Arutz Sheva sat down with Miriam Lesser, the Vice President of Qualita, the umbrella group of organizations that deal with French immigration to Israel, to discuss the recent comments of far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, who called to ban the kippah in France.
"The Jewish community does not take such things in stride," Lesser said. "We're angry, of course, but this was predictable given the way Le Pen has been gradually raising the severity of the steps she wishes to take to combat radical Islam."
"The French government, like other governments which find themselves impotent in the face of radical Islam, leaves the extreme right to fill the vacuum with more drastic solutions."
Lesser points out that due to feelings of insecurity among the French populace, Le Pen's National Front party became the third largest in the French parliament, "and the Jewish community is paying the price. The kippah is a symbol of the Jews. We [barely] remember the 'golden age' of the 1980s when walking around with a kippah did not draw extreme reactions from Muslims."
"In Le Pen's view the solution is to ban religious clothing, but that is not the solution. The Jews are being held hostage in her fight against radical Islam's attempts to impose itself on the rest of the population."
According to Lesser, because of the high value France places on the concept of equality, Le Pen is being forced to compare the threat of radical Islam to other minorities, and the result is that the kippah is being sacrificed so that the burqa and other forms of traditional Muslim garb can be banned.
"We're seeing the radicalization of secularism. This is the tragedy of France. Le Pen wants to discriminate against everyone" in the name of equality.
Lesser draws attention to a statement of Le Pen that did not draw headlines the way the proposed kippah ban did, but is much more significant for Jews, as keeping kosher is a biblical commandment and many Jews keep kosher although they do not wear a kippah. "She wants all schools to eat the same food. If it's pig, then everyone has to eat pig. There will be no option for fish or vegetarian dishes for different populations."
Lesser says that Jews in the heart of Paris live safely, but Jews in the suburbs suffer violence and anti-Semitism from their Arab neighbors and are thinking of immigrating to Israel. Le Pen's recent statements bring the issue of aliyah to the foreground.
However, as Lesser notes, aliyah from France has been down this year. Lesser blames the decline on the difficulties and bureaucratic obstacles French Jews face after moving to Israel.
"They hear about someone who has already made aliyah and how they're coping with difficulties in finding work and adapting their employment to what they had done in the past, and they hear that no strategic preparations were made to place the immigrants into the workforce."
Qualita was founded to aid French immigrants in overcoming the difficulties of aliyah and lobbies the government to ease the bureaucracy French immigrants face when obtaining licenses for the professions they had in France.