French soldiers face disciplinary action for anti-Semitic photo

(JTA) — Two French soldiers who posed in front of a Paris synagogue while making an anti-Semitic gesture will be sanctioned by the French army.

The soldiers of the Alpine Hunters elite unit currently are the subject of an investigation, the French military’s spokesperson, Bruno Louisfert, told radio station RTL France Tuesday. He said they will be punished for the act.

In an unrelated incident, unidentified vandals caused serious damage to a Jewish school in Marseille in southern France on Tuesday. The same Chabad-affiliated elementary school, Haya Moushka, was targeted in a similar incident three years ago, according to the French Jewish news site alyaexpress-news.com. Tuesday’s attack left many shattered windows. The school’s toilets also were smashed, along with heating radiators.

Commenting on the actions of the French soldiers who were photographed in front of the synagogue a few weeks ago, Louisfert said Tuesday that they had been identified after being redeployed elsewhere as part of France’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist detachments stationed in urban areas. They posed for the photograph in front of the entrance door to the Beth David synagogue in the 16th arrondissement, or municipal district, of the French capital with their left hand placed on their right shoulder and their right hand extended over their right thigh.

Dubbed the “quenelle,” the gesture is the brainchild of the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne, who invented several anti-Semitic words and gestures seen to be too vague to violate France’s law forbidding hate speech and Holocaust denial. The quenelle is thought to echo the Nazi salute. Diedonne has also referred to the Holocaust as “Shoannanas” — a combination of the Hebrew word for the Nazi genocide against the Jews and the French word for pineapple.

CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, called  the soldiers’ actions “shocking and disconcerting.”

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