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June 10, 2014

Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Antisemitic Comments Part of a Dangerous Trend

By Maddy Tennis

On Sunday Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France’s far right National Front, made antisemitic remarks in a video posted on the party’s website. Le Pen lashed out at several of his critics, particularly singer Patrick Bruel, who is Jewish, saying, “We’ll do an oven load next time.” These comments, which allude to the Nazi crematories in concentration camps, reverberated throughout Europe, where the National Front and other far-right parties made significant gains in European Parliament elections last month.

Le Pen’s naked antisemitism undermines the efforts of Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter and current leader of the National Front, to put moderate makeup on the extremist party. She publicly condemned the comments as a “political error” that would have consequences for the National Front. Yet in dismissing these comments solely for their political implications, she failed to condemn the odious views held by many supporters of the National Front.

This is particularly troublesome as the National Front recently received nearly 25% of the vote in France’s European Parliament elections. This shift toward far-right extremist parties is also evident in the European Parliament election results across the continent, particularly in Hungary and Greece, where the violent, antisemitic Golden Dawn party is facing a criminal investigation. Many far-right parties have picked up seats in the parliament since previous elections in 2009.

Le Pen’s antisemitic outburst is just part of this larger trend, one that threatens to erode human rights norms from inside the E.U. itself. Later this month, parties in the European Parliament will have the opportunity to form coalitions; this will be an important indication of how or whether these far-right groups will align, potentially paving the way for further instability and human rights abuses in Europe.