The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish synagogue organization, today expressed shock at the results of the French elections in which extremist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen garnered more than 17% of the vote. A run-off election between President Jacque Chirac and Le Pen will be held on May 5th.
As Jews in France have been undergoing outrageous attacks, the intensity of which has been likened to events in Europe in the 1930s, it is clear that hatred and anti-Semitism are once again brewing in France. After a recent spate of attacks on French Jewish institutions, synagogues, and schools, Jews have not been granted adequate protection, and French leaders have asserted that the security of Jewish institutions cannot be assured. The failure to exercise decisive action against physical assaults on Jews cannot be tolerated, nor can the acceptance that the French electorate has demonstrated for the abhorrent views of Jean-Marie Le Pen. The French people should question whether they have learned the lessons of 60 years ago, when anti-Semitism in Europe went unchecked and spiraled out of control, resulting in one of the worst atrocities in history. The legitimacy that is granted to someone who holds Le Pen’s record of anti-Semitic expressions, including attempts to deny the Holocaust, incitement to racial hatred, and vocal xenophobic views, must be met with strong opposition.
We call on the people of France to examine their consciences and their past, and to understand that hatred and bigotry cannot be legitimated and their adherents cannot be accepted as leaders. We call upon the leaders of France to make sure that the Jewish community is protected from assault and that all efforts are made to calm the situation. The eyes of the world are now on the government and society of France. It is up to the people of France to prove that they indeed understand the grave implications of these election results and have learned the lessons of history.