The French have long had problems with anti-Semitism, and the issue shows no sign of dying down.
The latest instance has to do with the spreading popularity of an apparent Nazi gesture frequently used by one of France’s most popular comedians, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who goes by Dieudonné.
Dieudonné is a known anti-Zionist who frequently incorporates offensive remarks about Jews in his act. In 2009, he used the gesture, called “la quenelle,” in a poster advertising a list of anti-Zionist political candidates. It basically looks like a low-key Nazi salute. Dieudonné denies it is an antisemitic gesture, instead claiming it is merely “anti-system.” But there’s a blog compiling instances of people demonstrating la quenelle that clearly shows its antisemitic connotations.
Despite this, lots of famous French folks, including Tony Parker, have been photographed performing the gesture alongside Dieudonné, though most later say they were unwittingly “trapped” into doing it. But others, including a prominent French journalist, have been photographed doing it by themselves.
Dieudonné has been repeatedly charged with defamation and inciting racial hatred, and is now under investigation again, after a report surfaced of him saying that a Jewish journalist with whom he’s been at odds may have to “grab his belongings,” and that it was “too bad” that there wasn’t an opportunity for him to be sent to the gas chambers.
This weekend, French soccer star Nicolas Anelka displayed the gesture after scoring a goal, in solidarity with Dieudonné. Anelka swiftly took to Twitter to also deny it meant anything other than support for Dieudonné. But Anelka, who plays for West Bromwich, is himself now under investigation by Britian’s football authority and could face a heavy sanction that LeMonde says may endanger his career in the UK.
Dieudonné has a huge following in France, and Jean-Yves Camus, a French pundit, told French daily Libération that la quenelle has become “a means for expressing one’s identity, one which has taken on a real popularity among youth. It’s hard to say whether they all possess awareness of what it means.”
Perhaps as a result, France’s interior minister is now considering a petition to ban Dieudonné from performing.
Meanwhile, Dieudonné continues to support “master quenellers,” and a Polo shirt is now for sale online that advertises one’s quenelling abilities.
It’s worth noting that more than 20% of French said in a recent poll that they would not want “people of another race” as neighbours, among the highest in all of Europe.
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