French leftist: Comments on finance minister were not anti-Semitic

(JTA) — The leader of the French far left said a Jewish Socialist minister “thought in international finances, not in French,” then denied he was referring to the minister’s origins.

Jean-Luc Melenchon made the comment in an address Saturday before the congress in Bordeaux of the Left Party about Pierre Moscovici, France’s finance minister. Melenchon is head of the Left Party in Bordeaux.

Harlem Desir, the first secretary of the ruling Socialist Party, was quoted by Le Monde as calling Melenchon’s statement “unacceptable.” He added, “We did not expect to hear this 1930s vocabulary from the mouth of a French republican and even less from a leader of the left.”

Melenchon denied his comments were anti-Semitic or connected in any way to Moscovici’s Jewish origins, adding that “if Moscovici were ever threatened for being Jewish, he would find all of us there to defend him.”

Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, a journalist for the radio station Europe 1, accused Melenchon of “encouraging views on world Jewry.”

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