The Jewish "useful idiot" endorsed by Jean-Marie Le Pen appeals to Les Deplorables

October 31, 2021

Above: Eric Zemmour, a controversial far right TV pundit and former journalist for Le Figaro, is now running second in opinion polls behind incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the run up to France's 2022 elections. Zemmour has said France doesn't want to become an Islamic Republic or "a second Lebanon," meaning a country fragmented between sectarian communities that hate and fear one another. A French journalist friend of mine said he was like "Donald Trump with a touch of Tucker Carlson."

 

Above: Eric Zemmour, 63, and Sarah Knafo, 28. Suggestions of an affair between the would-be president and his aide led to the dismissal earlier this month of the editor of 'Paris Match', which published pictures of them embracing on a Mediterranean beach. (Zemmour accused the magazine of taking orders from President Macron to damage him and the magazine's editor was sacked.)

Knafo, who like Zemmour is a Sephardic Jew, is said to be influencing Zemmour's as yet to be announced campaign for the presidency, urging him to run. (Some have also questioned their age difference. Others say it is irrelevant and point out that President Macron's wife is 25 years older than him.) Zemmour remains married to Mylene Chichportich, a prominent Paris lawyer, who has not been visible so far in his virtual campaign. The couple have three adult children.

 

Above: Seven-year-old Miriam MonsonEgo, one of several Jewish children murdered in a French Islamist attack on a French Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. Zemmour said the Jewish victims of this attack were "not properly French". Miriam was pulled by the hair and then shot through the head in Toulouse because she was Jewish (I wrote about that attack here.)

 

THE FRENCH-JEWISH "USEFUL IDIOT" ENDORSED BY JEAN-MARIE LE PEN

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach several articles published in recent weeks (including one from today's London Sunday Times) about Eric Zemmour, the rabble-rousing far right French journalist who is fast rising in the polls and is expected to make a serious challenge for the French presidency next year.

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, a French journalist and commentator who has appeared on TV debates with Zemmour, told me yesterday that she thought he has a 25 percent chance of defeating Emmanuel Macron in a run-off second round and becoming French president.

Another well-known French journalist friend of mine, who has also known Zemmour for many years, tells me he gives him a one third chance of winning.

A book published by Zemmour on September 16 titled "La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot" (France Has Not Yet Said Her Last Word) sold 100,000 copies in its first week.

 

"DONALD TRUMP -- WITH A TOUCH OF TUCKER CARLSON"

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet describes Zemmour as "Donald Trump with a touch of Tucker Carlson."

A longtime journalist for leading newspaper Le Figaro, Zemmour came to national prominence when he was given his own daily debating show two years ago by Cnews, a French TV cable station which has re-invented itself as the French Fox News. "CNEWS's ratings shot up, overtaking its CNN-like rival BFMTV," Moutet says.

"Le Z," as many call him, has several wealthy backers including French financier Charles Gave who was previously based in Hong Kong. Zemmour is believed likely to declare he is officially running and to launch a political party on November 9, the anniversary of the death of Charles de Gaulle in 1970.

The party may be called Vox populi (voice of the people) similar in name to the rightwing Spanish political party.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the elderly founder of the neo-fascist National Front (FN) has said he will vote for Zemmour over his own daughter Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally (RN), from whom he is estranged.

The elder Le Pen, 93, said of Zemmour: "He says what I think, but to a larger audience ... The only difference between Eric and me is that he is Jewish. It is difficult to call him a Nazi or a fascist. This gives him more freedom."

 

A JEWISH "USEFUL IDIOT"

Francis Kalifat -- president of Crif, the umbrella organization representing French Jews -- called Zemmour "the useful idiot of French antisemites" and added that "not a single Jewish vote" should be cast for him.

Serge Klarsfeld, 86, the historian who helped bring countless Nazis to justice, has said Zemmour's ideas "revolt" him.

Among Zemmour's highly provocative remarks:

Last year, Zemmour questioned whether Alfred Dreyfus -- the French-Jewish army captain falsely convicted as a traitor and tortured in 1894 during a wave of violent antisemitism in France -- was innocent.

Zemmour, who is a Jew of Algerian origin, sometimes attends synagogue and largely keeps kosher though he says he doesn't believe in God, also outraged French Jews by claiming last month that the Jewish victims of the massacre by an Islamist gunman at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 -- Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons, six-year-old Arieh and three-year-old Gabriel, and another little girl, seven-year-old Miriam MonsonEgo -- were "not properly French".

Earlier this month Zemmour attacked the philosopher Bernard-Henri LEvy, one of the country's most prominent Jewish intellectuals as a "cosmopolitan" and a "traitor par excellence" -- remarks denounced by former French prime minister Manuel Valls and others as reminiscent of pre-World War II French anti-Semitism.

Zemmour has expressed nostalgia for some aspects of the Vichy collaborationist regime set up after the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, that sent 72,500 Jews to their deaths.

 

SOME JEWISH SUPPORT

Yet Zemmour has won support among some French Jews who see him as their best hope in stemming the wave of violent antisemitic attacks (including many murders) by Muslims that continue to be targeted at largely working-class or lower-middle class Sephardic French Jews. French conservative commentator Elizabeth Levy said Zemmour "represented the last chance before exile for many North African Jews in France who regularly suffer antisemitic attacks by Muslims". Already thousands of French Jews have left the country in recent years.

Describing himself as "a French Jew of Berber origin", Zemmour has contrasted his own community's success in integrating into French life with the reluctance of many Muslim immigrants to follow suit. Zemmour himself was born in Montreuil in eastern Paris in what was then a working-class suburb.

He is said to believe in the so-called "Great Replacement" theory, writing there are areas in Paris where "one feels best, physically, the disappearance of the French population ? an Arab-Muslim people has replaced the former inhabitants."

 

INSISTING ON "FRENCH" NAMES

Yves Mamou, who worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde, writes in the article below:

"Zemmour is the man who broke through the glass ceiling to insert into the media discussion topics such as "immigration" and "jihad" -- which no one had ever dared to talk about publicly. He is a man who embodies the fear of seeing traditional France -- the one of church steeples and the 'baguette' -- disappear under the blows of jihad and political correctness" ?

Zemmour appears to be shocking because he states that France ceased to be France the day it allowed parents from foreign origin to give African or Muslim first names to their children (Mohammed is the most prevalent name in the Parisian suburbs). Zemmour says he would like to restore a law from the 19th century that obligated all French citizens "to give French first names" to their children?

He is also uncompromising on societal issues: against assisted reproduction ("I want children to have a father and a mother"), transgender propaganda in schools, same-sex marriage, and LGBT militancy at school. Zemmour is not anti-homosexual, he is just saying that "LGBT lobbies" and "minorities" are at war with France just as Islamists are at war with all Western countries?.

Zemmour is popular not because he makes provocative remarks about immigration or LGBT rights. He is popular because he brings to the media concerns that were previously expressed only in the family or among friends. Zemmour's popularity is growing in the polls today because he is now exporting the debate from the media sphere to the political sphere

***

I attach six pieces below, including some by friends of mine and subscribers to this list including Ben Cohen and Anne-Elisabeth Moutet.

-- Tom Gross


CONTENTS

1. 'Traitor!': French Pundit Tipped as Far-Right Presidential Candidate in Visceral Attack Against Leading Jewish Intellectual (By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner, Oct 15, 2021)
2. Is Eric Zemmour the new Bruno Kreisky? (By Ben Cohen, JNS, Oct 15, 2021)
3. Eric Zemmour, the rabble-rouser dividing France's Jewish population (By Peter Conradi, London Sunday Times, Oct 31, 2021)
4. Young aide Sarah Knafo 'has would-be French president Eric Zemmour in her grip' (By Charles Bremner, The Times of London, Oct 30, 2021)
5. Is Eric Zemmour the French Trump? The populist provocateur speaks to Les DEplorables (By Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, Unherd, Oct 5, 2021)
6. France: Can Eric Zemmour Be the Next President? The Journalist Who Is Reshuffling the Cards in French Politics (By Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Oct 25, 2021)

 

ARTICLES

'TRAITOR!': FRENCH PUNDIT TIPPED AS FAR-RIGHT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN VISCERAL ATTACK AGAINST LEADING JEWISH INTELLECTUAL

'Traitor!': French Pundit Tipped as Far-Right Presidential Candidate in Visceral Attack Against Leading Jewish Intellectual
By Ben Cohen
The Algemeiner
October 15, 2021

The television pundit widely tipped to be the far right's candidate in next year's presidential election in France on Thursday attacked one of the country's most prominent Jewish intellectuals as a "traitor."

Eric Zemmour, a 63-year-old outspoken commentator and TV presenter, has yet to declare his candidacy, but the possibility of a presidential run has electrified France in recent weeks.

A household name for his hardline anti-immigrant and anti-feminist views, laced with nostalgia for the Vichy collaborationist regime set up after the German invasion of France in 1940, Zemmour has attracted plenty of trenchant criticism, including an article in this week's edition of the magazine Le Point by the philosopher Bernard-Henri LEvy -- the target of Zemmour's ire on Thursday.

In his article, LEvy highlighted Zemmour's Jewish origins, charging him with the "renunciation of Jewish generosity, vulnerability, humanism, and sense of otherness."

Zemmour was born in a Paris suburb to a Jewish family from Algeria that arrived in France during the 1954-62 Algerian War. His father Roger was a paramedic, while his mother Lucette was a home-maker.

Zemmour's positions were "an insult to the Jewish name that all Jews carry within them, unless and until they explicitly throw it overboard," LEvy argued.

Asked for his response to LEvy during a Thursday morning interview on the CNEWS network, Zemmour called the philosopher a "cosmopolitan" and a "traitor par excellence" -- provoking outrage among those who accused him of dredging up the language of pre-World War II antisemitism in France.

Manuel Valls, a former prime minister of France, tweeted that "according to Zemmour on CNEWS, BHL (LEvy) is a 'traitor' and a 'cosmopolitan' -- a fine example of the rhetoric of the far right, as has always been the case."

LEvy told The Algemeiner on Thursday that Zemmour's verbal assault had exposed his anti-democratic instincts.

"Honestly, I have more questions than replies," LEvy said. "What is a 'traitor par excellence?' What might a candidate for the presidency mean when he describes one of his fellow citizens as a 'traitor par excellence?' And if he were to be elected, how would he treat someone he considers as a 'traitor par excellence'?"

LEvy added: "A democrat is someone who debates, who expresses disagreement, but who does not exclude his adversary from the nation by calling him a 'traitor par excellence.'"

Over the last decade, Zemmour has written several bestsellers bemoaning the immigration of Muslims from the Middle East and Africa to France, pushing the far right's "great replacement" conspiracy theory that immigrants of color are displacing native white people in Europe and the US.

On Jewish issues, Zemmour has frequently been at odds with the Jewish community. He has claimed with scant evidence that the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe PEtain acted to save French-born Jews from the clutches of the Nazis by prioritizing Jews holding foreign citizenship for deportation. While foreign Jews were the initial targets of the antisemitic campaign, by 1942, most historians agree, the entire Jewish population in France was in the frame. During the infamous Vel D'Hiv round-up in Paris in 1942, 80 percent of the 4,000 Jewish children deported to the Nazi-built Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland were French-born.

Last year, Zemmour questioned whether Alfred Dreyfus -- the French-Jewish army captain falsely convicted of espionage in 1894 during a wave of violent antisemitism in France -- was truly innocent, opining that "we will never know." He also outraged French Jews by claiming in September of this year that the burial in Israel of the victims of the massacre by an Islamist gunman at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 proved that they were not properly French.

The victims -- Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons, six-year-old Arieh and three-year-old Gabriel, and another little girl, eight-year-old Miriam MonsonEgo -- were buried in Israel because "they were foreigners above all and wanted to stay that way even beyond death," Zemmour said.

This week, Zemmour was also in open conflict with the head of the French Jewish community, accusing him of feeding antisemitic conspiracy theories about a Jewish takeover of France.

In response, Francis Kalifat -- president of Crif, the umbrella organization representing French Jews -- called Zemmour "the useful idiot of the last remaining antisemites in France."

Speculation over whether Zemmour will run for president in April 2022 has reached new heights in the wake of a poll of French voters last week that showed him in second place.

A Zemmour run would put him in direct competition with Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally (RN) -- a successor party to the neo-fascist National Front (FN) founded by her now estranged father, Jean-Marie Le Pen -- who was roundly defeated by current incumbent Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2017 presidential election.

On Thursday, Marine Le Pen told the newspaper Le Figaro, "I can and will win this presidential election." Asked about a Zemmour candidacy, she responded that "he would make a good prime minister, but it seems obvious to me that he wouldn't want to be."

 

IS ERIC ZEMMOUR THE NEW BRUNO KREISKY?

Is Eric Zemmour the new Bruno Kreisky?

When it comes to anti-Semitic barbs and dog whistles, the overlaps between the two men who denounced their Jewish identity are again all too apparent.

By Ben Cohen
October 15, 2021
JNS

Could a politician who positively identifies as Jewish and expresses pro-Israel sympathies ever be elected as head of state in a European country?

The question is still a hypothetical one. In spite of the large number of proudly Jewish politicians elected to legislatures in Europe in the post-World War II period, along with those who have served as cabinet ministers and prominent judges, none of them seriously entertained the possibility of winning the post of president or prime minister in an election.

But that's not been the case with Jewish politicians whose families left Judaism for another religion -- like Laurent Fabius, a French prime minister in the 1980s who was raised as a Catholic -- or, far more disturbingly, those Jews who denounced Jewish identity and the State of Israel as they ascended the ladder of power.

An obvious example of the latter was the late, longest-serving Chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kreisky, who was in office between 1970 and 1983. A scourge of Jewish organizations and the Israeli government at the time for his anti-Semitic utterances and his ostentatious friendship with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Kreisky, who died in 1990, isn't spoken of much these days. Nonetheless, he remains the model of a European politician who comes from a Jewish family and yet scorns his community, its history and its aspirations to ingratiate himself with the voters at large.

Kreisky's legacy is relevant once again because of developments in France, where a TV pundit named Eric Zemmour, who also comes from a Jewish family, is being widely tipped as the far-right's candidate in the French presidential election in April 2022. True, Kreisky was a proud Socialist, whereas Zemmour, a household name in France for his strident anti-immigrant stance, is an outspoken representative of the ultra-nationalist right; in other important respects, however, the political similarities between the two are uncanny.

Take the attitudes of both to the Holocaust -- a defining event in Europe's history that remains the subject of emotive, politically charged disputes even today. Kreisky himself lived through this period, spending most of the war in Sweden, where he escaped following the incorporation of Austria into the Nazi Third Reich in 1934. Yet for reasons that have puzzled psychologists and historians alike, the Holocaust appeared to make Kreisky even more hostile to his fellow Jews.

In 1970, he formed a coalition government with the right-wing Freedom Party, whose leader, Friedrich Peter, had served as a senior officer in an SS unit responsible for the mass shootings of Jews, Roma and others under Nazi occupation. An additional four cabinet members also had Nazi backgrounds. When the Nazi provenance of Kreisky's government was exposed by Simon Wiesenthal, the famed investigator who actively pursued Nazi war criminals, Kreisky responded viciously. He falsely accused Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor, of having been a Gestapo agent and charged him with stirring up anti-Semitism in Austria. At one point in the row, Kreisky clarified that he was "no longer a Jew" -- a clue, perhaps, as to why the constant talk of his Nazi colleagues left him so enraged.

If Kreisky was willing to burnish the reputations of still-living Nazis, Eric Zemmour has done the same with dead ones -- specifically, the collaborators of the Vichy regime who ruled France following the Nazi invasion in 1940. In his several bestsellers published in France, Zemmour has depicted the Vichy authorities as doing their utmost to save French-born Jews while sacrificing the foreign-born to the Germans. This assertion fits neatly with Zemmour's nationalist revisionism, but it's patently false, as the bald facts show. For example, of the 4,000 children among the more than 13,000 Jews deported to Auschwitz during the notorious Vel d'Hiv roundup of July 1942, 80 percent were born in France. Moreover, the anti-Jewish laws and regulations introduced by the Vichy regime from late 1940 onwards applied to all Jews, not just the foreign-born, who at their peak composed no more than 13 percent of France's pre-war Jewish population of 340,000.

Not content with distorting the Holocaust in France, Zemmour has also assailed the reputation of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, the French army officer falsely convicted of espionage in 1894, amid a wave of anti-Semitism that convinced Theodor Herzl, among others, of the need for a sovereign Jewish state. According to Zemmour, we will never know whether Dreyfus was a spy, but the army at the time had good reason to suspect him because of his alleged German connections.

When it comes to anti-Semitic barbs and dog whistles, the overlaps between Kreisky and Zemmour are again all too apparent. "If the Jews are a people, then they are an ugly people," Kreisky once remarked, while frequently denouncing Israel as a "semi-fascist," "clerical," and, of course, "apartheid" state.

Zemmour, a veteran TV commentator and newspaper columnist, is not quite so blatant, but he draws from the same well. Last week, he denounced the prominent French Jewish intellectual Bernard-Henri LEvy as a "traitor" and a "cosmopolitan" -- language that, as the former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls pointed out, echoed the rhetoric of French anti-Semites before the war. And in September, Zemmour opined that the victims of the gun massacre carried out by an Islamist at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 -- Rabbi Jonathan Sandler; his two young sons, 6-year-old Arieh and 3-year-old Gabriel; and a little girl, 8-year-old Miriam MonsonEgo -- had been buried in Israel because they were not truly French. "They were foreigners above all and wanted to stay that way even beyond death," he said.

Zemmour has not yet announced his intention to run, but the talk of his candidacy has been bolstered by a recent poll showed him coming second in the election. Marine Le Pen, the other far-right candidate who was roundly defeated by Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2017 election, is eyeing Zemmour nervously. Certainly, Zemmour's message extolling traditional French and Christian values increasingly resonate in a country sharply divided on immigration, on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on Europe and much else besides.

From a Jewish perspective, though, the question persists as to why European Jews who shun their own communities can entertain hope of the highest political offices -- with Kreisky setting the precedent -- while those who embrace them have to calibrate their expectations accordingly. Should Eric Zemmour decide that he wants to be the president of France, he will doubtless provide us with some answers along the way, as unpalatable as those are likely be.

 

ERIC ZEMMOUR, THE RABBLE-ROUSER DIVIDING FRANCE'S JEWISH POPULATION

Eric Zemmour, the rabble-rouser dividing France's Jewish population
By Peter Conradi, Paris
The Sunday Times (of London)
October 31, 2021

It is more than eight decades since they came for her father, but EugEnie Cayet, 84, vividly remembers the moment in the summer of 1941 when German officers, accompanied by French police, burst into the flat in southeast Paris in which she lived with her family.

"I was only four at the time, but it made a deep impression on me," she said. "There were four of them: French police and German soldiers. My father had been told they were coming and my mother urged him to hide somewhere in the building. But my father refused. He said that if they didn't find the men they would take the women and children."

Israel Fisse, her father, had arrived from Turkey in the 1920s, working as an accountant for Renault at its car plant west of Paris. He had briefly served with his brother in the French army. But for the authorities of Nazi-occupied France, all that mattered was that he was Jewish.

He was sent first to a vast internment camp at Drancy, on the northeast outskirts of the capital, where Cayet's mother would take her and her two siblings to catch a glimpse of him through a distant window. Occasionally he smuggled out letters.

After just over a year, Fisse wrote to say he was being sent off in a convoy the next day. He was put on a train to the concentration camp at Auschwitz and his family never saw him again. They never knew when or how he died.

"At first I was always waiting for him to come back. If a man ever came to our flat, I asked my mother if it was my father. I was so young," Cayet recalled, sitting in her flat in a tower block and showing me photographs of a man she barely had the chance to know.

Cayet was not just separated from her father during that first round-up of Jewish men living in Paris's 11th arrondissement on August 20, 1941; she also lost three uncles and her elder sister's husband. They were among more than 70,000 Jews deported from France and murdered by the Nazis.

Her mother survived a later raid on Jewish women thanks to the concierge of their building, who hid her in an empty flat. By that time, Cayet had been sent to a boarding school whose headmaster pretended she was not Jewish.

The complicity in such crimes of the collaborationist government based in the southern town of Vichy and headed by Marshal Philippe PEtain is historical fact. To the dismay of Cayet and her fellow French Jews, however, it is being challenged by Eric Zemmour, a right-wing polemicist who has galvanised the battle for next April's presidential election.

Their horror is all the greater because Zemmour, 63, is himself the son of Algerian Jews who emigrated to France in the early 1950s, and he has been a frequent visitor to a synagogue in the north of Paris.

"It is shameful," Cayet said of Zemmour's claim that the Vichy regime had "protected French Jews" while giving up foreign ones to the Nazis. "How can he say such nonsense? Having a man like that as our head of state would be terrible."

France's presidential battles, which end in a head-to-head contest between the two leading candidates, are inevitably polarising. The upcoming contest is proving especially divisive, however, thanks to Zemmour, a best-selling author and television pundit whose pursuit of controversy has seen him achieve blanket coverage in the media. Although he is still to declare his candidacy, polls show him vying with Marine Le Pen for second place behind President Emmanuel Macron, who remains comfortably ahead of both.

Nowhere is this division more pronounced than in France's Jewish community, which, at an estimated 500,000, is Europe's largest. Its leading figures have expressed outrage at Zemmour's revisionist take on history, which he has reiterated during a series of events at venues across the country that, although ostensibly intended to promote his latest book, have more of the feel of election rallies.

Serge Klarsfeld, 86, a historian who helped bring countless Nazis to justice after the war, has said Zemmour's ideas "revolt" him. Francis Kalifat, head of Crif, a leading Jewish group, said "not a single Jewish vote" should be cast for the polemicist.

Yet Zemmour has also won support among some Jews through his barely concealed hostility to Muslims, who are blamed for a surge in antisemitism in recent years that has seen Jewish cemeteries desecrated and verbal and physical attacks on those displaying religious symbols. Calling himself "a French Jew of Berber origin", he has contrasted his own community's success in integrating into French life with the reluctance of Muslim immigrants to follow suit.

His appeal appears strongest among working-class Jews -- especially those, like Zemmour, whose families have emigrated from north Africa since the war, and so did not suffer the same degree of persecution by the Nazis as those who arrived in France from eastern Europe and beyond in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Many of them are extremely fearful of Muslim immigration and of the antisemitism the Islamists have created," said Cayet's grandson, Julien Bensimhom, a lawyer, who has handled a number of cases involving antisemitic attacks. "For that reason they agree entirely with what he says about Muslims."

Often, though, families are split. To Cayet's alarm, a few months ago her own cousin began urging her to watch Zemmour on his regular slot on CNews, a right-wing French news channel. "He is awful," she said. "He is sowing hatred against Arabs, against everyone." She makes a point of avoiding politics whenever the two women talk.

Zemmour also has his fans at the synagogue in the north of Paris that he began to visit regularly following the death of his father, Roger, in 2012.

Jeremy Benhaim, 28, a student who also worships there, said: "He is very popular." Benhaim agrees "with 80 per cent of what Zemmour says" -- especially when he talks about the decline of France and the failure of its Muslim population to integrate -- but cannot quite bring himself to vote for him because of his whitewashing of PEtain.

Zemmour's praise for PEtain is part of a broader nationalist (and often revisionist) view of French history that places the wartime leader among a panoply of national heroes, summed up in the phrase: "Napoleon is our father, Louis IX our grandfather and Joan of Arc our great-grandmother." In the same spirit, the English, he declared recently, had been France's "greatest enemies for a thousand years".

Such views go down well with those who support Le Pen and, before her, her father, Jean-Marie, 93, who was fined several times for describing the gas chambers used to kill Jews in the Holocaust as a "detail of history". The elder Le Pen recently said of Zemmour: "He says what I think, but to a larger audience ... The only difference between Eric and me is that he is Jewish. It is difficult to call him a Nazi or a fascist. This gives him more freedom."

Historians are almost unanimous in their disavowal of Zemmour's views on Vichy, pointing out that the government worked with the Nazis to round up Jews regardless of their nationality.

This has not deterred Zemmour, who, like Donald Trump, with whom he is often compared, thrives on controversy. He has also grabbed headlines by challenging a 1990 law punishing Holocaust denial and has questioned the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish officer in the French army who was convicted in 1894 of spying for the Germans. Later exonerated, his case has been one of the most polarising in French history.

Most shocking of all have been comments in Zemmour's latest book, which has sold 200,000 copies since it was published last month, about Jonathan Sandler, a rabbi who was shot dead with his two young sons and a third child at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 by Mohammed Merah, an Algerian-French jihadist. Zemmour questioned whether either the victims or the perpetrator could be considered really French because their families decided to bury them abroad.

During a recent appearance in Nice he tried to defuse the controversy, only to twice get the victims' names wrong -- prompting a frantic aide to push a piece of paper across the table pointing out his error, a scene that was captured in a TV documentary to be screened next month.

Although Zemmour himself was born in Montreuil in eastern Paris in what was then a working-class suburb, his views appear to have been shaped in part by his family's heritage and the history of tensions between Arabs and Jews in north Africa. Although Jews began to emigrate to what is now Algeria as early as the Roman period, they were in effect separated from the Arab majority in 1870 under the terms of the so-called CrEmieux decree passed by France, the colonial power, that granted them French citizenship. This created animosity not just with the Arab majority, who resented their superior status, but also with right-wing French settlers who, by the 1930s, had become increasingly antisemitic.

The decree was abolished in October 1940 as part of the promotion of anti-Jewish laws in France, paving the way for their persecution in Algeria too. But it was reinstated less than three years later following the Allied landings in north Africa.

Zemmour's parents had left for France before the start of Algeria's war of independence in 1954. Other Jews followed. By 1962, when the war ended in victory for the Algerians, almost all of them had departed, either for Israel or to France -- often bringing their old grievances with them.

 

YOUNG AIDE SARAH KNAFO "HAS WOULD-BE FRENCH PRESIDENT ERIC ZEMMOUR IN HER GRIP"

Young aide Sarah Knafo 'has would-be French president Eric Zemmour in her grip'
Charles Bremner, Paris
The Times (of London)
Saturday October 30, 2021

Eric Zemmour, the far-right pundit who has burst into the French presidential campaign, was persuaded to enter the race by a protegEe 35 years his junior who now exerts a strong influence on him as his manager, according to a new book.

Sarah Knafo, 28, a senior civil servant with an intellectual background, became the power behind Zemmour, 63, after he had mentored her for years, Etienne Girard writes in le RadicalisE, an account of the rise of the new figurehead of hard nationalism.

Knafo was the daughter of a friend when Zemmour met her when she was 13. A member of the elite Cour des Comptes, the state auditors body, she made the news last month when Paris Match published a cover picture of her locked in an embrace with Zemmour on a Mediterranean beach.

Zemmour accused the magazine of taking orders from President Macron to damage him and the magazine's editor was sacked this month.

Le Monde newspaper and other media have since reported that Knafo is in a romantic relationship with Zemmour, who has been married since 1982 to Myl?ne Chichportich, a prominent Paris business lawyer, who has not been visible so far in his virtual campaign. The couple have three adult children.

Paul-Marie Cocteaux, an MEP, has said: "Eric listens to Sarah and Sarah listens to Eric. They form a perfect duo".

Knafo's constant presence at Zemmour's side is worrying supporters of his insurgent's push to steal the mantle of Marine Le Pen as champion of the anti-immigrant nationalist vote, according to insiders.

Philippe de Villiers, 72, a former cabinet minister and figurehead of the nationalist right, said: "They fascinate each other. It will end badly".

Zemmour, who is polling in second or third place and is expected to make his candidacy formal next month, was warned earlier this year by political veterans that his private life would be subject to deep scrutiny.

He has drawn feminist fire for his antique views on virility and women's supposed place as subordinates and helpers of men. "Sexual hanky panky have entertained all presidential campaigns," he has written. "They are usually the setting for great displays and small pleasures. Women are drawn like magnets to these political beasts."

The television commentator and essayist found an affinity with the young Knafo, who "had the same Sephardic Jewish origins, the same childhood in Seine-Saint-Denis," writes Girard. Zemmour grew up in the rough northern Paris suburbs with his Algerian-French parents.

Her ideas shaped by Zemmour, Knafo blazed a trail through Sciences Po, the elite Paris university, as a rightwing student activist and graduated in 2018 from the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the high civil service college that had twice rejected Zemmour's candidacy.

After she graduated, Zemmour was overcome by the success of his protegEe, writes Girard, whose account appeared in L'Express news magazine. "Her godfather was dazzled." Knafo described the reversal of roles, saying: "There had been something filial, then our relationship balanced," Girard writes.

Knafo, who had for a time dated Louis Sarkozy, former president Nicolas Sarkozy's youngest son, set out last year to convince a reluctant Zemmour that he should put his nationalist, anti-Muslim ideas into action with a bid for the presidency.

She organised evenings for Zemmour, whom she calls "Z", with politicians and establishment figures at her flat in Saint Germain des Pres on the Left Bank. When Zemmour wavered, Knafo goaded him, saying Natacha Polony, a rival pundit on the left, would make a better candidate, says the book.

In April, at a gathering in Knafo's flat, Zemmour announced his bid, saying: "I have undergone a conversion. It's thanks to you", writes Girardin. In July, Zemmour, who has never confirmed that he wants to be president, told followers at a Paris dinner: "The intellectual elite have lost the spirit of resistance. You must prepare to become this patriotic elite."

As a shy and physically slight man who was always ill at least with women, Zemmour is savouring his celebrity and potential power in a world that had looked down on him, says Girard, echoing a widespread view in Paris.

"The moment is climactic for him. The young frail boy from the due Doudeauville who has spent 40 years reading, writing, crossing-out, arguing, raging to get there," he writes.

 

IS ERIC ZEMMOUR THE FRENCH TRUMP?

Is Eric Zemmour the French Trump?
The populist provocateur speaks to Les Deplorables
By Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Unherd
October 5, 2021

A 59-second viral video has captured the growing dismay of the French political class at the swift rise of Eric Zemmour in the presidential race. In it, a cyclist wearing a Tour de France yellow jersey overtakes a succession of fellow competitors without even pedalling -- he is not sitting on the saddle, but balanced across it, poised, horizontally, like a superhero. He is tagged "Le Z", while each racer he flies past is briefly labelled after one of the other candidates.

Any professional Instagrammer would shudder at the amateurish unsophistication of the video. But that is the point: Zemmour, 63, a bestselling author fired by his publishers this summer and a TV polemicist regularly sued for hate speech by advocacy groups (so far he's won more often than he's lost), reaches the parts of the electorate others don't.

Although he still hasn't formally declared his candidacy, his ramped-up media presence in recent months finally prompted polling institutes to include him in their first round voting intentions surveys. In three weeks, Zemmour jumped from 6% to 15%, ahead of Hard Left three-time candidate Jean-Luc MElenchon (9%), Green primary winner Yannick Jadot (9%) and Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who in the same period dropped from 7% to 5%.

But Le Z's chief victims are all on the Right. He has all but killed off Marine Le Pen, who has dropped from 28% this summer to 17%. The two main Centre-Right candidates, Paris Region president ValErie PEcresse and Xavier Bertrand, both former Sarkozy Cabinet members, are lagging at 12% and 14% respectively, with Michel Barnier, the former Ogre of Brexit unexpectedly turned sovereignty champion, battling them for the REpublicain nomination at 11%.

All are uninspiring: le Pen has been left seeming incompetent since her defeat by Macron in 2017; PEcresse and Bertrand are spouting the same things France has heard a hundred times before; and Barnier is baffling because the French, unlike the British, mostly don't know who he is.

Zemmour, much like other disruptive populist figures, appeals to those voters (and many no-longer voters) who had despaired of ever finding a candidate expressing their concerns. He speaks to their fears: the loss of French identity and rising insecurity caused, he believes, by unchecked immigration. His books, which have sold in the hundreds of thousands, compare a rose-tinted past Republic, where teachers were respected, fathers held solid jobs, families stayed together and classical culture wasn't derided as pale and stale.

So far, so Trump -- with a touch of Tucker Carlson. A Le Figaro journalist, Zemmour came to national pre-eminence when he was given his own daily debating show two years ago by CNEWS, a rolling news TV cable station which was re-inventing itself as the French Fox News. CNEWS's ratings shot up, overtaking its CNN-like rival BFMTV. Le Z's style, however, couldn't be further from Trump's. "Unlike my rivals, I write all my own books," he jokes. He is highly cultured, even if one might argue that his erudition is preserved in aspic: he quotes 18th-century philosophers and 19th-century historians, with nary a concession to popular topics. (He does like football and the Rolling Stones.)

This fits French particularism: Les DEplorables here rarely object to cultural literacy, as long as they don't feel it's used to belittle them, Enarque-style. (Emmanuel Macron specialises in such putdowns.)

"Je comprends rien ? ce qu'il raconte, mais il parle dr?lement bien," is a typical reaction to a Jacques Bainville- and Charles Maurras-quoting tirade by Le Z. His style and accent are demotic, his sentences are clear and his opinions trenchant. In a country where columnists, even in tabloids, prefer weighty circumlocutions to punchlines, this singles Zemmour out.

In common with Donald Trump, he relishes dropping live grenades in any debate. His first polemical essay (he'd already written a number of political biographies, including one of Jacques Chirac), published in 2006, was called Le Premier Sexe, in clear reference to Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 The Second Sex. It bemoaned the "feminisation" of values, and whenever talking about it Zemmour never shied from adding fuel to the fire. "How did women enter the National Assembly and the Senate? Through parity laws that forced parties to select them. And I need not tell you how they were picked? They put in friends, wives, mistresses, etc."

He believes in the "Great Replacement" theory: he described in his Le Figaro column those areas in Paris where "one feels best, physically, the disappearance of the French population [?] while, coming from the suburbs, at the end of a long journey from the depths of Africa, an Arab-Muslim people has replaced the former inhabitants." He has continually hammered home his idea that foreign immigrants to France should give at least one "traditional" French first name to their children, drawn from the saints' calendar, helping them to assimilate better into French society. "Your parents should have called you Corinne," he told the television personality Hapsatou Sy, born near Paris of Senegalese parents.

In this, the Paris-born Eric Justin LEon Zemmour, son of French-Algerian Jews who had to leave Algeria in the Fifties during the independence war, harks back to the old French REpublicain model of "assimilation" rather than of "integration". "I'm a Frenchman of Berber origin," he says. His peculiar brand of nostalgia dovetails with the long-standing history of France as a country of immigration, that, until recently, seamlessly crafted Frenchmen and women from anyone who wanted to become French.

This approach proved successful for centuries. So much so that the character who most defines, fondly, the French foibles, AstErix the Gaul, was created by the sons of immigrants: RenE Goscinny, a Polish-Argentinian Jew, and Albert Uderzo, an Italian builder's son. (Another Italian builder's son, Fran?ois Cavanna, founded Charlie Hebdo.) This resonates with Zemmour's audiences, who smart from being hectored by New York Times journalists shrieking that France is a country riven by structural racism.

Zemmour has used his personal story as a shield while positing particularly contentious theories, such as his idea that Marshall PEtain, the President of the puppet Vichy rEgime under German Occupation, "made a pact with the Devil, allowing the Nazis to deport foreign Jews in France in order to save French Jews". This is a known far-Right trope in a country that carries the complicated trauma of the Collaboration.

It's hard not to see here the influence of the old Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father and founder of the National Front, now 93, whom Zemmour used to regularly visit in his Chateau de Montretout lair just outside Paris for long, lively discussions. Le Pen, who was fired from his own party by his daughter, himself joined the Resistance for a few weeks in 1944, aged 18. But he's specialised in obsessive remarks about the Holocaust ever since. He is more of a provocateur than a dyed in the wool anti-Semite (which is not the case of a fringe he emboldened within his party) and probably helped cultivate Zemmour's own taste for scandalous statements.

Le Pen was never forgiven in France for his provocations; hence his own daughter's symbolic parricide. But what is interesting about Zemmour is that, like Donald Trump, his mounting crowd of partisans discount his verbal excesses as just "Le Z being le Z". In a country where, for centuries, strong opinions have had to be coated in supercilious obfuscation (there's a reason why, for decades before the advent of the Internet, the French press was losing money), Zemmour is largely seen as an unscary shock jock, not a threatening fascist -- except among the chattering classes, whom he enrages. This, of course, serves him.

What he has achieved, though, is in putting the three-I concerns of his potential voters -- immigration, identity and insecurity -- at the centre of the political discourse. Even a character as cautious and grey as Michel Barnier, in an effort to gain traction for the Centre-Right nomination, has now demanded a five-year moratorium on immigration to France, and attacked ECJ rulings as harmful to French sovereignty.

"The debate on immigration only exists in the [Paris] media now, no longer in public opinion," says the shrewd social geographer Christophe Guilluy, the man who theorised "La France PEriphErique", the French version of David Goodhart's Somewheres vs. Anywheres. This is an area where the rest of the political class, especially on the Right, usually runs scared. Their every new statement now pushes for "chosen immigration", more means for the police, stricter criminal sentencing. Yet as former members of previous governments, however, none of the REpublicain candidates seems credible on the subject.

Zemmour seems keen. He has hired a campaign team and rented a 4,000 sq ft campaign HQ less than a kilometre from the ElysEe, funded by a sympathiser financier, Charles Gave. But he's no professional politician. This an obvious asset now, that could turn into a flaw in the heat of a long campaign. If current trends hold, though, and it's a big "if"; Zemmour might well get to the second round next year.

While all polls give a clear victory to Emmanuel Macron in the run-off today, against any candidate, the President's reasonably high ratings of 40% last week have now slid to 34%. He is also facing a winter of discontent, with energy costs skyrocketing. His prime minister Jean Castex has just announced that the hikes would be deferred until next May, which utterly coincidentally happens to be after the April election. Added to which, 2017's fresh young man in a hurry has now become the incumbent in a fractious country.

This is all to the disruptor's favour. Zemmour has suddenly made France's tired political race risky again. What if Macron didn't even manage to clear the bar of the first round?

 

THE JOURNALIST WHO IS RESHUFFLING THE CARDS IN FRENCH POLITICS

France: Can Eric Zemmour Be the Next President?
The Journalist Who Is Reshuffling the Cards in French Politics
By Yves Mamou
Gatestone Institute
October 25, 2021

EXTRACTS:

Zemmour represents the France of yesteryear: the France of Napoleon, Notre Dame de Paris and General Charles de Gaulle, a France that does not want to become an Islamic Republic. "The danger for France is to become a second Lebanon," Zemmour often says, meaning a country fragmented between sectarian communities that hate and fear one another.

He is the man who broke through the glass ceiling to insert into the media discussion topics such as "immigration" and "jihad" -- which no one had ever dared to talk about publicly. He is a man who embodies the fear of seeing traditional France -- the one of church steeples and the "baguette" -- disappear under the blows of jihad and political correctness.

The meteoric rise of Zemmour has had a second effect: he has broken a degrading electoral trap in which the French people are stuck.... dividing the right to prevent them from returning to power.

From the middle of the eighties until now, the media and the left, together, manufactured an industrial-strength shame-machine to stigmatize as "racist" and "Nazi" anyone who dared to raise his voice on issues of immigration...

The Zemmour fight is just beginning. One thing, however, is certain: Zemmour is restoring an authentic democratic debate about topics -- security, immigration, Islam -- that really matter to the French. For many, Zemmour is the last chance for France not to become an Islamic nation or a "Lebanon in Europe."

**

PIECE

The Financial Times calls him "the extreme right-winger". For the New York Times he is the "right wing pundit". For Die Zeit, he is "the man who divides France"... Eric Zemmour, journalist and essayist, is not (yet) an official candidate for the French presidency, but because of his popularity, France is already living at election time.

The presidential elections will take place in about 200 days, but not a week goes by without a poll propelling Eric Zemmour higher and higher in the voter projections for 2022. A Harris Interactive poll published by Challenges magazine on October 6 puts him at 17%, ahead of Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the National Rally party (at 15%, having slipped by 13 points since the summer). Zemmour still remains behind incumbent President Emmanuel Macron, projected at 24%. But for how long?

Seen from abroad, a projected vote tally of 17% for Zemmour may seem low. But in France, the presidential election is a two round competition. The polls quoted here concern the first round only, where there may be 25 candidates in the race. Consequently, first round voting intentions are necessarily fragmented. If the elections were held next week, the only two candidates at the second round would be Marcon and Zemmour.

"Never before have we seen such a meteoric rise in such a short time, insists Jean-Daniel LEvy, deputy director of the poll company Harris Interactive. "We are witnessing the collapse of the very heart of the electorate" of Marine Le Pen.

Who is Eric Zemmour? He is the man who broke through the glass ceiling to insert into the media discussion topics such as "immigration" and "jihad" -- which no one had ever dared to talk about publicly. He is a man who embodies the fear of seeing traditional France -- the one of church steeples and the "baguette" -- disappear under the blows of jihad and political correctness.

A book published by Zemmour on September 16 and entitled La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot (France Has Not Yet Said Her Last Word) is about national identity; 100,000 copies were sold the first week. Zemmour represents the France of yesteryear: the France of Napoleon, Notre Dame de Paris and General Charles de Gaulle, a France that does not want to become an Islamic Republic. "The danger for France is to become a second Lebanon," Zemmour often says, meaning a country fragmented between sectarian communities that hate and fear one another.

Zemmour is not a professional politician. He started as a political reporter at the daily newspaper Le Figaro in the 1990s, but because he was brilliant and had sweeping judgments about French politicians, and deeply understood political and historical culture, he began to be invited on radio and television. Le Figaro gave him a regular column, and in 2006 he became an authentic television star. His participation for five years on "On n'est pas couchE," ("We Are Not Asleep"), a Saturday night talk show, made him known to all of France. In 2015, the host of the show, Laurent Ruquier, regretted having teamed up with Zemmour. "We didn't think a monster was going to appear" Ruquier said.

Why is Zemmour "a monster"? Because he claims that "French people from immigrant backgrounds are more controlled than others because most of the traffickers are Black and Arabs.... That is a fact." Zemmour was convicted in court for saying that, not because it was a lie, but because such an assertion is impossible to prove. French law has refused to use the ethnic statistics as they exist in Great Britain or the United States.

Zemmour appears to be shocking because he states that France ceased to be France the day it allowed parents from foreign origin to give African or Muslim first names to their children (Mohammed is the most prevalent name in the Parisian suburbs). Zemmour says he would like to restore a law from the 19th century that obligated all French citizens "to give French first names" to their children. Zemmour also demands that France cease to be subject to the authority of the judges of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. They are the ones, Zemmour says, who prevent foreign criminals from being deported.

He is also uncompromising on societal issues: against assisted reproduction ("I want children to have a father and a mother"), transgender propaganda in schools, same-sex marriage, and LGBT militancy at school. Zemmour is not anti-homosexual, he is just saying that "LGBT lobbies" and "minorities" are at war with France just as Islamists are at war with all Western countries.

Zemmour is popular not because he makes provocative remarks about immigration or LGBT rights. He is popular because he brings to the media concerns that were previously expressed only in the family or among friends. Zemmour's popularity is growing in the polls today because he is now exporting the debate from the media sphere to the political sphere.

Does Zemmour actually have a chance of becoming president? Zemmour is not yet even an official candidate for the presidential election. He is also the man who said that he would "disappoint many people if he did not run".

For many reasons, yes, Zemmour has a chance to be the next president. First, because Macron has proven that an individual who does not belong to any political party can win. The irregularity is therefore reproducible.

Also, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic in France is entirely built to organize an exceptional personality meeting with the French people. This system was carved out for General de Gaulle and directly voted for by the French people. From that vantage point, the meeting between Zemmour and French people is already a reality. When Zemmour organized the promotion of his latest book, thousands of people rushed to shake his hand.

There are other reasons as well that explain Zemmour's exceptional popularity. First, the French population nowadays is segmented into different "audiences" or centers of interest. In France, in the political field, the main characteristic of all of these "audiences" is a feeling of "anguish" and "anger" against the elites who promoted mass immigration without consulting the native population. The Confidence Barometer, a poll published every year in France by Cevipof, the research center of the Paris Institute of Political Studies, is a good indicator of the "lassitude, moroseness, distrust" that the majority of the French population apparently feel toward the political class.

GETTING OUT OF THE CURRENT ELECTORAL TRAP

The meteoric rise of Zemmour has had a second effect: he has broken a degrading electoral trap in which the French people are stuck. This electoral trap was thought up in the mid-1980s by France's socialist President Fran?ois Mitterrand: dividing the right to prevent them from returning to power. Mitterrand promoted in the state-owned radio and television a microscopic far-right party, the National Front, the first that dared to speak out against immigration.

From the middle of the 80s until now, the media and the left together manufactured an industrial-strength shame machine to stigmatize as "racist" and "Nazi" anyone who dared to raise his voice on issues of immigration.

This policy of shame was so strong that recently even Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally (as the National Front is now branded), tried to escape the stigma of being called a "Nazi" by saying positive things about Muslim immigration and not excluding the use of immigration to fill an alleged labor shortage.

With Zemmour, however, the anti-racist media are now working in a vacuum. The more the media try to stigmatize Zemmour as a "Nazi", the greater his popularity with voters has grown.

Moreover, the leaders of the right-wing party Les REpublicains, who did not dare to utter the word "immigration", are now proposing to "put an end to migration laxity" and to stop "uncontrolled immigration". Even Macron has privately acknowledged that Zemmour "was right" about immigration.

The Zemmour fight is just beginning. One thing, however, is certain: Zemmour is restoring an authentic democratic debate about topics -- security, Islam, immigration -- that really matter to the French. For many, Zemmour is the last chance for France not to become an Islamic nation or a "Lebanon in Europe."

(Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde.)

 

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