PARIS (JTA) — Jean-Marie Le Pen, exiting leader of France’s far-right National Front party, made a public anti-Semitic slur while handing over the party leadership to his daughter.
Le Pen suggested in a weekend farewell speech that Jews cry wolf, unduly claiming to be victims of anti-Semitism, during his comments on the case of a Jewish French journalist who filed an official complaint against the National Front last weekend.
Mickael Szames, a journalist for the French media station France 24, said over the weekend that he was violently pushed out of a private National Front gala and injured by a group of security guards, reportedly because he was Jewish. He filed an official complaint over the attack.
In response, Le Pen, 82, jokingly told journalists that “the person in question thought he could say that he was kicked out because he is Jewish. It didn’t show, either on his (press) card, or on his nose, if I dare say.”
The National Front denied that Szames was beaten and said it would file a complaint against him for slander.
Le Pen’s comments in the incident come as no surprise. In his farewell speech Saturday, Le Pen said he had no regrets for calling the Holocaust a “detail” in the history of World War II, nor for other comments that repeatedly cost him fines in court and a reputation as France’s leading political xenophobe.
France’s largest Jewish umbrella group, the CRIF, said in a statement Monday in response to Le Pen’s outburst that “we understand that Jean-Marie Le Pen feels the need to show that he still exists to a small extent, and that he is not foregoing any of his obsessions.”
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants also said in a statement issued Monday that Holocaust survivors “are shocked but not surprised that Le Pen would once again revert to foul and offensive Jew-baiting in remarks at the close of his notorious political career."
"Until it distances itself from such comments, the National Front party will live in the shadow of these words of hate," the statement said.
New party president Marine Le Pen, 42, refrains from the kind of advertised disdain her father showed for the role of the Jewish community in French society. But like her father, she has taken a firm stance against the spread of Islam in France.
The newly elected leader of the National Front recently compared Muslim prayers in the streets around certain Parisian neighborhoods to the Nazi occupation. She was overwhelmingly elected president of the party over the weekend and is expected to modernize the group into a more powerful political force.