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Le Pen to join Paris march against anti-Semitism despite Jewish opposition

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Le Pen to join Paris march against anti-Semitism despite Jewish opposition
Photo: AFP
16:49 CEST+02:00
National Front leader Marine Le Pen and several other far right politicians will ignore the wishes of Jewish organisations and join Wednesday's march through Paris against anti-Semitism following the brutal murder of an elderly Jewish woman.

Mourners are to gather in Paris on Wednesday for a silent march to condemn the gruesome killing of 85-year-old Jewish woman Mireille Knoll, the latest of several anti-Semitic attacks that have rattled France's Jewish community.

They will be joined by National Front leader Marine Le Pen and several other members of her party despite Jewish organisations specifically asking her to stay away.

Francis Kalifat of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish organisations said Le Pen and her party were "not wanted" at the march on Wednesday afternoon.

"I explained very clearly that the over-representation of anti-Semites on the extreme left and the far right makes these two parties indefensible," said Kalifat.

"Marine Le Pen, MPs and elected officials from the National Front as well as a number of party activists, who have been touched by this horrific murder will participate in the memorial march for Mireille Knoll," read a statement from the National Front. 

The National Front says its decision to ignore the wishes of CRIF was down to the fact the murdered woman's son Daniel Knoll went against the organisation's stance.

Marine Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded the National Front has been convicted of Holocaust denial and hate speech on several occasions as have several party members. Marine Le Pen has tried to soften the party's image in recent years in a bid to rid the National Front of its image as a racist, anti-Semitic party.

(Sarah Halimi, 65 and Mireille Knoll, 85, both murdered in the 11th arrondissement of Paris in what are believed to be anti-Semitic killings.)

Mireille Knoll, who escaped the notorious Vel d'Hiv roundup and deportation of Jews from Paris during World War II, was found dead in her bed in her small apartment in eastern Paris last Friday by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze.

In April last year Marine Le Pen angered many when she said "I don't think France is responsible for the Vel d'Hiv" despite the fact that no German officers were present.

Le Monde newspaper said The National Front (FN) leader had "crossed a red line" while Jewish groups blasted the comments as "revisionist" and an "insult to France (which has faced up to) its history without a selective memory."

The CRIF has also asked representatives of the far-left group France Insoumis to stay away but their leader Jean-Luc Melenchon will also deft the request to take part in the march, reports claim.

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Police arrested a neighbour and another suspect who have been charged.

Investigators are working on the theory that Knoll's killers stabbed her, robbed her and set her body on fire because she was a Jew.

"The terrible thing is that one of the attackers told the other: 'She's a Jew, she must have money'," Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told parliament on Tuesday.

"There are stereotypes we have to fight."

Several leading politicians including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo have said they will attend the march from 18: 30 Paris time making their way from Place de la Nation to Knoll's home in the city's east.

Parliamentary proceedings will be suspended to allow politicians to join the march, a joint statement from the National Assembly and the presidents of parliamentary groups said.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe also plans to meet with Knoll's family on Wednesday.

The death of the frail octogenarian -- she was suffering from Parkinson's disease, one of her sons said -- has shocked France's Jewish community, coming a year after an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties was thrown out the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest).

A judge confirmed just last month that the April 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi was motivated by anti-Semitism, a delay that drew the ire of several Jewish groups.

Halimi's murder reignited the debate over anti-Semitism in working-class districts in France, where Jews have been targeted in several deadly jihadist attacks in recent years.

France's half-a-million-plus Jewish community is the largest in Europe but has been hit by a wave of emigration to Israel in the past two decades, partly due to the emergence of a virulent strain of anti-Semitism in predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods.

In 2012, an Islamist gunman shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Three years later, an associate of the two brothers who massacred a group of cartoonists at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed four people in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

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