THE HAGUE, Netherlands — One of Europe’s top rabbis on Monday welcomed pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French presidential election, saying voters sent a “very powerful” message to the country’s far-right.
Macron’s sound defeat of far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the run-off vote is “very good news for France,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the influential Conference of European Rabbis.
“The fact that two-thirds of French voters didn’t want a far-right government is a very powerful statement,” Goldschmidt told AFP.
Many of the votes cast were not for Macron, rather “it was a protest vote against Marine Le Pen,” he said.
Goldschmidt however said Jewish communities — including in France — were increasingly worried about right-wing, anti-Semitic sentiment creeping into mainstream politics.
Despite Le Pen’s efforts to purge her National Front (FN) party of the anti-Semitism which became its trademark under the leadership of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party continues to court controversy over the issue.
Last month, interim party leader Jean-Francois Jalkh was forced to step down after he was accused of praising a Holocaust denier. Jalkh strenuously denied making the remarks.
Le Pen herself drew criticism for saying that today’s France bore no responsibility for the roundup and deportation of French Jews during World War II.
“If the French police and Vichy officials who collaborated (with the Nazis) did not load up people and send them to Germany, then, who did?” said Goldschmidt.
Today, French Jews make up the largest community outside of the United States and Israel, yet have been leaving France at a steady pace since around 2005.
Elsewhere on the continent, Jewish communities are alarmed about proposals in Norway to ban ritual circumcision for boys under the age of 16, as well as a vote to ban ritual slaughter in the French-speaking part of Belgium, Goldschmidt said.
He was speaking ahead of a three-day biennial convention in Amsterdam that will bring together more than 70 chief rabbis to discuss issues including rising anti-Semitism and how to protect Europe’s Jewish communities.
“Targeted attacks against members of the Jewish community in recent years… demonstrate that anti-Semitism is not a curse of the past, but is a threat and a reality in Europe,” the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly said last year.