France's far right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen (L) gestures at supporters next to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen
France's far right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen (L) gestures at supporters next to her father Jean-Marie Le PenReuters

French Jews have increased their support to the far-right National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen granting a staggering 13.5% to the former anti-semitic party in the 2012 presidential election, a survey has shown.

The report showed that Jewish voters who snubbed Marine's father and notorious Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 and 2007, decided to give the 46-year-old rising star of French politics a chance against socialist contender Francois Hollande, who then became president.

"The increase of FN vote among the Jewish voters is explained by the strategy of de-demonisation led by the party, the absence of bad references to the Holocaust in Marine Le Pen's speech and especially the growing concern in part of the Jewish community about the rise of 'Islamic anti-semitism' vis-à-vis of which the FN presents itself as a bulwark," said Jerome Fourquet, IFOP director of public opinion, who conducted the poll of 1,095 respondents over 10 years.

Tabula rasa

Marine Le Pen has worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the party's image and polish it from a history of anti-Semitic rants and anti-Jewish jokes.

She successfully transformed the party from a radical right-wing niche to a populist anti-immigration and anti-establishment platform, topping the latest European elections with 25% of the vote. Marine Le Pen claims that the party has removed its racist and anti-Semitic roots, with which it was synonymous under her father's leadership.

Considering that in the previous presidential elections only 6.1% and 4.3 % of the Jewish electorate chose FN, this strategy seems to have worked well.

Her father, the founder of xenophobic and chauvinistic FN, was famously fined in 1991 €183,000 (£145,000) for saying that gas chambers were "a small detail in the history of WWII".

In 1997, the European Parliament of which Le Pen was a member removed his parliamentary immunity so that he could be prosecuted for making other Holocaust-denying comments. A Munich court found him guilty for minimising the Holocaust and fined him for his remarks.

After his daughter's victory at the European polls, a family row exploded in the party. In a video posted on FN's website, Jean Marie Le Pen lambasted French Jewish singer Patrick Bruel, a vocal critic of the far-right party, saying: "We'll do an oven load next time". The French word for oven, "fournée", allegedly referred to the crematoria used by the Nazis in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Marine later sought to distance herself from the remarks of her father, calling it a "political error".

Growing tension

Jewish community leaders in France have warned that a record number of Jews was leaving the country due to what they described an increasingly anti-Semitic environment.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza exacerbated communal tensions in the country, which is home to Europe's largest Jewish community and Muslim population. A synagogue on the outskirts of Paris was firebombed and two others were attacked by violent anti-Israel protesters in July. The violence shocked the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, also called Little Jerusalem due to its diversity of people and religions.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators defied a protest ban and took to the streets - but the rally soon got out of control. Rioters went on the rampage and attacked Jewish-owned stores. Anti-riot police clashed with protesters, cars were set ablaze and for a few hours Sarcelles descended into chaos. A total of 18 people were arrested.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned the violence describing it as "quite simply anti-semitic racism".