to enter into a war of words with Le Pen who was giving “free rein to his obsessional litany through the eternal Judeo-Masonic plot.” “He tells so many stories he ends up believing them,” the branch said. But in Washington, leaders of the international Jewish organization held a news conference to blast the French politician. “Le Pen’s lies are outrageous and insulting,” Sidney Clearfield, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, said at the group’s
headquarters. “B’nai B’rith has never had a pact with Mr. Chirac or with any other politician.” “Le Pen detests B’nai B’rith because we support many causes he loathes, such as immigrants’ rights, respect for other cultures and human rights for all people,” Clearfield added. The Front — which advocates expelling France’s 3 million immigrants — is enjoying growing popularity in France, where last month it gained control of a fourth southern town in municipal elections. Le Pen himself won 15 percent of the vote in 1995 presidential elections. CRIF, France’s umbrella group for secular Jewish organizations, denounced “Le Pen’s anti-Semitic fantasies.” CRIF President Henri Hajdenberg said he wanted to see legal action taken against Le Pen, who has in the past made anti-Jewish statements though he denies accusations of racism or anti-Semitism. Le Pen issued a statement Tuesday denying that he had made the derogatory comments attributed to him in the book. He threatened to sue the book’s authors.