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Photo: AFP
Dieudonné. Operating in the grey area of the law
Photo: AFP
French MP Meyer Habib. 'Pessimistic'
'Quenelle' performed in middle of French Parliament
Anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné posts picture of two young men performing inverted Nazi salute during tour of National Assembly. 'Bravo, thank you for your support! You are everywhere,' he writes.
The "quenelle," the inverted Nazi salute, reached the French Parliament this week when two young men posed for a picture while performing the anti-Semitic gesture, apparently during a tour of the National Assembly.

  

 

Their picture was posted on the Facebook page of controversial French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, who praised and congratulated them.

 

French Parliament Member Meyer Habib responded to the incident by sending an urgent letter to National Assembly President Claude Bartolone, demanding that the two men be found and prosecuted.

 

"This is a challenge which took place in the heart of the Republic, in a place considered sacred in the eyes of the French people," he said. "Jews are always in the first line, but as we have seen, it doesn’t only remain there."

 

Anti-Semitic comedian's post: 'Bravo, thank you for your support! You are everywhere!'

 

 

The current storm erupted on the backdrop of the French government's attempt to show intolerance towards racism and anti-Semitism, after a series of anti-Semitic incidents in the country. Less than two months ago, French President Francois Hollande told the country's Jews that "there is no room for anti-Semites in France," but it seems that Dieudonné, a famous Holocaust denier who invented the "quenelle" gesture, is doing as he pleases.

 

Law against 'quenelle' underway

The picture of the two men performing the inverted Nazi gesture in the heart of the French Parliament mostly shocked the country's Jews. The French media appeared indifferent to the incident.

 

The picture was posted on Dieudonné's Facebook page with the caption, "Bravo, thank you for your support! You are everywhere." The post received more than 2,000 likes and hundreds of shares.

 

MK Habib has initiated a law to ban the "quenelle" and other anti-Semitic and racist gestures, "not just against Jews," he says. "While the French law permits the arrest of people carrying Nazi symbols like swastikas, physical gestures remain in the grey area. This bill aims to fix that.

 

"I have been approached by dozens of French people protesting the act," Habib told Ynet. "People were amazed to see the 'new Nazi salute' in the heart of the French Parliament. The parliament is now in recess, but every visitor must register and there are security cameras in the entire building."

 

Jewish French MP: We have a big problem

Anti-Semites have been performing the inverted Nazi gesture in different places around the world – from soccer fields to the Western Wall. A first indictment over the gesture was filed about a year ago, after a French cartoonist posted a picture of a man performing the "quenelle" outside the Toulouse school in which four Jews were murdered in 2012.

 

Banning the "quenelle" in France is apparently not an easy task. The movement defined by Dieudonné as anti-establishment, rather than anti-Jewish, has failed to explain why the gesture is frequently performed in front of clear Jewish symbols, but provides a sufficient smoke screen which helps it exist in the grey area of the law.

 

"I am very pessimistic about Jews' ongoing existence in France in general," says MK Habib. "I have been saying for years that Jews are the first line, and have been ignored. During the Second Lebanon War people were marching here with 'quenelle' and Hamas flags, and I said it would reach everyone. Today, after the Charlie Hebdo attack, they understand it better, but it's not over."

 

Several days before the parliament incident, Dieudonné was photographed performing the "quenelle" gesture in a theater with a famous French comedian and actor called Ramzy. The picture created a media buzz, but has not led to any practical steps by the French government.

 

"Only this week, a French folk dancer war murdered, apparently by a jihadist," Habib adds. "Dieudonné himself returned from a visit to Iran recently, where he was welcomed in open arms by the regime's representatives and got the royal treatment, so the direction is clear. And if people openly perform this gesture in the French Parliament – the most sacred place to the French people – we have a big problem."

 

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