Nicolas Anelka may or may not have known what he was doing with his Nazi-like salute, but his great friend, the French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, almost certainly does.
Dieudonne is smart. Very smart. He’s smart enough to invert an idea, and invent a gesture, and direct them towards the same place – modern anti-Semitism.
His “quenelle” inverts the Heil Hitler salute.
It signals what it is, but in a manner allowing apologists to argue it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
He inverts the idea of anti-Semitism by saying that in fixating on Jews he is actually the good guy, standing up against what he believes are the ultra-powerful Zionists and their control of the world.
This is a world view he shares with the French National Front and one which has gained popularity in France and may help it to make huge gains in the May European elections.
It also plays into the reasons behind the wave of attacks on Jewish people and their property over the past decade.
In recent years he has done this in an insidiously clever way.
In an increasingly post-Christian Europe it’s no good using the 1,600-year-old canard that the Jews killed Christ, because it is past its sell-by date.
Also dated is the “they keep themselves to themselves” card as Jewish emancipation has allowed people out of the ghettos and into society to play full lives as citizens.
Dieudonne instead inverts this to argue, as we heard in the 1930s, and again more recently, that a powerful Jewish lobby is now “controlling” the system.
He is on record as having said this several times, most recently to Iranian television.
He appeals to “anti-racists” who can point to a Jewish influence in the slave trade, and to Muslims, by celebrating the Palestinian cause.
Thus you can support him, pretend you believe the nonsense he spouts about the quenelle not being anti-Semitic and move on to bask in the warm glow of the self-righteously prejudiced.
Dieudonne has been convicted seven times in French courts for incitement against Jews.
To get around the strict laws on Holocaust denial he has again used his guile.
The Hebrew word for holocaust is “Shoah”. The French word for pineapple is “Ananas”.
So, Dieudonne talks close to the line about the Holocaust but calls it the “Shoananas”.
This is so amusing to some people that they take photographs of themselves performing the “quenelle” alongside pineapples.
If the “quenelle” is not anti-Semitic, why then has a trend spread across Europe in which young people, usually men, pose for photos, doing the salute in front of a variety of Jewish buildings and symbols?
Can it be a coincidence that these are as varied as the Auschwitz death camp, the Western Wall, the Anne Frank house, various synagogues, Jewish-owned shops, and the Holocaust memorial in Berlin?
The Harry’s Place site has even turned up a photograph of a man doing it front of the school where earlier this year a gunman killed three Jewish children and their teacher.
What is it about Dieudonne that has caused hundreds of people to come to the same conclusion and fixate on one idea?
He can dissemble, linguistically slip and slide, verbally duck and dive, but the people who chose their location for these photos cannot.
Dieudonne is an activist, a provocateur, a satirist; he thrives on controversy and has read which way the wind is blowing, especially in France. He rails against many things in life, but time and time again returns to one theme.
Why? You’d have to be stupid not to know.