4 Jul, 2024


The use of Antisemitism against Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France insoumise


It started well before, but the 2024 legislative elections called by President Emmanuel Macron gave room to an accusation of anti-Semitism indirectly targeting the New Popular Front, directly La France insoumise, and particularly Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Is the latter anti-Semitic? This charge is made as much by the far right as by Macron, the Republican right, as well as several mainstream journalists and columnists. Can they substantiate such a serious accusation?

The word “anti-Semitism” is thrown around so freely to denounce dissent that we need to take a closer look. Is this a verifiable grievance or the exploitation of a defamatory term for partisan purposes? Is this a description or a slander? We know that some Zionist organizations call for a ban on all criticism of Israel on the grounds that it is by its very nature anti-Semitic. We also know that the qualifier serves as a lever to bring people into line and as a weapon of intimidation, suggesting threats of personal or professional reprisals, as did the words “communist” or “ un-American ” during the McCarthy era.

“Building” the case

First, in the debate that raged in Britain and saw Jeremy Corbyn face similar accusations, Mélenchon supported Corbyn. He claimed that, instead of making amends, Corbyn should not have given in to the Blairites. He compared the associations which denounced him in Great Britain to those which were active in France. However, for some, this called to mind the idea of an international conspiracy, which would, according to them, be an anti-Semitic cliché.

As early as 2010, Mélenchon defended Palestine against Israel and criticized the CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France) by accusing it of communitarianism. For those who argue that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, this could only fuel anti-Semitism. It should be kept in mind that CRIF in France, like AIPAC in the United States, lobbies energetically in favor of Israel, particularly among ruling circles. In 2014, Mélenchon was criticized for supporting an anti-Israeli demonstration and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. This was also said to be anti-Semitism.

Since October 7, however, criticism has become even more virulent because the aim is to divert attention from the genocidal attack launched against Gaza and to prohibit discussion on it. The accusation of anti-Semitism is more direct and it now targets La France insoumise as a whole. Mélenchon refused to comply with the injunction to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization, because it is an army of combatants fighting against the occupation of their territory. He therefore refused to consider the massacre of October 7 as a terrorist act and spoke instead of a war crime. He also criticized the president of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun- Pivet, who went to Israel while Israeli bombs were raining on Gaza. Mélenchon accused her of “camping” in Tel Aviv. His opponents went so far as to say that the word “camping” was deliberately used by Mélenchon to refer to the “concentration camps” of the Second World War! He is accused of claiming that there was only ‘residual’ anti-Semitism in France, while there was growing concern among people of the Jewish faith in the country. Finally, he is said to have once again described the CRIF’s decisions as arrogant and as communitarian ukases (diktats), saying there should be no kneeling before these above-the-law ukases. For his adversaries, this would suggest the idea that the Jews are only great when we are on our knees, another anti-Jewish cliché. And then he dared to speak of the State of Israel as a genocidal state.

The problem is claimed to have affected La France insoumise as a whole, because it is believed that Mélenchon’s remarks are part of a strategy adopted by the party to appeal to working-class neighborhoods where the Muslim electorate is significant. A survey revealed that 92% of Jews in France believed that La France insoumise encourages the rise of anti-Semitism.

The mountain of “evidence” gives birth to a mouse

If, through these gestures and declarations, Mélenchon is “anti-Semitic”, then millions of people are just as anti-Semitic. Unfortunately for the accusers, facts are stubborn and cruel, and they do not prove those who make this accusation right. Hamas does indeed have an armed wing, but it is perfectly legitimate from the point of view of international law. It is only the West that places Hamas in the category of terrorist organizations. The rest of the world refuses to do so. It is an insulting expression which has been used against all organizations of armed struggle for the liberation of colonized and oppressed peoples.

This qualifier is related to the sleight of hand that equates Judaism and Zionism. These are two separate facts. The first is a religion, the second a political ideology. The aim of the confusion is to put a political ideology under the protective cover of a religion, to give it an untouchable status because it is supposedly sacred and to make it benefit from the fact that anti-Semitism rightly arouses rejection in people’s minds. The mixture of politics and religion is the basis of the confusion surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian question and the sharpening of passions. It contributes to aggravating it and preventing its resolution.

The acts committed on October 7 were violent because Gaza is a concentration camp for the collective crushing of Palestinians and because occupation and colonization are violent. It is justified and legal to wage armed struggle against occupation or colonization. Our society honors those who resisted the occupation by Nazi Germany and forgets that at the time the Nazis and their collaborators called them terrorists. The decolonization of the countries of the South is inseparable from acts of resistance and revolt, many of which were violent against the violence of the colonizer. To assimilate Hamas to a terrorist group is to deny the existence of an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, and thus to legitimize it.

The fact is that the State of Israel behaves like a genocidal state. Unless one is being unreasonable or in bad faith, saying this is not anti-Semitic, unless the International Court of Justice, the lawyers of South Africa, the 300 lawyers who filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court and this court itself are also “anti-Semitic”.

Israel also behaves like a state above the law. It mocks the ICJ, the ICC, the UNRWA, the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, international law and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948). Those who reduce Hamas to a terrorist group ipso facto also challenge international law.

As with any country behaving in the same way, it is justified to criticize Israel for various reasons: its role in the Palestinian nakba, the colonization of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of this territory and the dominant influence over it of the Zionist ideology based on ethnic or pseudo-ethnic nationalism, biblical claims and the denial of the existence of the Palestinians according to the idea that Palestine was a land without people before the installation of settlers from Europe. Zionist colonialism and the State of Israel can also be criticized for being extensions and associates of British, then American, imperialism.

Far from being anti-Semitic, criticism of Zionism opens the way to repairing the disaster that the policies of the State of Israel represent. An end to settler colonialism would make possible a solution, whether two states based on the 1967 borders or one state covering all of Palestine and respecting the rights of all. Mélenchon and La France insoumise have always been in favor of one or the other of these solutions because, in both cases, the rights of all would be respected.

A posture of denial

In light of the above arguments, the indictment made by the French establishment against Mélenchon and La France insoumise (as well as all those who affirm the rights of the Palestinians), in addition to being unspeakable and defamatory, is disproportionately unjustifiable and can be easily refuted.

How then can this accusation be explained? In addition to the mean petty politics of smearing an adversary, it is due to the embarrassment of the French authorities at finding themselves in contradiction with everything that France has previously defended. Since the Second World War, the condemnation of genocides has been universal. But now in Gaza France is called upon to endorse a genocidal enterprise. As a way out, it becomes necessary to turn attention away from Gaza and go on the offensive by launching accusations of anti-Semitism indiscriminately. Added to this is the exploitation of recent terrorist attacks (Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Samuel Paty) committed by deviant-fanaticized-manipulated Muslims to paint defenders of the Palestinian cause as “Islamo-leftists”. The very people who throw around the “anti-Semitism” insult show their closeness to Islamophobes.

When we examine the subjects that have dominated the news in France since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza, we see that an obliteration of events has taken place within the mainstream media-political class (including BFM TV, C News and even France 24). As the massacre went into full swing, discourse criticizing anti-Semitism took over. Then this issue was replaced by the debate over Macron’s statement regarding the possible sending of ground forces to Ukraine. Finally there were the European elections and then the legislative elections. At every stage, the infinite horror of the genocide of Gazans has been relegated to the background. This is not innocent.


Whatever one may think of Mélenchon and LFI (and it is perfectly legitimate not to share their positions on this or that subject), they had the merit of standing up to the flood of insults, pressure and dishonesty which swept France. They are not cowards or opportunists. It is also fair to recognize the intellectual honesty, the sense of responsibility and the courage of those who decided to combat the odious accusation of anti-Semitism which was hurled at the New Popular Front itself [1]. This pernicious narrative exploits the issue of anti-Semitism for pro-Israeli political purposes.

[1] https://www.auposte.fr/reponse-collective-a-une-infamie-sur-laccusation-dantisemitisme-portee-contre-la-france-insoumise/


The use of Antisemitism against Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France insoumise

Samir Saul – Michel Seymour

Samir Saul holds a doctorate in history from the University of Paris and is a professor of history at the Université de Montréal. His latest book is L’Impérialisme, passé et présent. Un essai (2023). He is also the author of Intérêts économiques français et décolonisation de l’Afrique du Nord (1945-1962) (2016), and La France et l’Égypte de 1882 à 1914. Intérêts économiques et implications politiques (1997). He is also co-editor of Méditerranée, Moyen-Orient : deux siècles de relations internationales (2003). Email : samir.saul@umontreal.ca

Michel Seymour is a retired professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Université de Montréal, where he taught from 1990 to 2019. He is the author of a dozen monographs, including A Liberal Theory of Collective Rights, 2017; La nation pluraliste, co-authored with Jérôme Gosselin-Tapp, for which the authors won the Canadian Philosophical Association Prize; De la tolérance à la reconnaissance, 2008, for which he won the Jean-Charles Falardeau Prize of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. He also won the Richard Arès prize from Action nationale magazine for Le pari de la démesure, published in 2001. Email : seymour@videotron.ca web site: michelseymour.org

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