KRAKOW, Poland (JTA) — At a Holocaust commemoration event, a French official said that the rhetoric of Eric Zemmour, the Jewish right-wing pundit and potential presidential candidate, is adding to France’s antisemitism problem.
“A potential candidate, polemist Eric Zemmour, makes multiple shocking statements about Petain and Dreyfus, strengthening existing clichés about powerful Jews and their double allegiance,” said Marion Lenne, a lawmaker for the centrist La République En Marche! party, at a conference on antisemitism at the Auschwitz memorial and museum on the eve of the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938.
Lenne — who is also secretary for the foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament — was referencing Zemmour’s statements about the infamous Albert Dreyfus affair and Philippe Pétain, the head of Vichy France, which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II.
Zemmour, who has not announced a political run but is still polling among President Emmanuel Macron’s most serious challengers in spring elections, said earlier this year that Dreyfus, the French-Jewish army captain of German descent whose prosecution on specious espionage claims was widely condemned as antisemitic, may have been targeted “for being German, not for being Jewish.”
He also agrees with a controversial historical theory that claims the Vichy government sacrificed foreign Jews to save local ones. Accepted by some historians, it is hotly contested by others, who say the Vichy government also betrayed Jews with French citizenship.
Last month, French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia publicly called Zemmour an antisemite, drawing criticism, including in an editorial by the French Jewish newspaper Tribune Juive.
Last week, Zemmour responded to these allegations in an interview for i24 News, an Israeli news channel.
“The chief rabbi said I was an antisemite and not really a Jew. Non- Jews who hear this have a reaction ranging from disbelief to mockery. It’s grotesque,” Zemmour said. Korsia, Zemmour said, “wants to give my scalp to Macron.”
Zemmour, a son of Algerian Jewish immigrant parents who is known for his staunch nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, has split French Jews on policy issues.
Lenne made her statement Monday at Auschwitz 2021, a conference in Krakow that was devoted to the fight against antisemitism and attended by dozens of European Union officials.
“Europe is fighting antisemitism, but isn’t winning yet,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the EJA, said at the conference that his group co-organized along with the Action and Protection League watchdog group.