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France’s National Front and Iranian regime: United on anti-Semitism

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On May 7, France is holding the second round of its presidential elections featuring the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) and liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron. While the FN’s surge in France and the rise of the European far-right have serious geopolitical consequences that rightfully alarm many around the world, the Iranian rulers are one of the few that would welcome the news.

Not only would the weakening of the European Union and the dwindling of US and European ties, preached by FN, will benefit Tehran and facilitates its mission of exploiting rifts between Europe and US over their policies on Iran, but more importantly, there are practical ties and ideological bonds between Tehran and European far-right that should ring the alarms.   

{mosads}Tehran has maintained longstanding ties with FN, collaborated with the French extreme right and supported anti-Semitic groups in Europe, but never before have any of these groups had such a popular appeal and been so close to gaining power.

 

United in their anti-Semitic beliefs amongst others, a rising European far-right and a hegemonic Iran in the Middle East, could enhance their collaboration and escalate the promotion of dark ideas that Europe has fought to eradicate since World War Two.

FN was founded by Marine’s father Jean Mari Le Pen in 1972 and had its first electoral win in the municipal elections in the 1980s. Marine took over the FN leadership from her father in 2011 and has managed to consolidate the party’s position in French politics.

FN opposes French membership in the EU and the Schengen Area, is hostile to a Europe-US alliance and favors stronger ties with Russia. FN has been promoting anti-immigration policies and fueled racist, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments in France. As the leader of the party, Jean Marie Le Pen brought racism and xenophobia to French mainstream politics.

An admirer of the Vichy government in France which collaborated with Nazi Germany, Jean Marie Le Pen has been fined by the court several times for describing the Holocaust, as a “detail of history.” In 2012, he was convicted of contesting crimes against humanity for saying the Nazi occupation was “not particularly inhumane”. He has also been denounced for torturing Algerian resistance members while he was a French colonel serving in Algeria in the 1950s.

For her part, Marine Le Pen has suggested that France was not responsible for the wartime round-up of Jews who were sent to Nazi death camps. Her stance is at odds with former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Francois Hollande, who have both apologized for the role played by the French police in the rounding up of 13,000 Jews at the Vel d’Hiv cycling track in Paris, on the orders of the Nazis in July 1942.

Since 2011, Marine has attempted to present a softer image of FN, but even her designated successor Jean-François Jalkh had expressed “skepticism over the feasibility of using Zyklon B gas to carry out mass exterminations in Nazi gas chambers.” As Emma-Kate Symons reported recently about FN, “an election-eve wave of investigative journalism and research has painted a picture of an organization that, at its highest levels, is awash with Hitler admirers and Holocaust-denying far-right nationalists, including within Marine Le Pen’s inner circle. Former National Front senior figure Aymeric Chauprade said that Marine Le Pen’s closest aides embrace a “visceral anti-Semitism.”

The National Front and Iran

In addition to its anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli views, or perhaps because of them, FN has been a solid supporter of the Iranian regime and its policies. Jean Marie Le Pen regularly visited the Iranian embassy in Paris and participated in the embassy’s events celebrating the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran. And Marine Le Pen has not tried to hide her support for the clerical regime in Tehran either. On January 22, 2014, during a press conference she expressed her support for a France-Iran alliance. According to Peter Martino in Gatestone Institute: “Le Pen advocated that France should sever its links with Saudi Arabia, ‘America’s best ally’ and a ‘dangerous country ruled by extremist clans, who, since the origin of Wahhabism, have but one goal: to dominate global Islam and turn it into jihad against all other civilizations.’” To counter the Saudis, Le Pen said, France should support Iran and stop the boycott of Iran. “

As a member of the European Parliament, Le Pen has opposed resolutions condemning human rights violation in Iran and tried hard to prevent EU sanctions against Tehran. Le Pen is also an ardent defender of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. During her visit to Lebanon in February 2017, she gave an interview to “L’Orient Le Jour” praising Assad and defended Russian intervention in support of his regime.

Iran and the European anti-Semites

The rise of the FN boosts the smaller and more extreme right wing and anti-Semitic groups in France and across Europe including neo-Nazis organizations. This will in turn help Iran to extend its web of influence as it has maintained close ties with French extreme right and anti-Semitic groups and continues to support and collaborate with them.

In fact, The Iranian regime’s anti-American postures, its crusade against Israel, its firm determination to eradicate the Jewish state and its institutionalized antisemitism are appealing to these groups. The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has openly and repeatedly denied the Holocaust and uses his tweeter account to disseminate ant-Jewish hatred. In January 2016, as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day , he published a video titled “Are the Dark Ages Over,” on his official website that included one of his speeches from two years ago in which he questions the reality of the holocaust.

Iran regularly organizes public conferences in Tehran to deny the Holocaust and provides a platform for anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and white supremacists from Europe and around the world. In May 2016, Iran held another Holocaust cartoon festival inviting the usual despicable cast of characters from Europe and around the world with the Supreme Leader sending a message to the organizers of the event thanking and congratulating them.

In fact, Iran has institutionalized ant-Semitism and turned Tehran into the world capital for promoting anti-Jewish hatred.

The FN’s surge and rise of the far right in Europe is deeply alarming. While it seems to benefit the clerical regime in Tehran, it also clearly undermines US national interests. It is therefore very hard to find any rationale for American politicians to provide any kind of legitimacy or political support to these groups.

Hassan Dai is a human rights activist, political analyst and editor of the Iranian American Forum.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill. 

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