Furore over Nicolas Anelka's 'quenelle' intensifies after picture surfaces of an unknown man making the gesture outside the Toulouse school where three Jewish children were killed in 2012

 

In Paris

The row over the “quenelle” gesture deepened today after it emerged that a picture had been posted on the internet of a man making the reportedly anti-Semitic hand signal in front of a Toulouse school where three Jewish children were murdered.

The public prosecutor in Toulouse has ordered police to trace the young man who performed the gesture – which is half-inverted Hitler salute and half-traditional French insult - outside the school where three small children and a rabbi were shot dead by the “scooter killer” Mohamed Merah in March 2012.

The image, which was first posted on the Internet two weeks ago, will inflame an already heated debate in France and in Britain over the “quenelle”. The gesture was invented by the black, French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’Bala four years ago and performed during a Premier League football match last Saturday by the French footballer Nicolas Anelka.

Both men say that the gesture is “anti-system” or “anti-estabishment” rather than anti-Semitic, despite its evident resemblance to the straight-armed Nazi salute. Their explanation of its meaning jars with the image of the young man “doing the quenelle” outside a school where four people, including children aged 4, 5 and 8, were murdered simply for being Jewish.

The proliferation of the image also draws attention to a disturbing rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France in recent years, mostly connected with the “new” anti-Semitism of young people of Arab or African origin rather than the “traditional” anti-Semitism of the French far right and part of the French bourgeoisie.

In 2012, there was 58 per cent increase in such incidents, some of them directly inspired by the murders committed by Merah (who also killed three French soldiers of Arab or African origin). The rise of violent anti-Semitism amongst young people in poor multi-racial suburbs of French cities is connected partly to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the anti-Jewish line preached by a minority of extremist Muslim imams.

But critics of the black comedian Dieudonné accuse him of not only riding this wave but helping to swell it. Over the last decade, the comedian has used his one-man show and other public appearances – often posted on YouTube or its French equivalent Daily Motion – to argue that almost all the troubles of the world, and especially of black people, are caused by Jews.

The more traditional anti-Semitism of the Far Right and high Catholic bourgeoisie in France – which is older than Nazism – persists but is receding. The new leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, carefully avoids the anti-Semitic language and themes which were used by her father, Jean-Marie, the party’s founder.

Unlike Islamist extremists such as Merah, Dieudonné has gone out of his way to make connections between “old” and “new” anti-Semitism. He has cultivated extreme right-wing Holocaust-deniers and invited Jean-Marie Le Pen to his shows. 

Dieudonné invented, and patented, the “quenelle” as his trademark symbol in 2009. It involves pointing straight down to the ground with one flattened-hand while folding the other arm across the chest. Critics – including the French interior minister, Manuel Valls - say that it is evidently a mixture of an inverted Hitler salute and a traditional, obscene French hand-signal called the “bras d’honneur” (arm of honour).

In contrasts to the denials of anti-Semitic intent made by Dieudonné and Anelka, almost all postings of the gesture on the French-language Internet involve Jewish “targets”. They include an image of two French soldiers in full uniform “doing the quenelle” outside a synagogue while on anti-terrorist patrol in the streets of Paris in September.

A criminal investigation was also started this week into comments made by Dieudonne in his one man-show when he said that a well-known Jewish radio presenter reminded him of “gas ovens”. The interior minister Mr Valls has asked his officials to look for ways to ban all public appearances by the comedian as a threat to public order.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Valls suggested that Dieudonne’s principal motivation was financial, not political. He called him an “entrepreneur of hatred”.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?