Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Le Pen Grills Cabinet Minister About His Allegiance to Israel

December 6, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A French television station was flooded with calls from outraged viewers Tuesday, protesting badgering remarks made by Jean-Marie Le Pen against a Jewish member of the French Cabinet.

Le Pen, whose extreme right-wing National Front made gains in special elections Sunday, asked the minister for foreign trade, Lionel Stoleru, “Are you Israeli?”

“Do you hold Israeli nationality?” he again asked Stoleru, with whom he was debating. “You are a member of the government, and we have a right to know,” he insisted.

Stoleru, the son of Romanian immigrants and a former leader of the French Jewish Consistory, seemed taken aback. “I am Jewish, but as far as I know this is a religion and not a nationality,” he said.

Le Pen persisted. “You are also president of the Franco-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and, I was told, that you happen to hold Israeli nationality, as well.”

He added, “I am glad to find out that information was wrong.”

Le Pen and Stoleru were participants in a debate over the outcome of the elections. The National Front candidate from Dreux, a town west of Paris, won a seat in the National Assembly, France’s parliament.

And the party came within 1,200 votes of winning a second seat, representing a constituency in Marseille, France’s largest city after Paris.

The National Front’s strong showing in both contests has alarmed many who deplore its blatant appeal to racism and xenophobia.

Le Pen’s targets have been foreign immigrant workers, mainly Arabs from former French territories in North Africa.

While he denies he is anti-Semitic, Le Pen has publicly called the Holocaust a hoax and claimed there were no gas chambers.

Recommended from JTA