Rima Hassan and Anti-Semitism in Europe

When a leader divides the political future of a country into “us or them”, there is always a danger behind it: that of the radicalization of the conflict. In this case – we are in France on the eve of the run-off for the renewal of Parliament – the “us or them” was pronounced by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France Insoumise, a party that emerged as a point of reference for the French left, following the deep and prolonged crisis of the socialists and, more generally, of the European left.

Well, when President Emmanuel Macron himself dissolved parliament after the disappointing (for him) European vote, in order to avoid a landslide victory for the right-wing parties united in the Rassemblement National, Macron signed (also) with Mélenchon that “pact of desistance” or “republican pact” aimed at preventing the sovereignists/populists who identify with Marine Le Pen from obtaining an absolute majority.

The problem is that the French president then ruled out an alliance with the radical left of Mélenchon: “Desire does not mean coalition”. A concept reinforced by his young and almost ex-premier, Gabriel Attal: “Everything separates me from La France Insoumise. I will never form an alliance with them”. So, the Elysée wants to block Marine Le Pen and her “dangerous” far-right coalition, because it is infused with dangerous ideologies such as fascination with fascism, Nazism and Russian Putinism; but at the same time it must also be wary of other radicals, namely those on the left. The reason? They are no less infused with dangerous ideologies.

Indeed, the radical right and left converge toward a serious, very serious point of convergence: hatred for Israel and the Jews. Murders of representatives of Jewish communities, violence (including sexual violence) against Jewish men and women, synagogues attacked with weapons, desecrated tombs and swastikas in Jewish cemeteries, defacement of Holocaust veterans and Stars of David on shops are now the norm in this country.

An aversion, that for the Jews, which in France since the Enlightenment has also pervaded the thinking of intellectuals and philosophers: “Not only the nationalist and fascist right of the Dreyfus affair, not only the cowardly collaborators of the Vichy regime. Figures of the socialist and republican left have also contributed to feeding the hunger of the beast, with the approval or even with the active support of the population” summarized Daniele Beccaria in the columns of Doubtdaily political-judicial information newspaper of the National Forensic Council.

Of course, on the right as well as on the left, there are too many examples that confirm this thesis. We will limit ourselves here to one illustrative case: that of Rima Hassan, in seventh place on the Mélenchonist list for the European elections. Mélenchon took her and other questionable individuals on board in order to qualify La France Insoumise as “the French party that offers unconditional support to the Palestinians”. A move that aimed and aims to broaden his pool of voters, fishing especially among the Muslim electorate, particularly numerous and combative in France.

Well, who is Rima Hassan? If about her Wikipedia until a week ago she did not have an entry with this name, after she was elected MEP she promptly updated her page. In the meantime, it is Panorama to anticipate who it is: 31 years old, raised in the Neirab camp in Syria as a Palestinian refugee from a family that fled during the Nakba of 1948, she has lived in France since the age of 9, where she studied law. She obtained citizenship at the age of 18 and in 2019 she founded the Refugee Camp Observatory, an NGO that surveys and studies refugee camps around the world, with particular attention to the Palestinian ones, as is obvious.

Why do we care? Because already in 2023, after the events of October 7, Rima Hassan became a case in France, following a scandal due to her political positions against Jews: she joined the Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion of the famous French brand L’Orealhad been selected for this reason by Forbes among the “40 extraordinary women who marked the year”. However, as the annual ceremony approached, several personalities began to raise doubts and circulate severe criticisms of this choice, accusing Rima Hassandi of being an anti-Semite and of openly supporting Hamas terrorism. In fact, it was Rima herself who confirmed that she considered “the action that Hamas is carrying out legitimate”, as she herself declared during a press conference of the association The Crayons. And to reiterate that a “genocide” (sic!) is underway in Gaza. That was enough because L’Oreal was forced to fire her, last November.

Her position has also been made worse by the fact that she associates with controversial figures, such as Mélenchonist MP David Guiraud. One who, in relation to the Hamas massacre of October 7, said things like: “The baby in the oven? It was put there by Israel. The disemboweled mother? It’s true, but it was something Israel did.” And yet Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise not only did not censure MP Guiraud, but rewarded Hassan by sending her to the European Parliament, where she will be able to continue to support her theses on Israel and Hamas. She is the first French MEP of Palestinian origin.

According to the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), Yonathan Arfi, Rima Hassan follows “the agenda of the Hamas fundamentalists and justified the abuses of October 7”. On the contrary, for her party colleagues, she “suffers a real implacability from pro-Israel organizations and personalities. Each of her positions unleashes a torrent of insults and threats. The soldiers of the colonial occupation forces have gone so far as to inscribe, on several occasions, her surname on Israeli bombs”, they say. As proof of this, on April 18, Rima Hassan and the secretary of France Insoumise Jean-Luc Mélenchon himself received a prefectural order prohibiting them from participating in a conference scheduled at the University of Lille. This has led to even greater media exposure for the Franco-Palestinian girl, with the party declaring: “We believe there is a desire on the part of the government to criminalise the opposition”, denouncing “an increasingly authoritarian drift” on the part of the Elysée.

As for her, Rima does not believe she has “anything to reproach myself for, having always spoken critically against both Hamas and its terrorist modus operandi and against Israel. To these defamatory accusations I respond by saying that I simply want all Palestinians to be freed from this oppression. I still feel in need of my Palestinian identity, precisely because I was born in a place that prevented me from being one: a refugee camp, Neirab in Syria. All for the simple reason: that Israel rejects and opposes the right of return of the Palestinians. I believe that in Palestine we are in an apartheid regime.”

So, while the first polls after the withdrawals in an anti-far right function see the Rassemblement National far from obtaining an absolute majority in the second round next Sunday, it is certain that the new parliamentary assembly will be filled with figures – both on the right and the left – who hate Israel and the Jews, and do not hide it. This is reasonably worrying the Jewish community in France, also considering the growing share of immigrants of Arab-Muslim origin. To the point that the chief rabbi of Paris Moshe Sebbag asks: “Is there still a future for the Jews in France?”

A question that, in Italy, was also raised by Senator for Life and Holocaust witness Liliana Segre: «I have understood this anti-Semitism all my life: hidden, concealed, it was not the time. But anti-Semitism has always been there. And this (referring to the events of October 7, ed.) was the perfect opportunity to shoot it in all respects and in all environments.”

Here is the political climate in France and Italy today, that is, in the two countries central to the fate of the European Union. We omit Germany because, for historical reasons and faults, it approaches the issue in a necessarily different way. Will Giorgia Meloni’s distinctions in Italy and the anti-Le Penist coalitions be enough to avoid an anti-Semitic drift in the heart of Europe in the near future? The doubt is legitimate, the concern real.