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France elections 2022: Eric Zemmour under investigation for texting French Jews

Group text suggests candidate has list of country’s Jews, which is forbidden in France because of Holocaust deportations
A screengrab of a text message sent from Eric Zemmour's campaign to a list of French Jews (MEE)

Far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour has been placed under investigation for sending a group text to French Jews on the eve of the first round of the French Presidential elections.

On Friday 8 April, just before Shabbat, people reported receiving a message from "EricZemmour" which read, “Will we be able to live in peace for much longer in France?”

After directing recipients to a link, he wrote, “Your children are counting on you!”

The link opened to a page entitled "Zemmour addresses the Jews of France". In the text, he denounced antisemitic “scum” who “ruin” their lives, as well as the “expansion of Islam”.

The message was sent two days before the first round of voting, on 10 April, when candidates were legally no longer allowed to campaign.

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The public prosecutor's office announced it was opening an investigation on Tuesday, following a complaint from two French Jewish NGOs.

A police unit, the Brigade for the Repression of Delinquency Against Individuals (BRDP), has opened the probe against Zemmour for “illegally holding, storing, recording, sending personal data communication to a third party without authorisation and misuse of… personal data”.

Zemmour won just over seven percent of Sunday’s vote, coming fourth after a campaign that lost momentum in the final weeks, as Marine Le Pen emerged as the far-right candidate of choice.

France forbids census figures based on race or religion, a legacy of the Second World War, when Jews were made to register at police stations and the lists were used - in what was known as the Vel' d’Hiv round-up - to deport tens of thousands of people to death camps.

Controversially, Zemmour has revived a myth that Vichy France protected French Jews.

Lawyers from the two Jewish NGOs denounced in their complaint "the biggest exploitation of lists of the names of Jews since Vel' d'Hiv".

According to France’s BFM TV, Zemmour’s campaign team claimed "to have received assurances from its service provider that the persons concerned had given their consent for their data to be shared".

Popular in Israel

Despite being thrashed by far-right rival Le Pen, Zemmour, a 63-year-old descendant of Algerian Berber Jewish immigrants who made his name as a polemicist on right-wing talk shows, scored highly in Israel, where 55.1 percent of French expatriates and dual nationals in the country voted for Zemmour. This put him far ahead of Emmanuel Macron, who got just over 30 percent of the vote, according to data provided by the Consulate General of France in Tel Aviv. Only 10 percent of registered voters turned out, however.

The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France had called on people not to vote for Zemmour.

Before the first round, Zemmour said: “I will be in the second round. Then, I will be either president of the republic or leader of the opposition.”

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