Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a far-left French politician who, as head of the party La France Insoumise, leads a coalition consisting of Communists, the hard left, the Greens, and Muslim voters, too. The last group, curiously, has received no mention in the coverage of the various French elections. Mélenchon has just come in second in the parliamentary election, with 131 seats to 245 for Macron’s party La Republique en Marche! (a decrease from 350 in the last election), and 89 for Marine Le Pen. Much of the media coverage, French and international, has concentrated on Le Pen managing to have emerged with five times as many Parliamentary seats as before, but it is Mélenchon’s rise that should be causing alarm. Mélenchon’s group now has 50% more parliamentary seats than Le Pen, and together, Le Pen on the right and Mélenchon on the left will be able to block Macron’s centrist reform agenda, including tax cuts and raising the retirement age to 65. But what is worse, while Le Pen’s win might help pressure the government to halt Muslim migrants, Mélenchon’s much greater win might lead him to push for unlimited Muslim immigration (Muslims, after all, are solidly pro-Mélenchon), the criminalization of “Islamophobia,” and a distinctly anti-Israel line in foreign policy.
Mélenchon is a dangerous man. He’s an antisemite. He’s a conspiracy theorist. He believes that the attacks by Muslims in France have been deliberately staged by malignant forces wanting to make Muslims look bad. Who do you think he has in mind? When Mohammed Merah murdered three little Jewish children and the rabbi who was the father of two of them, just outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, Mélenchon was sure someone else was behind the murders because they took place just before elections. And, in Mélenchon’s view, such murders naturally helped the candidacy of the center-right Macron. He also linked the killing by a Muslim to a French gendarme on the Champs-Elysées in 2017 to a political plot; according to Mélenchon this killing was “suspiciously timed” just before an election.
In an attack on Finance Minister Moscovici, who is Jewish, Mélenchon said “Moscovici behaves like someone who has stopped thinking in French, like someone who thinks only in the language of international finance.” He was accused of making “unacceptable comments” and of “using the vocabulary of the 1930s.” Mélenchon responded that he “had no idea of Pierre Moscovici’s religion and [had] no intention of making an issue of it in the future.” Of course.
In August 2014, during a speech in Grenoble, Mélenchon said of the Representative Council of Jews of France (CRIF): “We’ve had enough of CRIF. France is the opposite of aggressive communities that lecture to the rest of country.” He added: “We do not believe that any people is superior to another,” a reference to the Torah’s designation of Jews as the “chosen people.” During the Gaza War, there were many attacks by Muslims on Jews in France. Mélenchon never mentioned those attacks, but he instead criticized French Jews for “rally[ing] in front of the embassy of a foreign country [Israel] or serv[ing] its flag, weapon in hand.”
In July 2017, Mélenchon maintained that Republican France bears no guilt for the Holocaust, and he criticized Macron for admitting at a gathering in Paris to remember the Vel d’Hiv Roundup of French Jews, that Vichy France, which ordered the roundup and helped ship the Jews off to concentration camps, was the legal French government at the time, thus conceding the French State’s responsibility in the deportation of the Jews.
In November 2019, Mélenchon accused CRIF of practicing “blatant, violent, and aggressive sectarianism, namely against me,” after it asked him not to attend the memorial ceremony for Mireille Knoll more than 18 months earlier. In December 2019, he deplored the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was being accused of antisemitism, painting Corbyn as the inoffensive victim of vicious English Jews. He claimed that Corbyn “had to endure, unaided, churlish anti-semitism claims from England’s chief rabbi and various influence networks linked to Likud.” He appeared to have forgotten the many non-Jewish opponents of Corbyn, beginning with Keir Starmer, who succeeded Corbyn as head of the Labor Party. Mélenchon later published a post on his personal blog denouncing the use of the charge of antisemitism as a pretext to launch smear campaigns against political figures, including such. “anti-racists” as Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
In 2020, while interviewed about the French police, he said, “I don’t know if Jesus was on a cross, but he was apparently put there by his own people.” This is the charge of deicide levelled at Jews that has been responsible for centuries of persecution in Western Christendom. Mélenchon didn’t care. In October 2021, Mélenchon was again accused of antisemitism, after he made a comment singling out the Jewish tradition as responsible for the far-right political positions of Eric Zemmour. This remark was condemned as antisemitic by political figures across the political spectrum.
Mélenchon is also a conspiracy theorist. In June 2021, he predicted that, in the last week of the 2022 presidential campaign, there would be a “grave incident or murder” that would be used to “point the finger at the Muslims and to invent a civil war.” There was no such “grave incident or murder.” And the only person who might set off a “civil war” is Mélenchon himself, as the champion of the Muslims of France. He cited the Jihadist attack against a Jewish school in Toulouse by Mohammed Merah a few months before the presidential election of 2012, and the terrorist attack in Paris a few days before the first round of the 2017 presidential election. His statements were supported by his own party and condemned by other political parties. He later claimed, most implausibly, that he had been referring to “murderers [who] are waiting for the best time to get people talking about them” and the politicians who use these events for electoral purposes. Rudy Reichstadt, director of Conspiracy Watch, described Mélenchon’s statement as “ambiguous” and quite close to conspiracy beliefs. He claimed that Mélenchon has been promoting conspiracy theories for several years.
Now Mélenchon is poised to prevent Macron from passing his domestic agenda. But much worse, he is also well situated to stymie any efforts Macron might make to decrease the Muslim presence in France, including calling a halt to all Muslim migration, and passing new laws preventing welfare benefits being paid to immigrants during the first five years of their living in France, a measure that might well lead some Muslims to return to their countries of origin.
“All of this has been planned in advance,” said Mélenchon about the murders of Jews in Toulouse by the Muslim Mohammed Merah, and of the policeman, by another Muslim, on the Champs-Elysées. “We get all kinds of people pulled out of nowhere at a very serious event which, once more, allows everyone to point fingers at Muslims and to invent a civil war. It’s boring.”
CRIF president Francis Kalifat condemned Mélenchon’s remarks as “an obscene attack on the memory of the victims” of Merah and of the Champs-Elysées shooting. Kalifat added: “After pandering to Islamo-leftist voters, conspiracy theories. Reaching rock bottom.”
In 2014, Mélenchon defended Arabs who stormed and torched synagogues in France because, he claimed, they were justifiably upset over Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza.
We will soon see how much power Mélenchon possesses, and whether he will continue to vilify Israel and insult French Jews, and further the “islamization” of France. Think of what he can accomplish: pushing for permits to be issued for the building of thousands of new mosques, allowing back in foreign imams (Macron had wanted only French citizens to be imams); setting aside several prayer-times each day for Muslim students in schools, and for workers in offices and factories, too, to say their daily prayers in rooms set aside for that express purpose; removing from the school curriculum anything that might “offend” Muslim students, including Voltaire, because of his famous dismissal of Muhammad as an “imposter,” and others, including Montaigne and Proust who, as one Muslim imam insisted, should not be read because they were partly Jewish. Certain subjects might be given cursory attention in, or removed altogether from, the curriculum: the Crusades, the history of the French Kings; the Enlightenment and the Revolution, colonialism, unless it is taught as an uninterrupted series of horrors; and of course, the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. Mélenchon’s Islamo-leftist coalition, now having won 131 seats in the National Assembly, will follow his direction, and in every case side with the Muslims in their various battles to weaken the principle of laicité.
Muslims might well demand, as they have in the past, that burkinis be allowed, that municipal pools set aside hours for women only, that Muslim women be allowed to wear hijabs in schools and government offices, where the practice is currently forbidden, that pork be banned from school lunchrooms, that the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr be observed as national holidays. Mélenchon’s parliamentary win — those 131 seats in the National Assembly — is already “bad, very bad, terrible” news for the future of France.