Roger Cuckierman, chairman of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions (Crif) last week prompted a huge outcry when he claimed, “The National Front is a party for which I would never vote but it’s a party which today doesn’t commit violent acts. Let’s be clear: all the violence [against Jewish people] is now committed by young Muslims.” Jewish support for Marine Le Pen’s party has skyrocketed, with 14 per cent pledging support for the party, supposedly in defence of their religious integrity and security. Compare this to just 4 per cent in 2007. Regrettably for the party, their past provides a stark contradiction. Jean-Marie Le Pen, previous leader of the party, is an out and out racist, and crucially for Cuckierman, an anti-Semite, claiming the Holocaust was just a ‘mere detail of history’. Last year he said music critics were making an ‘ovenload’ of a French Jewish singer, Patrick Bruel.
But the statement by Mr Cuckierman is both nonsensical and selfish. Calls to unite against anti-Semitism, rightfully made across the globe, are fully justified and more important than ever before. But Cuckierman completely de-legitimises the fight against fascistic ideologies, with his supposed ‘defence’ of Jewish values as synonymous with the stigmatisation of Islam.
Instead of a fight against anti-Semitism, or against Islamophobia, what is needed is a declaration of support for the fight against discrimination as a whole. Cuckierman fails to realise not only that, instead of siding with the Front National against a ‘common enemy’, he is limiting first the power of anti-discrimination calls, but just as importantly, that he is setting a limit on the legitimacy of the struggle against anti-Semitism.
If the face of the fight against discrimination is tainted by declarations from people like Cuckierman, a supposed ally of the Front National, there is no visible progress in the anti-discrimination battle. In fact, Cuckierman’s statements represent a victory for the Front National; they have found support from a group who were just a few decades ago their strongest enemies, a door to power through which they can harness the votes of a people they themselves discriminate against.
The immediate ‘self-interests’ of the Jewish population in France are not to side with the Front National in any way. Firstly because the party are full of staunch anti-Semites. But as importantly because it creates a division in the struggle against discrimination, restricting the influence of the French minorities. This puts the ‘culture of trust’ in which one minority can trust another to support their beliefs and defend their rights as well as that of their own under enormous stress. The stigmatization of French Muslims as ‘enemies’ of Jewish people understandably obliterates the desires of any Muslims to create an anti-discriminatory alliance with the Jewish people. The legacy of this is frightening; French minorities are drawn further apart from each other and bitterness festers between groups which should be coming together as one.
The media have a part to play in all of this; the declarations by Cuckierman, as shocking as they are, do not represent the feelings of all Jewish people, or the general face of anti-discriminatory groups. So the media has the responsibility to highlight instances of united fronts against discrimination, such as the Muslims who formed a ‘circle of peace’ around an Oslo synagogue after attacks on Jewish people in Denmark. All victims of discrimination have the duty to prove that the fight is not a two-faced selfish phenomenon, but that it is instead a united front with one central aim – to fight any and every instance of discrimination.