(JTA) — A Belgian athlete who did the quenelle gesture at a match was banned for 10 games.
The European governing body of soccer, UEFA, announced the punishment on Tuesday against Omar Rahou, who made the gesture several times at a European Championship match of futsal, a variant of soccer, in January while celebrating scoring a goal for his team, Chatelineau, against Romania in Antwerp, the website of the Dutch Algemeen Dagblad daily reported.
Rahou, 21, may appeal the sanction, which is the minimum punishment for racist abuse at UEFA matches after the organization toughened its disciplinary rules last May.
Last week, England’s Football Association handed Nicolas Anelka, a French striker for the West Bromwich Albion team, a five-match ban for performing the gesture — the minimum penalty the English association reserves for breaches of conduct that are aggravated by racism.
“Even if Anelka and Rahou received only the minimum penalty, that minimum is still significant and serves to dissuade others from imitating this sign of solidarity with anti-Semitism,” Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, told JTA.
The quenelle was invented by Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a French comedian who has multiple convictions for inciting hatred against Jews. Jewish groups said the gesture — which involves folding one arm over one’s chest while pointing downward with the other arm — was offensive and alluding to the Hitler salute. In December, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls called the gesture an “anti-Semitic gesture of hate.”
But Dieudonne said it was neither anti-Semitic nor Nazi, but merely anti-establishment.
Dieudonne also invented the term Shoananas, a mashup of the Hebrew word for the Holocaust and the French word for pineapple, which is believed to have been designed to mock the Holocaust or suggest it never happened without violating French laws against hate speech.