French authorities are debating whether they can ban performances by a comedian who regularly insults Holocaust victims on grounds that he threatens the public peace.
On Friday, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he is seeking a legal means of banning performances by Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a comedian repeatedly fined for hate speech who has run for the European Parliament at the head of an “Anti-Zionist List.”
“Dieudonne M’bala M’bala doesn’t seem to recognize any limits any more,” Valls said.
The move comes after numerous complaints to his Ministry about about Dieudonne’s trademark arm gesture, which Valls claims is a “Nazi salute in reverse.”
Unlike the Nazi salute, in which the left arm remained at one’s side and the stiff right arm was elevated at a 45 degree angle up from the shoulder, Dieudonne’s involves bringing the left arm to the right shoulder and rigidly pointing a stiff left arm at 45 degree angle down from the shoulder.
The gesture, which Dieudonne calls “la quenelle” — the French term for a minced fish dumpling — is considered by many young French people as merely a symbol of disdain for the current French government.
French Jewish organizations are unconvinced. Roger Cukierman, who heads a consortium of such groups, told French President Fancois Hollande that “[v]ery clearly, Mr Dieudonne is developing a nearly professional anti-Semitism under the cover of telling jokes.”
When Radio France’s Patrick Cohen asked Dieudonne if the media was paying too much attention to both him and “la quenelle,” Dieudonne replied, “[w]hen I hear Patrick Cohen speaking, I say to myself, you see, the gas chambers…too bad.”
Ironically, the comedian began his career with a Jewish sidekick and was active with anti-racist groups. In 2002, however, he became critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and began associating with anti-Zionist organizations.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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