Monday, December 6, 2021

Firebrand Jewish presidential candidate calls for 'reconquest' of France


French far right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, waves after his first rally, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 in Villepinte, north of Paris | Photo: AP/Rafael Yaghobzadeh

 

Dec 6, 2021. Greece.

Former French TV pundit Eric Zemmour holds his first presidential campaign rally near Paris as thousands of others taketo the streets of Paris to denounce what they call a xenophobic platform.

In an atmosphere wrought with tension amid scathing political attacks from rivals and public outcry from left-wing groups, former French TV pundit Eric Zemmour held his first presidential campaign rally near Paris on Sunday, a few days after the Jewish candidate formally declared his candidacy in a video that highlighted his anti-migrant and anti-Islam views.

Speaking in front of some 15,000 supporters, Zemmour announced his new party's name – "Reconquest" – a name Zemmour said harkened the period of history known as the Reconquista, when Christian armies drove Muslims from the Iberian peninsula.

"What's at stake is huge," Zemmour said. "If I win the election, it won't be one more [political[ changeover, but the beginning of the reconquest of the most beautiful country in the world."

Supporters at the rally sang France's national anthem, shouted "Zemmour, president!" and "We will win!" while brandishing the tricolor French flag.

As his supporters cheered and waved French flags in a northern suburb of the capital, thousands of others took to the streets of Paris to denounce what they call a xenophobic platform.

France is holding its presidential election on April 10, with a runoff if needed on April 24. Zemmour has drawn comparisons in France to former US President Donald Trump because of his rabble-rousing populism and ambitions of making the jump from the small screen to national leadership.

The 63-year-old also unveiled his campaign's slogan: "Impossible is not French," a quote attributed to Napoleon.

With echoes of Trump's first campaign for US president, Zemmour promised to slash immigration and taxes.

"I am the only one defending freedom of thought, freedom of speech," he declared, dismissing allegations of fascism, racism and misogyny. In the past, Zemmour has been convicted of hate speech.

 


Zemmour supporters threw punches and chairs at several protesters wearing anti-racism T-shirts trying to stand on chairs as Zemmour gave his speech. Five protesters were injured, their association said afterward.

Separately, as Zemmour moved through the crowd towards the stage to give his speech, a man lunged and grabbed him briefly by the neck before being tackled by security and later put in custody by police.

Although Zemmour went on to deliver his speech, his team said afterward that he had been injured in the incident and a doctor had ordered a nine-day rest, Le Monde newspaper reported.

Before the rally started, police arrested several dozen anti-Zemmour protesters and chased away others near the giant convention hall north of Paris.

"I'm not racist," Zemmour said. "We are defending our country, our homeland, our ancestral heritage (to) ... transmit our children France as we have known it."

The politician also railed against political elites and the media. Several times the crowds booed members of the press gathered in the arena.

Reporters from a French television show were booed and insulted by Zemmour's supporters ahead of his speech, leading them to be briefly escorted outside the room by security guards.

"They are making up polemics about books I wrote 15 years ago, they snoop into my private life, call me all sort of names... My adversaries want my political death, journalists want my social death and jihadists want my death," he said.

Zemmour wants foreigners to "assimilate" French culture rather than keeping their identities. He wants to ban parents from giving children foreign names and restrict choices to typical French names Zemmour also wants to end nationality being acquired by birth on French soil and to deport foreign criminals and foreign job seekers who don't find employment within six months.

 

"France is back, because the French people stood up. The French people stand up against those who want to make it disappear," he said.


Stands by Israel


In the past, Zemmour has also made it clear that he stands by Israel and that the two-state solution belongs to the past, calling for an updated French policy on the matter.

According to Zemmour, the real fault line in the Middle East is the one dividing Shiites from Sunnis.

"If Israel says Jerusalem is its capital, then it's the capital," the journalist and author told the international news outlet. He has also shied away from calling himself a Zionist. "I am a French citizen. If Zionism is the view that Israel should have the right to self-defense, then I am in."

He noted that seeking a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an outdated approach. "I don't believe in it; the Palestinians lost the battle and there will never be a Palestinian state," he said. "The biggest clash in the Middle East is that between Shiites and the Sunnis, as is the case between Saudi Arabia and Iran."


Parents Jewish Immigrants


Zemmour was born to Jewish immigrants from Algeria and is married to a Jew.

"I don't care if Zemmour is Jewish or Christian," said a 21-year-old supporter at Sunday's rally. "He wants to make France strong again, and that's what matters."

Zemmour has gained strength on France's political scene in recent months, starting to siphon off supporters from right-wing National Party leader Marine Le Pen, who has long said she would run for the French presidency next year.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated Le Pen in the 2017 presidential runoff, is expected to seek a second term but he has yet to declare his candidacy.

 

The far-left leader of the Rebel France party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is seeking the presidency for the third time, also staged a rally on Sunday, gathering several thousand supporters in Paris.

Other presidential candidates on the left include Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo for the Socialist party and Yannick Jadot, a former Greenpeace activist, for the Greens.

Those attending rallies for Zemmour and Mélenchon were not required to show French COVID-19 health passes, in line with a decision from the Constitutional Council that said the passes should not be used to restrict access to political meetings.

Wearing a mask is mandatory in French public gatherings, yet many Zemmour supporters defied the restriction.

Israel Hayom

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