Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France’s far-right National Front (FN) and father to the party’s current leader Marine Le Pen, sparked outrage over the weekend after making an apparent anti-Semitic pun.
In a video posted on the FN’s website on Friday, Le Pen lashed out at a number of celebrities – including French comedian Guy Bedos, tennis-player-turned-musician Yannick Noah and the singer and actress Madonna – for having expressed their alarm over the party’s victory in the European Parliamentary elections last month.
When reminded by his interviewer that Patrick Bruel, a French singer of Jewish descent, was among the critics, Le Pen chuckled.
“That doesn’t surprise me. Listen, we’ll do up a batch next time,” he said, using the French word “fournée,” a baking term that also means ovenful, to say batch.
Le Pen’s comments met with fierce criticism and on Sunday, SOS Racisme and the French Union of Jewish Students, two groups that fight against racism, announced their intention to file a lawsuit against him.
The European Jewish Congress has also called on the European Union to remove the parliamentary immunity granted to Le Pen as a member of the European Parliament for the FN, demanding he be charged with incitement.
Meanwhile, Bruel responded to the video with a tweet that said, “J.M. Le Pen reoffends ... Did he need to remind us of his true face and that of the FN?”
An embarrassed FN
It is not the first time Le Pen has been accused of anti-Semitism, which is considered a serious crime in France.
He has often used subtle word play to hint at certain views without stating them overtly. In 1996, he was convicted of inciting racial hatred after saying that the gas chambers used to kill Jews during the Holocaust were “merely a detail in the history of the Second World War.”
But Le Pen’s recent comments came as an embarrassment to the FN, which has sought to soften its image ever since Marine Le Pen took over the party leadership from him in 2011.
In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Marine Le Pen said she was convinced her father’s remarks had been maliciously misunderstood, but criticised him for demonstrating poor judgment.
“To have not foreseen how this phrase would be interpreted is a political mistake the National Front is [now] paying for,” she said. “If there is any positive side to this controversy, it’s that it has allowed me to reiterate that the National Front condemns all forms of anti-Semitism in the strongest terms possible.”
Louis Aliot, vice-president of the FN, also sought to distance the party from Le Pen’s comments, describing them as “politically stupid and deplorable”.
Le Pen, however, has remained largely unapologetic.
“The word ‘batch’ which I used in my videocast obviously had no anti-Semitic connotations, except for imbeciles or my political enemies,” he wrote in a strongly worded statement defending his actions.
He also later went on France’s BFM TV, where he said that he was a “free man” and had never uttered a single anti-Semitic comment over the course of his 60-year career.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-09