French court punishes man for quenelle salute

(JTA) — A French court punished a 28-year-old Morocco native for performing the controversial quenelle gesture in front of a synagogue.

The correctional tribunal of Bordeaux on Wednesday convicted the man of incitement to racial hatred and fined him the equivalent of $4,130.

The conviction for performing the quasi-Nazi gesture, which some deem anti-Semitic, comes amid a recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in France.

The man, who was not named in media reports on the sentencing, was sued by the France-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, or LICRA, after posting photos of himself performing the quenelle in front of the city’s Grand Synagogue earlier this year, according to Le Figaro.

LICRA said the sentence was the first criminal conviction in connection with a quenelle, a quasi-Nazi gesture that was invented and popularized by the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, whose anti-Jewish slurs have led to seven convictions for inciting racial hatred.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called the quenelle “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate,” but Dieudonne and others maintain it is merely anti-establishment.

The defendant said he is not an anti-Semite.

“On my Facebook account I try not to confuse anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” he reportedly said during his trial.

His Facebook account also features a photo of a man performing a quenelle in front of a portrait of Adolf Hitler with the caption, “I committed suicide but nowadays I’d get the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Wednesday’s sentence came amid what the Drancy-based National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism has called an influx in violent attacks against Jews in recent weeks.

The most recent incident occurred Saturday in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles when four men of African descent assaulted a Jewish man on the street as he was returning from synagogue with his son, according to a report on the news site JSSNews.com.

The attackers performed the quenelle before one of them punched the father, causing minor injuries.

NEXT STORY