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Star French athlete probed for anti-Semitic gesture

(JTA) – A star athlete from France is facing disciplinary action for showing support for an anti-Semitic comedian whose shows soon may be banned by the French government.

Britain’s Football Association said Saturday it was considering punishing Nicolas Anelka, a French national who plays for the West Bromwich Albion soccer team, for performing the quenelle — a quasi-Nazi salute that representatives of France’s Jewish community have termed anti-Semitic — during a match.

Following an outcry, the 34-year-old athlete said on Twitter: “This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonne,” a reference to the comedian who invented and is promoting the gesture, which is said both to mock and circumvent France’s laws against displaying Nazi symbols with intention of causing offense.

A spokesman for the Football Association told the British tabloid The Daily Mirror that the organization would be launching a probe into the actions of Anelka, who was filmed placing his outstretched left palm on his right shoulder after striking the first of two goals during the match.

The decision came after French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron called Anelka’s gesture “a shocking provocation, disgusting.” She added: “There’s no place for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred on the football field.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement: “We expect that the English Premier League officials as well as the police will give Anelka the appropriate punishment.”

The discussion about Anelka comes one day after France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, declared that his ministry would look into banning all public performances by Dieudonne, the inventor of the quenelle.

“Despite his conviction for defamation, causing offense and inciting racial hatred and discrimination, Dieudonne M’bala M’bala doesn’t seem to recognize any limits any more,” Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement last Friday announcing the legal review aimed at banning his public appearances.

On Saturday, some 200 of Dieudonne’s supporters protested against Valls’ plans, according to the news site JSSnews.com.

Dieudonne, who also invented the word “shoananas” – code for suggesting the Holocaust is a myth without breaking France’s laws against denying the genocide — is scheduled to perform in Bordeaux on Jan. 26.

Dieudonne has been convicted several times for inciting racial hatred against Jews in films, shows and articles.

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