Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party leader (C)
Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party leaderReuters

A leading representative of France's Jewish community caused controversy after he described Front National (FN) chief Marine Le Pen as "irreproachable", despite her party being often accused of anti-Semitism.

Roger Cukierman, the head of the Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), told Europe 1 radio that, due to its tainted past, he would not vote for the far-right party, although Le Pen's personal record is immaculate.

"In the Jewish community we are all well aware that behind Marine Le Pen, who is personally irreproachable, there are all sort of holocaust deniers and supporters of Vichy and Pétain," he said.

Cukierman went on to say FN was not responsible for any of the recent attacks and episodes of violence suffered by France's Jewish community.

"Today all violence is perpetrated by young Muslims," he said. "Of course it is just a little minority of the Muslim community and Muslims are the first victims [of this]."

Anti-Semitic attacks in France more than doubled in 2014, with some 851 incidents reported, according to CRIF figures.

Criticism of Marine Le Pen

Cukierman's apparent praise of Le Pen, however, drew widespread criticism online, with many pointing out she has done little to condemn the numerous anti-Semitic comments made by her father, FN's founder Jean-Marie.

Some, like French Socialist MP Alexis Bachelay, called for a boycott of an annual dinner held by Crif, which is scheduled for this evening and is usually attended by France's political elite.

Cukierman later explained in a tweet that he meant Marine Le Pen was irreproachable from a legal point of view as, differently from her father, she has never been convicted of anti-Semitism.

"But she is someone we don't want anything to do with, for she has never distanced herself from her father's remarks," he wrote.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 86, has received regular fines for inciting racial hatred during his decades-long political career.

In 1991, he was famously ordered to pay €183,000 (£135,000, $207,000) for saying gas chambers were "a small detail in the history of WWII".

Since taking over the reins of the party in 2011, his daughter, 46, has successfully worked to clean up the FN's racist, anti-Semitic and chauvinistic image, broadening its appeal.

In 2014, she ousted her father's blog from the party's official website after he used the platform to lambast French Jewish singer Patrick Bruel, a vocal FN critic, saying: "We'll do an oven load next time" - a reference to crematoria used by the Nazis in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Le Pen has turned FN into a mainstream anti-EU and anti-immigration platform, also using anti-Islam rhetoric to capitalise on recent Islamist attacks in France that have had the local Jewish community as one of the main targets.

After four Jewish shoppers were killed in Paris by as self-styled Islamic State (Isis) militant in January, she called for all mosques to be monitored as an anti-terrorism measure.