This piece originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

The future of Jews in France is as narrow a path as the space left for true French Democrats committed to preserving democracy in this new political environment. France’s position regarding Israel is unknown, as we are unsure if the future government will stand for the values of the French Republic. If France forsakes its ideals and message to the world in these elections, it will also abandon its Jews and fail Israel.

The results of last Sunday’s first round of elections saw a significant lead from “Le Rassemblement National (RN),” the extreme right, xenophobic, and pro-Russian party of Marine Le Pen, who received 33.15% of the votes. The political, social, and ideological air in France has become unbreathable for French Jews and those who cherish a France that is honest, intellectual, vivid, but also respectful, as the famous French way of debating is disappearing. These results are a crushing blow for President Macron’s centrist party “Ensemble” (which only received 20.8% of the votes) and its moderate approach. 

By weakening moderates on the left and right since coming to power, President Emmanual Macron left space only for extremists. Marine Le Pen’s popularity and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s visibility skyrocketed as resentment towards President Macron’s government, policies, and personality rose. The extreme political polarization is yet another part of the democratic crisis plaguing France. We had the Yellow Vests protests over tax increases, the anti-vax movements, and the uprisings in the French suburbs last summer. French institutions and the republic model of government are being questioned more and more violently.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Jews and Israel are at the center of the current turmoil. We at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and many of our Jewish and non-Jewish allies have been sounding the alarm for over two decades about the rise of antisemitism. It started in France during the Second Intifada, but it was only a symptom of a much deeper malaise in our society. October 7 only worsened this ongoing, painful trend. 

The French elite is losing its moral compass over antisemitism and Israel. Extremists know how to use French history and traumas viciously and cynically; they distort concepts and French core values, undermining them while serving their own ideological and/or electoral agendas. 

Marine Le Pen employs the “tie strategy.” By putting on a new pro-Jewish, pro-Israel face, the RN got rid of its Nazi-Vichy-affiliated image to gain votes from a broader spectrum of French society. On the other end of the spectrum, Jean-Luc Mélenchon manipulates the French postcolonial trauma by using antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred to rally new segments of the French population. By doing so, he also increases the popularity of the extreme right while gaining political visibility as the main opposition force. 

Now that the extreme right is so close to being in power, Mélenchon forced the moderate left to rally in violation of their own values. He dragged all true democrats across the political spectrum to an impossible dilemma of beating the extreme right at the expense of the exact value that founded the opposition to Marine Le Pen and her father’s heritage: an absolute red line on antisemitism. 

The space for moral clarity has been hijacked, leaving French Jews without a political home. According to AJC’s last survey on antisemitism in France, 30% of French Jews said they would leave France if Marine Le Pen is elected President. 92% of French Jews consider that “La France Insoumise” (Mélenchon’s party) contributes the most to the rise of antisemitism in the country.

No matter what the results will be in Sunday’s final round of elections, it seems quite impossible to reverse the tide of France’s collapse that we are witnessing. However, as the Jewish psychoanalyst David Frankl wrote: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” It is time for France to silence its filthy beast, self-reflect, and reconnect with its former French values.