(JTA) – French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman was condemned for saying that Marine Le Pen, who heads the far-right National Front party in France, “cannot be faulted personally” for anti-Semitism.
Some prominent Jewish groups and individuals slammed Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, for the remarks he made Monday during an interview for Europe 1 Radio in reference to France’s pro-Nazi collaborationist government and its leader.
“I think that we are all aware in the Jewish world that behind Marine Le Pen, who cannot be faulted personally, there are all the Holocaust deniers, all the supporters of Vichy and [Philippe] Petain,” Cukierman said.
Serge Klarsfeld, a historian and hunter of Nazis, condemned Cukierman’s assertion about Le Pen, as did the left-leaning European Jewish J-Call group and CCLJ, a group representing dovish Belgian Jews.
National Front’s honorary president is Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred against Jews. Marine Le Pen has rejected his anti-Semitic views and courted French Jews in a move that many observers said was designed to rehabilitate the party’s name.
Klarsfeld’s son, Arno, a prominent activist against racism, said Cukierman’s statements about Le Pen were “unacceptable.”
Cukierman later told French media that Marine Le Pen is “neither irreproachable nor acceptable as long as she does not distance herself from her father.”
In the same interview, which Cukierman gave ahead of Tuesday’s CRIF annual dinner – an event that was attended by French President Francois Hollande – he also said that Muslims were responsible for most anti-Semitic attacks in France today.
In response, the French Council of the Muslim Faith pulled out of the dinner.
But the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, backed Cukierman.
“Some are much quicker to attack CRIF than to denounce the horrible crimes of terrorists committed in the name of Islam,” BNVCA wrote in a statement Tuesday.