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Jewish group: Dutch-French rightist alliance risks religious freedom

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THE HAGUE (JTA) — A new alliance between the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom and France’s National Front is disconcerting for Dutch Jews, a spokeswoman for the Netherlands Jewish community said.

“We look with concern to this cooperation,” Esther Voet, director of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, said Wednesday during an interview for the television program Nieuwsuur. She warned that the cooperation between the two anti-Muslim parties could lead to joint initiatives that would limit religious freedoms in Europe.

Her statement came hours after Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders held a joint news conference with National Front chief Marine Le Pen at the Dutch Parliament, where Wilders’ party is third largest. The anti-EU partnership is toward “liberation from Europe, the monster in Brussels and the elites,” Wilders said.

Wilders, who lived in Israel for a year in his youth, is well known for his vociferous criticism of Islam and the Koran, which he has likened to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” He has visited Israel dozens of times and describes himself as a friend of the Jewish state and people. His party supported banning ritual slaughter in The Netherlands, however.

Le Pen is the daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has made numerous anti-Semitic and racist statements. Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from those policies in what analysts described as an attempt at gaining greater respectability, but her father remains the party’s honorary president. She received 18 percent of the national vote in the first round of the 2012 presidential elections. Last year, she said wearing Muslim headscarves in public should be banned along with kippahs.

Cooperation between Wilders and Le Pen on banning ritual freedoms could “hit the essence of Judaism in Europe,” Voet said.

Wilders, speaking of LePen, told reporters in The Hague, “I am convinced that there isn’t a racist or anti-Semitic inch in Ms. Le Pen’s body. I know her to be a true democrat.” He has in the past said he would not cooperate with parties he suspected of anti-Semitism.

But Voet, like French Jewish leaders, is not convinced.

“Ms. Le Pen says she distances herself from her father,” she said, “but he remains honorary leader and a party candidate for the European Parliament. Her words don’t match her actions.”

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