The results of the March local elections in France confirmed that the extreme right is still a force to be reckoned with, despite the split of the Front National. There is a growing call from rank and file members for reunification of the two parties. The largest number of violent antisemitic incidents in a decade was recorded in 2000, the majority in the last three months of the year when 43 synagogues and 3 cemeteries were attacked. The French government declared 16 July Holocaust Commemoration Day.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The French Jewish community numbers between 600,000 and 700,000 out of a total population of 60 million. The largest community is in the Paris area (300–350,000), followed by Marseille (80,000), Lyon (30,000), Nice and Toulouse (20,000). Strasbourg, where 12,000 Jews live, is a major religious and cultural center.
The three main organizations of French Jewry are the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), the Consistoire Central and the Fonds Social Juif Unifié (FSJU).
There has been a dramatic revitalization of communal life since the early 1980s, which is reflected in the large number of Jewish private schools (over 80, attended by 5 percent of Jewish schoolchildren) and synagogues (over 150 in the Paris area). In 2001 the first license for AM private broadcasting in France was granted to a Jewish Paris-based radio station, Ciel AM.
As a result of the Matteoli Commission’s report on stolen Jewish property (see ASW 1999/2000), financial compensation for the heirs of Jewish victims of the Holocaust was granted in a decree issued on 14 July 2000 (France’s National Day). A Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, chaired by former center-right minister Simone Veil, has been set up to supervise the distribution of reparation funds.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS
The French extreme right has weakened since the split of the Front National in December 1998/January 1999 into Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National (FN) and Bruno Mégret’s Mouvement National Républicain (MNR) (see ASW 1998/99, 1999/2000). Despite the decline of both parties in the June 1999 European Parliament elections and in most local by-elections held during 2000, the extreme right is still a force to be reckoned with.
The results of the local elections of 11 and 18 March 2001 confirmed this: in many cities and in several towns it fared even better than in 1995 (for example, Noyon – 34.12 percent; Cluses – 39.93 percent; Bollène, near Orange – 46.90 percent). The extreme right retained three out of the four city councils it controls in southern France, namely Orange (with FN mayor Jacques Bompard, supported by MNR, winning on the first ballot with 59.87 percent); Marignane (62.52 percent) and Vitrolles (45.32 percent).
Moreover, in some cities, the conservative right had agreements with former or current FN/MNR members. For example, a former FN/MNR executive was nominated as the candidate of the nationalist Gaullist party Rassemblement du Peuple Français (RPF), led by Charles Pasqua, in Valenciennes. In some cities such as Versailles and Montfermeil, near Paris, MNR candidates were elected on a rightist slate, namely, that of Club de l’Horloge president Henry de Lesquen and Catholic fundamentalist mayor Pierre Bernard.
There is a growing call from rank and file members for reunification of the two parties on the basis of a radical, racialist and strongly anti-Zionist platform. The rationale behind such a move is that 5 percent of the national vote on a race-conscious platform is preferable to 15 percent on a moderate, populist stand.
Membership of the Front National (FN), led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, stands at 20,000, down from 42,000 before the split. The official policy of FN has always been to recognize the right of foreign-born people to become French citizens, provided they assimilate completely; indeed, a significant portion of party executives is of foreign, albeit European, origin. However, the party only paid lip service to this policy for the sake of “political correctness.” In the mind of the rank and file, as well as in that of most party executives, foreigners, especially Arabs, were thought to be incapable of assimilating. This prejudice was also extended to Jews. One of the most controversial issues in 2000 was that of accepting Frenchmen of non-European origin as members of the party executive. At the party convention which took place in Paris on 28–30 April 2000, Guillaume Luyt, leader of the youth movement Front National de la Jeunesse, was ousted because of his refusal to accept the election of Algerian-born Farid Smahi, a hard-line anti-Zionist, to the party’s political bureau. The Catholic fundamentalist wing embodied in the movement Chrétienté-Solidarité (see also below), led by former Euro-MP Bernard Antony, is now heavily represented in the party’s national leadership. This wing of the party does not see race as the hallmark of identity: it believes that any human being who is, or becomes, a Christian (preferably, a Roman Catholic) deserves to become a French citizen.
A few days prior to his re-election as president of the party at the April convention, Le Pen was deprived of his last elected post – in the European Parliament. This was a result of a November 1999 court decision to ban him from public office for one year for assaulting a Socialist opponent.
Following the 1998 split, the Euronat network, created to unite FN and similar foreign right-wing groups, lost most of its relevance (see ASW 1999/2000).
Chaired by Bruno Mégret, the Mouvement National Républicain (MNR) has fewer than 5,000 active members and publishes Le Chêne. MNR presents itself as a force of renewal on the far right, but the party platform, especially on the issue of immigration, is similar to that of FN. On the race issue, the party is more radical than FN, in that it publicly states that immigrants of non-European origin are incapable of integrating into French society. Thus, racialism and militant anti-Zionism are more fundamental elements in the party program than in the FN’s. This approach appeals to the most radical groups on the far right, which have supported MNR from the outset. Pierre Vial, one of the leaders of MNR, for example, heads the Völkisch Terre et Peuple movement (see below); the former Renouveau Étudiant and its publication Offensive are also part of MNR. The party’s youth wing, Mouvement National de la Jeunesse (MNJ), chaired by Philippe Schleiter, nephew of French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, claims 1,500 members and publishes the monthly Robur. Another youth group on the fringes of MNR is Jeunesse Action Chrétienté (JAC), a Catholic fundamentalist group which publishes the quarterly Force catholique, edited by Thierry Bouzard.
The MNR, which staged a low-key campaign in the March 2001 local elections because of lack of funds, fared better than predicted, obtaining over 20 percent of the vote in 20 of the 216 cities in which it ran candidates, and between 10 and 20 percent in 56, mostly in northern France, the Paris and Marseille areas and Alsace. Many MNR candidates were national revolutionary radicals from groups such as MNJ and Unité radicale (see below).
Having established links with the Flemish Vlaams Blok (VB), the MNR is planning to expand its foreign contacts. However, an October 2000 meeting in Vienna between the VB, MNR and FPÖ, which had been planned by Haider’s adviser Andreas Mölzer, was eventually canceled by the FPÖ.
An interesting development took place regarding the attitude of both parties toward the Israel-Palestine issue. Following the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada in September/October 2000, the FN organ Français d’abord adopted a strongly anti-Israel position, which was challenged by subscribers (including party members and sympathizers) in letters to the paper. The rationale behind their pro-Israel stand was that the Palestinians were Arabs, Muslims and often fundamentalists, and thus enemies of the West. Even Terre et Peuple (see below) admitted that both the Palestinians and the Jews had a legitimate claim on the land and that since neither wwito accept a binational state, partition was the only solution.
There is a growing trend within the radical right favoring the creation of small locally-based groups (usually around a bulletin) over large nation-wide movements. Further, many radical groups now support regionalist, ethnic/nationalist movements such as Alternative Europe in Alsace, Mouvement Régionaliste de Bretagne and Adsav in Brittany, and Corsican groups. This interest in Völkisch ideas derives from the influence of the Terre et Peuple movement. With a membership of 250–300 members, Terre et Peuple publishes a magazine by the same name and believes in the inevitability of a racial war in France between native Frenchmen and immigrants. At its annual conference on 28 May 2000, the key speaker was former New Right ideologue Guillaume Faye, author of The Colonization of Europe (2000), which describes an insurrection of white nationals against immigrants. After it became a bestseller on the far right and aroused controversy within far right circles, Faye was indicted for incitement to racial hatred. Terre et Peuple, which follows an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish line, has carried articles by French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.
Another virulently anti-Israel and anti-Zionist group is the national revolutionary (“proletarian fascist”) Unité radicale (Radical Unity – UR), which has a membership of about 300 and publishes the bimonthly Résistance!. Issues of the magazine for 2000 featured interviews with Adriano Tilgher, head of the Italian Fronte Nazionale, and Horst Mahler, the former Rote Armee Fraktion terrorist turned National Socialist. Young members of UR publish Jeune Résistance, edited by Fabrice Robert. The January 2001 issue was entitled “Against Zionism.” UR is the driving force behind the European Liberation Front and the movement CoordiNation, which calls for unified action among all radical right groups and for reunification of FN and MNR. In 2000, UR established links with the Italian Forza Nuova.
The faction-ridden student Groupe Union Défense (GUD), which has a record of violence against left-wing, foreign and Jewish students on university campuses, is now incorporated into UR, under the name Union des Etudiants Nationalistes (UDEN). A public controversy erupted in autumn 2000 when it was discovered that Benoît Fleury, the outgoing GUD leader, who has several convictions for physical violence and antisemitism, had been named as a lecturer in law by the Paris-Assas University. The appointment was subsequently revoked. Additionally, the group was allegedly connected to the painting of swastikas on several Jewish institutions in Marseille in May.
Oeuvre Française (French Society), headed by former collaborationist Pierre Sidos, and the neo-Nazi Parti Nationaliste Français (French Nationalist Party – PNF) and Parti Nationaliste Français et Européen (French and European Nationalist Party – PNFE), are near extinction, with fewer than 50 members each. The PNFE was disbanded by what remained of its leadership in 2001.
The skinhead scene, formerly closely linked to PNFE, has been in steady decline since the mid-1990s. Both Blood & Honour and the Charlemagne Hammerskins are represented in France. In mid-October 2000, police raided a network of neo-Nazi/skinhead militants in the Vosges department (near Alsace), including a FN local branch chairman who had celebrated a winter solstice (pagan celebration) during which Nazi salutes were given. Also in 2000, the trial was held of several PNFE- and Blood & Honour-oriented skinheads in Le Havre who, eight years earlier, had brutally murdered a Mauritian immigrant.
Far right activists are increasingly organized around small, locally-targeted publications (with the exception of the rather glossy Réfléchir et Agir), aimed at younger militants disillusioned by the split of FN. Such publications include Le Lansquenet in Aix-en-Provence, Montségur in Nîmes, and Fier de l’être near Paris. All three are philosophically neo-pagan, believing either in Nordic gods or in other local divinities, but L’Epervier, in Châteauroux, follows a Catholic fundamentalist line. Rock Identitaire Français is a growing means of disseminating radical ideas of the far right. Tribune musicale, launched in April 2000, is devoted solely to this medium,. The main distribution and production labels are Bleu Blanc Rock, in Châteauroux (close to UR) and Memorial Records in Paris. The major group on this scene is Fraction, which, according to its own figures, sold some 5000 CDs in the past three years.
Although as a pagan movement, the New Right opposes all monotheist creeds, antisemitism is no longer a cornerstone of the political agenda of its more moderate wing, GRECE (Groupement de Recherche et d’Etude pour la Civilisation Européenne). GRECE is a think-tank headed by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier, which supports an anti-egalitarian, anti-free market economic stand, and believes in the necessity of freeing Europe from the grip of American influence, both strategically and culturally. While in the 1970s GRECE maintained a racialist worldview, in the 1980s it adopted a communitarian policy, recognizing the right of each culture/ethnic group to live in accordance with its own standards and customs. Thus, for example, it acknowledges the right of both Muslims and Jews to have their own state-recognized legal systems (Sha`ria and Halakha, respectively) in their host countries.
The radical wing of the New Right is now represented by the Synergies Européennes network, led by Robert Steuckers (Belgium), which publishes Nouvelles de Synergies européennes. At the summer university of the Synergies network, in August 2000, held in northern Italy, key speakers included former Terza Posizione activist Gabriele Adinolfi and Maurizio Murelli, of the Holocaust denial publication Orion. In 2000, a controversy arose in Lyon about the facilities granted by the University of Lyon III to New Right activists, among them Prof. Jean-Paul Allard, a German studies professor. The network he built around the Institute of Indo-European Studies within this university is very clearly connected to Synergies Européennes. (Economist and Holocaust denier Bernard Notin writes under the alias Fréderic Valentin in Synergies.)
The antisemitism of the Royalists is derived from the writings of Charles Maurras and from the traditional, pre-Vatican II anti-Jewish teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The main royalist groups are the anti-European Union Restauration Nationale (weekly publication, Aspects de la France), the heir of Action Française, chaired by Pierre Pujo, and the Legitimists, who are close to Catholic fundamentalism (see below).
The Catholic fundamentalist movement is a peculiarity of the French far right dating back to the counter-revolutionary school of thought of the 1789 Revolution. The movement is divided between two branches which share a common belief in theological anti-Judaism. Fraternité Saint-Pie X (Fraternity of St. Pius X) is composed of followers of the late Bishop Marcel Lefebvre who refuse to accept the validity of the 1965 Vatican Council II reforms. Numbering in the tens of thousands, they publish numerous periodicals such as the bi-monthly Fideliter (Faithfully) and the quarterly Certitudes (Certainties), and have worldwide headquarters in Ecône (Switzerland). Lay supporters belong to the religious/political movement Renaissance Catholique (Catholic Rebirth) and Mouvement de la Jeunesse Catholique de France (Movement of Catholic French Youth – MJCF). In 2000/1, the request by the various branches of the fraternity worldwide for reintegration into the Roman Catholic Church was being considered positively by the Vatican. However, the fraternity has not repudiated its anti-Jewish stand.
Fundamentalists who remained faithful to the Vatican belong to the Fraternité Saint Pierre (Fraternity of St. Peter), which is associated with the political and pro-FN movement Chrétienté-Solidarité (publication, Reconquête). The semi-secret group ICTUS (Institut culturel et technique d’utilité sociale), successor to the most influential funmovemeof the post-World War II period Cité catholique, is led by Jacques Trémollet de Villers, once the lawyer of Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier. It publishes Civitas.
The conspiracy theory is central to French radical right thought, illustrated in the periodical Lectures françaises (founded in 1958 by Henry Coston, 1910–2001; circulation about 8,000 copies), as well as the works of other veteran antisemites and anti-Freemasons such as Jacques Ploncard d’Assac and of the younger Emmanuel Ratier, publisher of the monthly Faits et Documents. These publications, which are inspired by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, devote considerable space to vilifying B’nai B’rith, in particular, and anything Jewish, in general. Other pseudo-historical publications promoting Jewish conspiracy theories include L’autre histoire and Dualpha. Roger Garaudy’s new publication A contre-nuit, which includes, inter alia, articles by the far-left pro-Palestinian barrister Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, serves as a bridge between extremists on both sides of the political spectrum.
Violence, Vandalism and Abuse
The annual report of the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme (CNCDH) for 2000, released in March 2001, revealed a sharp increase in antisemitic activity. Out of 216 racist actions (including violence, vandalism and threats) recorded in 2000, 146, the largest number in a decade, were antisemitically motivated. Most violent antisemitic incidents took place during the last three months of the year, at the time of the al-Aqsa intifada, when 43 synagogues and 3 Jewish cemeteries were attacked. The peak was reached during the High Holy Days in October, with 61 incidents, one-third of the worldwide total. These included arson and petrol bomb attacks against synagogues and Jewish schools: in Trappes (suburb of Paris) – where the synagogue was razed to the ground, and in Villepinte (near Paris), Clichy, Creil, Les Lilas and Les Ulis (three attacks); the stoning of worshippers outside synagogues in the Pantin and Bondy suburbs of Paris, and in Nice; a rifle attack by a sniper into the Paris Great Synagogue during the Yom Kippur service; and attacks on Jewish property, such as the torching of a Jewish bakery in Strasbourg and the Molotov cocktail attack on a Jewish restaurant in the mixed Arab-Jewish Belleville neighborhood of Paris. According to the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism, in contrast to previous year when most acts were perpetrated by the far right, the autumn 2000 wave was the work of unorganized and non-affiliated youth of Arab/Muslim origin, mainly in the suburbs of major cities with large Muslim populations. Similarly, these elements were also found to be responsible for the large number of cases of verbal abuse.
Numerous virulently anti-Israel demonstrations took place in France during this period. The anti-racist group MRAP (see below) was the co-organizer of one such demonstration in October (together with the Green Party) at which shouts of “Death to the Jews” were shouted by Muslim extremists who had joined it.
Since late September numerous cases of biased coverage of the Palestinian intifada, including anti-Jewish slurs, were recorded in the French media. The Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (equivalent to the US Federal Communications Commission) received complaints about the bilingual FM station Radio Orient, owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, because of the transmission of a sermon in Arabic from a Gaza mosque, urging worshippers to kill Jews; about the state-owned France-Info, because of a blatantly anti-Jewish on-the-spot report from Israel; and about the state-owned TV channel France 3, for broadcasting an interview with Raymonda Tawil, Arafat’s mother-in-law, who said that “the Jews should return to their ghettos.”
The appearance of the book La campagne de France, by Renaud Camus, a novelist with no known political affiliation, stirred up controversy among French intellectuals because it allegedly contains antisemitic passages. Camus complained that Jews were over-represented in the media and that there was too much emphasis on Jewish culture there. The publisher withdrew the book when the minister of culture supported Camus’ opponents, a move which was condemned by philosophers and public figures, including Jews. Camus claims that the past humiliations of a people should not protect them from criticism today.
Besides the far right publications mentioned above, others which disseminate antisemitism and which are sold at news stands, include:
- Présent: published since 1982 and edited by Jean Madiran, a wartime supporter of the Vichy regime; now faces closure due to a loss of readership following its refusal to back a particular faction in the FN feud.
- Rivarol: published since 1951, with a circulation of about 2,000; edited by Camille Galic; remains uncommitted to either FN or MNR. Although taking care not to infringe the anti-racism laws, this weekly expresses racist and anti-Jewish prejudices as well as Holocaust denial beliefs.
- National-Hebdo: weekly organ of FN, with which it shares offices; directed by party official Jean-Claude Varanne and edited by Yves Daoudal, a Catholic fundamentalist; has a dwindling circulation.
- Minute-La France: weekly founded in 1962; maintains a position half-way between the FN/MNR and the anti-Gaullist right, favoring an agreement between them and the mainstream right; taken over by Catherine Barnay, former executive of Ordre Nouveau and the Parti des Forces Nouvelles, after its bankruptcy in 1999; circulation has reached an all-time low (no verified figures available).
- Monde et Vie: Catholic fundamentalist monthly supporting St. Pius X Fraternity and FN; edited by Claude Giraud; promotes the conspiracy theory.
- Le Libre Journal: Catholic fundamentalist newspaper available only on the web; edited by Serge de Beketch, former spokesman for city of Toulon;. pro-MNR but promotes reunification of former FN.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
The French government declared 16 July Holocaust Commemoration Day in memory of the 13,000 French Jews forced to assemble on this day in 1942 in the Véladrome d’Hiver stadium and sent to Nazi concentration camps.
In September the French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld received the country’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, for his 50-year campaign to bring Nazi criminals to justice.
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced, on the eve of his visit to Israel in February 2000, that the French high school curriculum would now include a program on French complicity in the Holocaust, including the roundup in the Véladrome d’Hiver stadium. A textbook written by the Swedish researchers Stéphane Bruchfield and Paul Levine, with a section on police complicity by Serge Klarsfeld, has been translated.
FN leader Le Pen objects to including the Holocaust in the curriculum. He claims anti-Nazism is becoming an international obsession liable to depress national aspirations.
Appeals for a presidential pardon and for the release of former junior Vichy official Maurice Papon were rejected by the French Higher Court of Justice in 2000. The trial, in absentia, of the Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner opened in Paris in March 2001.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
The FN split resulted in diminished activity by the main anti-fascist organizations. The left-wing Ras L’Front network remains the main anti-fascist force, publishing a monthly newspaper by the same name. LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme), under Patrick Gaubert, now focuses mainly on combating hate on the Internet and has set up branches abroad. MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples), close to the Communist Party, is led by Mouloud Aounit. The Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, dating from the Dreyfus affair and headed by lawyer Michel Tubiana, took a stand in favor of Papon’s release from jail (see above). SOS-Racisme, chaired by Malek Boutih, works against all forms of racial discrimination and extremism. The CentrEuropéen de Recherchet d’Action sur le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (CERA), created in 1992 by the European Jewish Congress and now independently run, publishes a yearly report on right-wing and left-wing extremism in Europe.
Much human rights activity in 2000 was focused on combating hate on the Internet. The court action of Union des Etudiants Juifs de France (UEJF) against Yahoo! received considerable media coverage. UEJF accused Yahoo! of auctioning Nazi memorabilia on the Internet, when sales of such items are illegal in France. The court warned Yahoo! in May that if it persisted in the sales, it would face a fine of 100,000 francs a day.
A Paris court convicted Radio Islam Internet site director Ahmed Rami of antisemitism and fined him 300,000 francs, in absentia, in October, for incitement to racial hatred. The Swiss Holocaust denier Jürgen Graf, was fined 50,000 francs, also in absentia, for sending his book The Holocaust on the Witness Stand to several French parliamentarians in an attempt to have the Gayssot law forbidding Holocaust denial repealed.