Reviews | The French Marine Le Pen is more dangerous than ever

The tenor of political discussion, as a result, has shifted noticeably to the right. There is hardly any room left in French politics to defend French citizens who do not look, behave, pray or eat as the “traditional” French people are supposed to – let alone defend the rights of immigrants and refugees. In this environment, Ms. Le Pen can turn her attention to more day-to-day issues, such as rising energy bills and the cost of living, knowing that when it comes to immigration, citizenship and “identity national”, she has already won the argument.

This success did not happen overnight. For more than 30 years now, French political debate has centered on questions of identity to the detriment of more pressing topics such as health, climate change, unemployment and poverty. The extreme right led the way. Harnessing feelings of decline in the late 1960s – as France abandoned its colonial empire, lost the Algerian War and submitted to American domination of Western Europe – the far right became a powerful political force. . He uses his influence to defend his conception of French identity, evoking a thousand-year-old European Christian civilization threatened by Muslim immigration from the Maghreb.

It is on this basis that the National Front was created in 1972 by Mrs. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. As people from the former French colonies migrated to the metropolis, the party focused obsessively on the alleged dangers of immigration. Mr. Le Pen’s tone was often apocalyptic: “Tomorrow,” he said sadly in 1984, “the immigrants will stay with you, eat your soup and sleep with your wife, your daughter or your son.” Such vindictive resentment found some sympathy in certain quarters of French society, where the homogenizing effects of globalization and the increased visibility of Islam among native French citizens were believed to strip France of its essential character.

This antipathy aimed at many targets, including French Jews. Mr. Le Pen was known for his anti-Semitic remarks – for which he was condemned on several occasions by the courts – and the party created in his image trafficked in anti-Semitic ideas, tropes and images. Although Ms Le Pen claimed to have outgrown her father’s fixation on Jews, she continued to fan the flames – refusing in 2017 to accept France’s guilt for the Vichy regime’s role in the Holocaust and even, in a campaign poster in April, appearing to make a move associated with neo-Nazis. Capped by Mr. Zemmour’s open adherence to the Vichy regime, anti-Semitism has reentered the political mainstream.

Muslims have also borne the brunt of sectarianism. Initially considered a threat from elsewhere – supposed to come to France to deprive the natives of jobs – Muslims have in recent decades been considered an internal threat. With the rise of Islamist terrorism, Muslims were seen as practicing an inherently violent religion that required containment by public authorities. To be a Muslim was to be guilty until proven guilty.

James C. Tibbs