French journalist Ruth Elkrief is under police protection after the far-left French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon referred to her as anti-Muslim.
In a tweet, Mélenchon, who has 2.7 million followers, called Elkrief “manipulative” and added, “If we don’t insult Muslims, this fanatic is indignant.”
Elkrief reduces “all political life” to “contempt for Muslims,” he wrote.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that Mélenchon had “put a target on the back of Mrs. Elkrief” that he had ordered police to protect the journalist, who is of Jewish Moroccan descent.
The controversy erupted after a tense exchange about the Arab-Israeli conflict on Sunday on the La Chaîne Info (LCI) news channel, where Elkrief is a columnist. Elkrief asked Manuel Bompard, a National Assembly deputy for the left-wing populist La France Insoumise Party, about Mélenchon’s recent claim that there are indications of genocide in Gaza.
Bompard, who appeared to be irritated, accused Elkrief of being dishonest.
“Mrs. Elkrief, who already faced many threats as a journalist, was just doing her job,” said Darmanin, adding that Mélenchon “is not the greatest defender of the Jews that I know.”
Gérard Larcher, president of the French Senate, said, “It is unacceptable that in France a journalist is subject to pressure and insults” and can’t do her job safely.
France, which has the largest diaspora Jewish population outside of the United States, has seen a major spike in antisemitic attacks since Oct. 7. As of Nov. 6, French authorities had arrested 486 people for anti-Jewish hate crimes.
French journalists have also faced physical threats in recent years. In January 2015, a series of Islamist terrorist attacks and mass shootings claimed the lives of 17 people, including 11 journalists and security personnel at the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.