Uncertain Future for French Jews: Political Shifts and Rising Antisemitism

  • The Jewish population in France feels more and more unsafe. These fears have been compounded by the emergence of a far-left party, which has voiced opposition to Israel and support for Palestine.
  • Macron’s centrist party seems to suffer from a conundrum in determining who to work with in a coalition, since partnering with the far-left or far-right seems unlikely.

In an unexpected twist which could be described as “hitting one’s own foot with an axe,” French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent political maneuver has led to a significant disruption in the French political landscape. Under the presidential system in France, for a bill to become law, it has to be signed by the President of the country, but at the same time, it also needs approval from the members of parliament. This system reveals that a parliamentary majority is a preferable asset for efficient governing.

The Prelude to the Political Drama

This parliamentary election was held in 2022, and the parliamentary term is fixed for five years until 2027. However, a new twist has been observed after the European Union elections. In these elections, the French far-right party was successful, particularly leaving Macron troubled. In a bid to underestimate the opposition, although there was no pressure from outside the country, Macron proposed holding new parliamentary elections to assess citizens’ trust in the party.

The outcome can only be described as stunning. The new parliamentary elections resulted in a hung parliament due to the fact that none of the parties was capable of securing an absolute majority. It emerged that the left-wing New Popular Front alliance obtained 182 seats while the centrists that support President Emmanuel Macron through Ensemble captured 168 seats. The far-right National Rally party, headed by Marine Le Pen, secured 143 seats. This separation led to the formation of conflicting political cultures, putting France in a state of confusion.

Concerns for French Jews Amid Election Gains and Antisemitism Surge

Amidst the political disruptions, Jews in France find themselves at a crossroads, facing the political landscape with a mix of concern and apprehension.

Election Outcome

In the second round of France’s parliamentary election, none of the parties managed to achieve an absolute majority in the assembled house. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, celebrated his party’s victory. He promised to accept a Palestinian state and underscored that the party affects decisions made on the international level.

Concerns for French Jews

French Jews are concerned following the spike in antisemitism. In the first three months of 2024 alone, there were more than 360 attacks on Jews, a 300% increase from 2023. Yet Mélenchon shrugged off antisemitism as inconsequential, describing it as a mere ‘residual’ problem in France. His party, La France Insoumise (LFI), has been criticized over time for being antisemitic. Research conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in the European area showed that 92% of French Jews considered LFI the most antisemitic party in France.

The active encouragement of France’s far left for recognizing a Palestinian state has caused insecurity among France’s Jews. They worry that such an approach might escalate anti-Jewish sentiment and make it more difficult to live as a Jew.

Understanding the Political Spectrum

To get an idea and feel of what this means, one needs to grasp the role and place of ideology in France. Currently, there is the far-left party that supports socialist policies and state ownership of property and enterprises, and on the other hand, there is a far-right party that supports a capitalistic economy and the preservation of traditional morality. However, Emmanuel Macron’s party, known as the centrists or the Republic on the Move party, attempts to be as moderate as possible between those two.

The French electoral system has an additional layer of two rounds, which only adds to its complexity. In the first round, it is required for any candidate to gain more than fifty percent of the total votes for election victory. If none of the candidates attains this feat, another round between the leading runners is called. In the latest elections, the far-right party did very well in the first round, and there was much fear of the far-right taking over the government.

The Implications of the Election Results

As none of the parties in the country achieved victory by gaining 289 seats in the National Assembly, France is experiencing political turmoil. The distribution of seats requires the formation of a coalition, and this is rather problematic due to existing ideological cleavages. It appears that this political instability is much more relevant to the European Union than people thought. France, being a pillar of the EU, means that stability or instability in France has a domino effect on other countries across the EU. This is particularly concerning, especially with the ongoing Russia–Ukraine war and the upcoming Paris Olympics.

The Path Forward for France

Gabriel Attal, nominated by Macron as the youngest Prime Minister of France, has recently resigned due to the loss of the parliamentary majority. The future of the Prime Minister’s office depends on the formation of a new coalition, which is still in the realm of possibility. Macron’s centrist party seems to suffer from a conundrum in determining who to work with in a coalition, since partnering with the far-left or far-right seems unlikely.

Macron has clearly messed up, and now France faces political instability. The next processes are complex and include the formation of a government that can steer the country through these choppy waters. The French political system is preparing for a new change that will have implications for France and the EU in the coming years.

Riots Erupt in Response to Election Results

Paris has clearly become a battle site on election result day as the far-left is celebrating victory in the elections by attacking police officers. Soon after the announcement of the election results, people all over France took to the streets to riot. Various Socialist demonstrators, most of whom come from extreme left parties, marched in the streets demonstrating their satisfaction. In Paris, violent protests with police left multiple injured and arrested protesters expressing their anger with the political situation and perceived oppression.

The Situation in France’s Jewish Community

During these political transformations, the Jewish population in France feels more and more unsafe. These fears have been compounded by the emergence of a far-left party, which has voiced opposition to Israel and support for Palestine. The Chief Rabbi of Paris has asked French Jews to consider leaving for Israel or any other safer country. This recommendation was made due to the increasing perceived antisemitism from the far left and the increase in antisemitic incidents in general.

In conclusion, the latest parliamentary elections held in France have led to an uncertain outcome, a hung parliament. Early elections proposed by Emmanuel Macron to rebuild confidence have left a fragmented parliament and a Prime Minister’s resignation. The future of the French government is now left in the hands of political parties to form a workable coalition, and this is likely to be as daunting a challenge as it is significant. The situation of the Jewish people becomes extremely fragile due to the increasing rate of antisemitism and instabilities in the political realm.

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