Don’t politicize memorial march for slain Holocaust survivor, French Jewish leader warns

JTA

PARIS (JTA) — The organizers of a memorial march for a Holocaust survivor who allegedly was murdered by her Muslim neighbor said they will not welcome the attendance of politicians from the far left or far right.

Francis Kalifat, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, posted this on Twitter after Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party said she would attend Wednesday’s march that CRIF is organizing in Paris in memory of Mirelle Knoll.

The charred body of the 85-year-old was found last week in her apartment with 11 stab wounds. Prosecutors charged two men, including a neighbor, with murder aggravated by racist hatred. French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the slaying, which he called “appalling,” before he vowed to fight anti-Semitism.

On Wednesday, Macron attended the funeral for Knoll in the Parisian suburb of Bagneux, where he said she was “killed because she was Jewish.” He also attended a funeral the same day for slain police officer Arnaud Beltrame, who died last week after he offered himself in exchange for a hostage in an Islamist attack.

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“CRIF cannot prevent me from paying homage, body and soul, to Mirelle Knoll,” Le Pen wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “National Front officials belong at this white march.”

Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Unsubmissive France far-left movement, who has been accused of anti-Semitic rhetoric, also said he would attend.

Le Pen has called her party, which opposes immigration from Muslim countries and street prayers, “a shield for Jews against Islamist violence.” But CRIF and other Jewish groups said National Front is not a legitimate political party because it is a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Le Pen has ousted her father, the party’s founder, from the movement over his repeated anti-Semitic comments and Holocaust revisionism.

But she also said last year that “France is not responsible” for the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews to be murdered by the Nazis by the collaborationist pro-Nazi Vichy government of France.

“Let us be clear: Neither Jean-Luc Melenchon and his Unsubmissives nor Marine Le Pen and the National Front would be welcome,” Kalifat wrote Tuesday.

Melenchon called CRIF part of “aggressive communities that lecture to the rest of country,” which he said are the “opposite of France” in a 2014 speech. He congratulated anti-Israel protesters for their “model discipline” days after hundreds of them tried to break into a Paris synagogue. He supports a blanket boycott of Israel.

Kalifat’s statement, which he made in parallel to calls for “everyone” to attend the march, prompted criticism also by prominent French Jews and other critics of the far left and far right in France.

“The goal of the gathering is precisely to show that the tragedy of Mirelle Knoll is everyone’s business (not only that of Jews or people whom CRIF tolerates),” Raphael Enthoven, a French-Jewish philosopher, wrote on Twitter. “Your approach is counterproductive to this march and that’s a big shame.”

And Rachida Dati, a right-wing French-Arab former justice minister who is one of France’s most vociferous and hardline critics of radical Islam, called Kalifat’s selective approach “unacceptable” in an interview with BFMTV.

Amid controversy, Kalifat appeared to try to walk back his disinvitation of the National Front.

“We need to put away this controversy,” he told AFP. “Above all I do not wish to see this gathering politicized, by any party.”