Marine Le Pen, who is running on Sunday against President Emmanuel Macron in the second round of France’s presidential election, has always had to defend herself against accusations of antisemitism, growing as she has done in the National Front (now changed to the National Rally). In August 2015, she expelled her father from the party he had co-founded after he had made new controversial statements (he said the gas chambers were merely a detail of history – DI). On the European level, she ended her father’s alliance with the radical Jobbik party and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
But she has held on to her anti-immigration policies, which included her promised ban on animal slaughter without stunning. She presents this as an animal welfare issue, arguing – as do Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway – that stunning the animal is more humane. But stunning renders the animal as “traif” for both Jews and Muslims, who believe that stunning the animals inflicts unnecessary suffering and that kosher or halal slaughtering is more humane.
Le Pen does not oppose cruel practices such as bullfights or hunting, both of which are very common in rural areas where most of her voters live. Therefore, her focus on kosher and halal slaughter is perceived as hypocrisy in the eyes of Jews and Muslims, who see it as an attack against them under the guise of protecting animals.
The animal-stunning policy is one of several wedge issues that illustrate what France might look like under President Le Pen: the country will focus more on domestic affairs, further restrict the entry of immigrants, curtail the rights of foreigners already in the country, show less tolerance for non-Christian religions, and be less committed to the EU and the rest of the world.
Le Pen says that instead of kosher-slaughtering animals in France, kosher meat can be imported. “I really don’t intend to get rid of all the halal and kosher butcher stores,” she said last week.
But she may find it difficult to consolidate the encouragement of massive imports of meat (only about half a million Jews are living in France, but at last count, there are close to five million Muslims), with Le Pen’s slogan of “France first,” which means that France should produce more products on its own and import less.
Jordan Bradella, the acting president of the National Rally, said in March that Le Pen would ban all kosher and halal meat, both from domestic production and imports. Jewish leaders issued a response at the time, calling the statement “abominable” and suggesting this would force many Jews and Muslims to leave France.
Which is the whole idea, of course.
Since France exports kosher meat, a ban on its production in France will have a devastating impact on Jewish communities elsewhere, most notably in neighboring Switzerland.
In reality, however, Marine Le Pen could not care less about kosher meat, foreign or domestic. Her target is the Muslims, who are despised by many of her voters. She put it most memorably in a speech she delivered in Lyon in 2010, when she compared the use of public streets and squares in French cities (especially Paris) for Muslim prayers to the Nazi occupation of France.
She said: “For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets) because that is an occupation of territory … It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply … There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents.”
The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM), and the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) condemned her statement. But today, on the second round of the French election, the country may discover that––as was the case with Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory––many voters have moved over to her side.