French left in turmoil after Mélenchon’s party reacts to Hamas attacks

By Davide Basso
Oct 9, 2023

France’s radical left party La France insoumise has been condemned over its wording related to Hamas’ attacks on Israel last Friday, which has been unanimously condemned by the entire French political class.

“The armed offensive by Palestinian forces led by Hamas comes against a backdrop of intensification of Israel’s policy of occupation in Gaza, the [Jordan] West Bank and East Jerusalem,” La France insoumise (LFI), which is affiliated to The Left in the European Parliament, said in a statement published on Saturday.

These comments follow those of several leaders of the French radical left, including the movement’s leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who said on X that “all the violence unleashed against Israel and Gaza proves only one thing: violence only produces and reproduces itself.”

His comments were widely criticised by the rest of the political class, including his left-wing allies.

“Any statement that does not condemn Hamas terrorism and Israeli civilian victims […] is disgusting,” said Socialist MP Jérôme Guedj who, in reaction to Mélenchon’s comments, told BFMTV that he was “stunned, disgusted and frightened to see that at this moment we can […] look for circumstances to explain the intervention of terrorists”..

Such a position “is, if not suspicious, problematic because it does not say things clearly,” he added.

His view was shared by colleagues, including MP Valérie Rabault, who criticised the press release’s wording on X.

“It disgusts me that some on the left should refer to Hamas as ‘the Palestinian armed forces’. Hamas is a terrorist organisation”, she said.

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The EU, the US and other countries list Hamas, an Islamist organisation that advocates the destruction of the state of Israel, as a terrorist organisation.

In view of these statements, “the question of remaining in the NUPES [France’s left-wing coalition led by La France insoumise] arises”, Guedj lamented on RCJ radio.

Criticism from outside the left

Politicians opposed to the left like President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal Renaissance party and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National also condemned La France Insoumise’s reaction and denounced its ambiguities.

“The positions of La France Insoumise are well known, with many ambiguities, with anti-Zionism, so that sometimes it is also a way of masking a kind of anti-Semitism”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne (Renaissance/Renew) told BFMTV in an interview on Sunday,

“Ms Borne is taking advantage of the war in the Middle East to wage her war against LFI. […] Approving the current massacre dishonours Ms Borne”, Mélenchon said on X.

The head of government was also asked about the position of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), a far-left group that is not very prominent compared to the political weight of the LFI.

The NPA, which has suggested teaming up with LFI for the European elections, expressed “its support for the Palestinians and the means of struggle they have chosen to resist”.

In response, Borne said she would let the courts do their job, but warned that incitement to terrorism is a criminal offence in France. Several lawyers and the Union of Jewish Students of France said they will lodge a complaint against the NPA for incitement to terrorism.

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This is not the first time that issues relating to Israel have caused a stir on the French left.

This was the case, for example, when LFI and the Communists backed a resolution condemning Israel’s “apartheid regime” and calling for a boycott of the Jewish state, which failed to get enough votes in the French National Assembly.

While it led to the isolation of the Socialists from NUPES, the right and centre used this as an excuse to denounce the left’s “obsession” with Israel.

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