L’ AMOUR DE ZEMMOUR (Guest Post from Rubin Rothler LL B, LLM)
France’s newest rising star is an enigmatic politician. A darling of the political right, Jean Marie Zemmour is also a Jewish intellectual. He is praised for his down to earth, matter of fact speaking style at political rallies.
In this regard his popular appeal is compared to that of Nigel Farage in the UK and Donald Trump in the US. Similar to Trump, he disparaged the French media as “a propaganda machine that hates France”. “Paid with your taxes, they constantly spit on you,” he said. “They spit on French history and culture, and they spit on the French people, whom they want to see disappear.” “He checkmated the media. Just like Trump,” said Gaspard Gantzer, a former advisor to ex-President François Hollande. “Zemmour is very well-known in a splintered media landscape and is ahead of the pack because those who make the most outrageous statements have the advantage today.”
Although he hasn’t yet officially declared his candidacy, Zemmour has cast his Presidential bid in all but name. and he is said to have “so far dictated the course and tenor of the campaign” (as quoted in the Guardian). In many quarters President Macron is deemed to have failed with regard to security and immigration matters. Mr. Zemmour entered the political arena at an auspicious moment when support for mainstream parties on both the left and right has decayed. He says he wants to forge an ultra-conservative coalition from the conventional right to the far-right, mobilizing voters from both low-income backgrounds and what he terms the educated “patriotic bourgeoisie”. “Zemmour uses a very-old fashioned, French far-right discourse – there’s nothing new in what he’s saying,” said Cécile Alduy, a Stanford University professor and expert on French political semantics. “But what is new is the reception and acceptance of this discourse in the public conversation … It’s a turning point in French political history that Zemmour’s discourse is given so much space and legitimacy by the media,” she said.
The controversial positions that Zemmour has taken on immigration, Islam and national identity have garnered him much attention from both critics and supporters. Advocating the French assimilationist ideology, Zemmour adamantly assails the current framework for immigration. In a recent interview he said: “we have to stop the flow. I’m not just talking about the illegals; I am thinking first of legal immigration. […] There is a process of replacing the population from the moment there are too many immigrants who no longer assimilate. It’s inevitable.” Furthermore, as the Wall Street Journal reports: “He has embraced a view held by white nationalists called the “Great Replacement,” which contends that global elites are conspiring to bring non-European immigrants to the West to replace white citizens demographically and culturally”. In this regard he can be said to seek a more cohesive society.
It’s difficult to predict with accuracy what Zemmour’s foreign policy will be like vis a vis the US, as he has so far given mixed messages. Zemmour has generally advocated for a dissociation of France from Washington hegemony, with a closer alignment to the Kremlin. Rather bizarrely, he has argued that the Normandy landings as well as being an act of liberation, signaled the colonization of France by the US. This hostility to US influence is mirrored in his attitude concerning withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military command. More broadly, Zemmour contends for bolstering the French military, particularly in terms of France’s nuclear deterrent. It can be observed that Zemmour’s philosophy for international relations emphasizes the need for all round French independence. Should Trump succeed in defeating Biden to secure the next US Presidential election, it is likely that he will enjoy warm relations with Zemmour – as they both share a similar nationalist populist ideology.
With regards to his relations with the Jewish community Zemmour has also courted much controversy. A Paris court in February acquitted Zemmour on a charge of questioning crimes against humanity — illegal in France — for claiming that French Jews were protected by the Vichy regime during World War Two. In its verdict, the court said the deportation of foreign and French Jews “was implemented with the active participation of the Vichy government, its officials, and its police.” But in acquitting Zemmour, it held he’d spoken in the heat of the moment. Zemmour sought to draw a line under the distasteful affair, stating: “I am no longer discussing historical points that are discussed by historians.” In his new book, Mr. Zemmour wrote that bereaved families of the children murdered in a terrorist attack at a Jewish school in 2012 near Toulouse were behaving like foreigners for burying their children in Israel. “Anthropologists have taught us that we are from the country where we are buried,” he wrote. Some Jewish organizations have condemned Zemmour’s stance. “The ideas of Zemmour can only inspire disgust,” said Francis Kalifat, president of CRIF, the union of French Jewish organizations.
Judging from these episodes, it would appear that Zemmour is keen to escape from the trap of being castigated as showing favoritism to his own community at the expense of the French national interest. How this will play out in his policy towards Israel is open to conjecture. But it is the opinion of this commentator that officially Zemmour will be lukewarm at best towards the Jewish State. However behind the scenes Zemmour will probably seek close cooperation with Israel’s intelligence services, particularly in the realm of combating radical Islamic terrorism.