French commentator Eric Zemour has become politically infamous for his anti-Muslim hatred and anti-migrant provocation before officially announcing his candidacy in the 2022 French presidential elections.
A recent poll put Zemour at 16% – which would translate into a second-round run-off between him and current President Emmanuel Macron, outranking far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
Zemour sits firmly to the right of his rival Le Pen. He has been convicted of inciting racial hatred and is an open supporter of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. This suggests white people are being ethnically purged by Muslim immigrants and Jewish puppet-masters, and has emerged as the ideological basis for attacks including the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting in 2018 and the Christchurch mosques shootings in 2019.
Zemour has made various anecdotal comments, including that Vichy France, the regime that cooperated with the Nazis during World War II, was actually “protecting French Jews”. They have also questioned the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, who was falsely convicted of treason in the infamous 20th-century example of anti-Semitism. His stock in the business has become to oxygenate anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
So it may seem surprising that Zamour himself is of Jewish heritage. He is a descendant of the Algerian Berber Jewish immigrants.
Jonathan Arfi, the deputy chairman of the Council of Representatives of French Jews, described it as a “double punishment”. First, French Jews would have to listen to the false narratives of Zemour’s allies, then they would have to deal with the fact that the words came from someone who himself identified as coming from Jewish heritage – which could prove legitimacy in the claims. Adds false air.
There are questions as to how much Zémour really is attuned to his Jewish identity – but, as philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy argues, this has become irrelevant. Despite harsh criticism from the Jewish community, “What Mr. Zemor does, whether he likes it or not, [is] In Jewish name”.
The Rise of a Jewish Far Right
Zemour is not the first Jewish person involved in far-right politics, or running for election. In the federal elections in Germany this year, for example, Marcel Goldhammer, vice president of Jews in Germany’s Alternative – an organization aligned with the far-right Party – represented a small but vocal collection of radical-right-wing German Jews. stood as a candidate. ,
Jewish people sign up for far-right parties, as do the wider population for a number of reasons. They may oppose immigration or be ultra-nationalist in their thinking. But the fact that these movements often thrive on the back of anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism makes Jewish participation an enigmatic hypocrisy.
Collective identity theory helps to explain this puzzle. Sociologist David Snow notes that everyone has multiple collective identities, some of which have priority over others. This is what is called the “Identity Head Hierarchy”. In this case, some Jews have built a collective identity that includes preferring far-right and political ideology over other aspects of Jewish identity.
Some deliberately skew beliefs that Muslims or diaspora communities are the sole cause of growing antisemitism. They are supporting their anti-Islamic message instead of fighting the far right opponent.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, while supporting Zémour on her daughter, reflects that “the only difference between Erik and I is that he is Jewish. It is difficult to call him a Nazi or a fascist. This gives him more freedom.” Zemour’s intentions or not, he is being projected by the French ultra-right as an advocate of his interests. They are completely clear that their Jewish identity is a helpful tool to defend against accusations of racism.
During my research, I found several illustrative comments on 4chan’s politics boards on right-wing forums, where Zemour was described as “100% /ourjew/”. One user praised Zemor, who “despite being Jewish, really loves France”. Another said that he “recognizes his Jewish identity but that doesn’t stop him from speaking again”. [sic] Jewish influence and mass immigration”.
However, other ultra-right figures see Zemour as a Trojan horse for Jewish control. To them, that great replacement is confirming conspiracy theories. Eric Stryker, a US-based alt-right campaigner (widely considered a personality) posted on his large Telegram that “Zémour is hostile to French racial and Catholic-centered nationalism, is an open Jewish supremacist, and Some red meat about ethnic decline, which is liberal, globalist and Zionist neo-conservatism, is using throwing up to hide its real policy proposals. Despite attempts to coax far too many, Zemour is still only a few people. would be seen as an immigrant and a Jew.
Explicit Nazism is often still seen as the sole indicator of far-right sentiment. But a careful public relations transformation is underway. Extremists like Zemour have the ability to attract votes from parts of the electorate who support his policies, but do not consider themselves to be fascists or racists. His identity reassures him of this belief.
He has helped high-profile far-right people to move the Overton Window, making it politically acceptable to accept hateful views into mainstream politics. Whether Zemour ever really made an electoral impact, the precedent is already being set. The strategic use of far-right philosophies (a questionable love of Orthodox Jews) remains an immediate threat to Muslim and Jewish communities alike.