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Belgian Jews thank France for banning anti-Semitic comedian

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(JTA) — Leaders of Belgium’s Jewish community rallied outside the French Embassy in Brussels to thank the French government for its efforts to keep the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala from touring.

The demonstration Wednesday was organized by the CCOJB umbrella group representing French-speaking Belgian Jews. Some 70 people showed up, police told a Belgian news agency, bearing signs reading “Thank you, France.”

Organizers said the French government deserved praise for its efforts to prevent Dieudonne from taking his show “The Wall” on a nationwide tour.

France’s highest court banned Dieudonne’s debut in the western city of Nantes on Jan. 9. The comedian has been convicted several times of inciting racial hatred of Jews through trivialization of the Holocaust.

“Freedom of expression is an important principle, but Holocaust denial is not an opinion,” CCOJB President Maurice Sosnowski said through a megaphone at the demonstration. “It’s an offense. One must fight the impunity” of those who spread such ideas.

A number of Jewish figures have criticized the ban on Dieudonne as an infringement on basic freedoms.

Jack Lang, a Jewish former French minister of culture who heads the Arab World Institute, has told French media that he opposes the court’s ban because he found it too limiting. Lang, a former law professor, called the ruling “a major regression” that “regrettably mixes the administrative branch with the judiciary.”

On Jan. 11, Dieudonne announced he would abandon the show in favor of a new show, “Asu Zoa,” which would be devoid of anti-Semitic content.

But AFP, the French news agency whose reporter saw a sneak preview of the canceled show, reported the shows were almost identical except for “very extreme examples of anti-Semitism.”

On Thursday, the Le Monde daily reported that Dieudonne, who is under investigation for suspected tax fraud, may be thrown out of the theater he is renting in Paris, Main d’Or, because he has no license to operate it.

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