The Leader of France’s Hard Left Is an Anti-Semite of the Old Kind

June 17, 2021 | Ben Cohen
About the author: Ben Cohen, a New York-based writer, has contributed essays on anti-Semitism and related issues to Mosaic and other publications.

In the country’s most recent presidential election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left “France Rising” party, won about 20 percent of the votes, placing him just behind the two leading contenders. Unlike his British or American counterparts, he rarely takes pains to disguise his anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. Last week, in the manner typical of conspiracy-mongers, he insinuated that both a 1980 synagogue bombing and the brutal murder of a Jewish family in 2012 were somehow cooked up by the “deep state” to manipulate public opinion. Ben Cohen writes:

Asked how French police officers should react to violent protesters, Mélenchon suggested that the cops should adopt the poise of Jesus during his crucifixion by the Romans. “They should stay put like Jesus without reacting,” he opined. Then he added, “I don’t know if Jesus was on a cross, but he was apparently put there by his own people.”

Those bizarre sentences were never going to persuade the French police to lay down their beloved tear-gas canisters, batons, and water cannons. But anyone who was listening was conveniently reminded of the ultimate Jewish crime—the original sin, no less, from which all of the subsequent “misdeeds” of the Jewish people are descended.

Indeed, it’s striking that so many of Mélenchon’s barbs against Jews, which are often expressed in the rhetoric of anti-capitalism, rely on the basest tropes. In 2013, he charged that the then-finance minister Pierre Moscovici, who is not Jewish but has a Jewish-sounding name, was a member of the “Eurogroup bastards” (otherwise known as the finance ministers of the European Union) who “behaves like someone who has stopped thinking in French, like someone who thinks only in the language of international finance.”

[I]n Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the anti-Semitisms of left and right intermingle, with support for the Palestinians and the boycott, divest, and sanction campaign against Israel sitting comfortably alongside xenophobic jibes about uppity Jews forgetting their place. It is the worst of both worlds.

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