'Anti-Semitism can be funny'

2006-12-21 18:31

Paris - French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been trying to soften his image to attract new voters before next year's presidential election, said on Thursday he believed anti-Semitism could be funny.

Le Pen, leader of the National Front who shocked France by finishing second behind President Jacques Chirac in the 2002 election, recently attended a show by controversial comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala.

The black comic was fined by a French court for anti-Semitic comments in 2004.

Asked on BFM radio whether it was Dieudonne's anti-Semitism that he found funny, Le Pen responded: "Yes, that can also be funny.

:There should be no subject that escapes criticism or irony. It all depends on how it is treated.

"You know the people who mock Jews the most, are Jews themselves. There's a Jewish form of humour that is very famous and well-known."

Racial hatred

Le Pen - who received 16.9% of votes in the 2002 election - was convicted and fined in 1990 for inciting racial hatred and for saying in 1996 that the gas chambers used by the Nazis were "merely a detail" of World War Two.

He faces another trial next year for saying in 2005 that "the German occupation was not particularly inhumane".

In June, he said the French soccer team had too many black players.

Recent polls have shown increased support for the National Front, although he is lagging behind Socialist presidential hopeful Segolene Royal and the likely candidate from the ruling UMP party, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

On Wednesday, another far-right politician, Bruno Megret, said he and his National Republican Movement (MNR) would support Le Pen next year, a move likely to boost his poll chances.

Le Pen still has to secure 500 signatures of support from mayors across France to take part in the election.

He told BFM he had already gathered more than 400.