Left-wing French politician supported by anti-Semites wins Socialist presidential nod

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A left-wing French politician whose presidential nomination was endorsed by some of France’s most infamous anti-Semitic activists squarely beat Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the Socialist primaries.

Benoit Hamon, who supports dramatically expanding welfare payments and has called for his party to support Palestinian causes to increase its appeal to Muslim voters, beat the hardliner challenger Sunday with 58 percent of the vote in the second and final round of the Socialist primaries.

Last week, the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala and the far-right author Alain Soral — founders of France’s Anti-Zionist Party who each have multiple convictions for Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred against Jews – endorsed Hamon publically .

Soral wrote in his website that voting for Hamon was necessary to “knock Valls out of the race” because he is “a candidate who swore allegiance to the CRIF and to Israel be it through policy, media exposure, judicial means or by deploying the police.” CRIF is the umbrella group of French Jewish communities.

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Both Soral and Dieudonne cited Valls’ commitment to defending Jews against anti-Semitic violence. Valls is married to Anne Gravoin, a Jewish musician. In 2011 he said that his marriage connected him “in an eternal way” to Israel and the Jewish people. He is also the only French prime minister who has said publicly that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism.

Hamon, who has disavowed Soral and Dieudonne, will contend in the presidential elections in May against the hardline candidate Francois Fillon of The Republicans party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy; the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen; and Emmanuel Macron, a centrist independent.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism called on Hamon to react to the endorsement, prompting Hamon to publish a statement about it two days later. Hamon “opposes the deceit of the far-right and the conspiratorial and anti-Semitic streams” the two represent, his statement said.

Hamon supports giving every French adult, including those who are able to work but do not do so, a basic monthly salary. He and Valls have clashed repeatedly on this issue and also on bans on wearing Muslim garb in public spaces, which Valls supports. Valls has accused Hamon of “having an accommodating approach” to radical Islam. They also have clashed about Israel.

Both Hamon and Valls have expressed their opposition to attempts to boycott the Jewish state, which are illegal in France.

Hamon called in a televised interview last month the establishment of a Palestinian state the “best way of ensuring Israel is not attacked by its neighbors.” But in a 2014 interview, he said that supporting the establishment of such a state was the Socialist Party’s “best way to recuperate our electorate in the suburbs and the neighborhoods” – code for Muslim voters — “who did not support the pro-Israeli position taken by President Francois Hollande.”

Hamon has criticized Valls, too, for “giving in to Israel.”