An organization representing French Israelis on Friday criticized far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen for saying she would seek to bar French citizens from holding a dual citizenship with non-European countries such as Israel.
Ariel Kandel, director of Qualita — an umbrella organization representing French immigrants to Israel — said “These propositions are unacceptable to the Jews of France.
“They mark an additional stage in Marine Le Pen’s wish to destroy the identity of French Jews which rest both on their Judaism and on their ties to Israel,” he said.
“The prospect that Jews will no longer be able to enjoy their Jewish and Zionist identity is quite troubling,” Kandel said.
Le Pen, head of the Front National party and a leading candidate in the upcoming French presidential elections this spring, told France 2 TV Thursday that “Israel is not a European country and doesn’t consider itself as such” when asked if her ban on dual nationality would be extended to Jewish citizens of France.
“I’m asking the Israelis to choose their nationality. It doesn’t mean that if they don’t choose French nationality, they have to leave. France can certainly accommodate foreign people on its soil long-term, those with foreign citizenship,” she said.
A spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a spokesperson of the Jewish Agency refused to comment on Le Pen’s comments, AFP reported.
Le Pen has routinely advocated a tough-on-immigration approach, charging that current immigration rules were “too generous.”
It is estimated that thousands of French Jews hold Israeli citizenship as immigration to Israel from France has seen a sharp increase in recent years amid rising anti-Semitism and a string of deadly terror attacks by radical Islamic groups, including the Islamic State.
Throughout the early 2000s, Israel welcomed approximately 2,000 French Jews a year, but during and after 2013, immigration from the country — which has approximately 500,000 Jews — jumped to some 3,000. The following year, over 5,000 came, followed by nearly 8,000 in 2015 and another 5,000 last year.
Le Pen has over the years worked hard to rid the Front National of its more extremist, anti-Semitic fringe since taking over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has repeatedly referred to the Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of history.
But the Jewish community in France is still very wary of Le Pen despite its traditionally hawkish leanings.
She has expressed a desire to promote legislation that would ban religious clothing in public. Her initiative is aimed mainly against the Islamic burqa and the Niqab, but would also ban Jews from wearing a kippa in public.
“Because I think everyone in France should receive the same treatment, I also support the ban on wearing a kippa in the public sphere,” said Le Pen last week in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2.
“Honestly, the dangerous situation in which Jews in France live is such that those who walk with a kippa are in any case a minority, because they are afraid. But I mainly think the struggle against radical Islam should be a joint struggle and everyone should say, ‘there, we are sacrificing something.’ Maybe they will do with just wearing a hat [instead], but it would be a step in the effort to stamp out radical Islam in France,” she said.
As part of her commitment to secularism, Le Pen is also opposed to ritual kosher and halal slaughter.