In a July 30 speech, a member of a far-right French Catholic organization opined that his country went astray in 1791, when the Revolutionary government voted to extend civil rights to Jews. Among those rushing to condemn the speaker was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France’s far-left party. Mélenchon, however, is himself one of the most prominent anti-Semites in French politics. Ben Cohen writes:
In 2013, [Mélenchon] accused then-Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, who is Jewish, of no longer “thinking in French but thinking in the language of international finance.” Later in that same decade, when Mélenchon’s comrade in the United Kingdom—the former Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn—was in the firing line over a series of anti-Semitic scandals during his tenure at the party’s helm, the French leader asserted that “so-called Jews” orchestrated by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu were out to destroy Corbyn’s reputation.
In essence, anti-Semitism is not seen [by the likes of Mélenchon] as a pernicious ideology targeting Jews as the root of the world’s ills, but rather as an instrument to be deployed in political conflicts. If anti-Semitism comes from a source that you would have no truck with anyway—in this case, an organization that believes fervently that Catholic doctrine should lie at the foundations of law and public policy—then there is no hesitation in condemning it, particularly when . . . there is no mention of Zionism or the state of Israel. But if anti-Semitism comes from an ally, like Corbyn, then you are duty-bound to deny it and dismiss it as a smear.
In such an environment, any analytical consistency and certainly any attempt to point out the glaring overlap between far-left and extreme-right anti-Semitic tropes—dual loyalty, financial clout, disproportionate political and cultural influence—becomes impossible.