(JTA) — A French court fined and gave a suspended prison sentence to a man who disseminated a picture of a quasi-Nazi salute being performed at a Jewish school.
On Wednesday, the Toulouse Appeals Court hit Noel Gerard with a $15,000 fine and a six-month suspended term for incitement to hatred.
In 2014, he shared a picture on social media of a man performing the salute known as the quenelle in front of the Ohr Hatorah school, where in 2012 a jihadist killed a rabbi and three children, the news site 20minutes reported.
The quenelle is promoted by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, whose critics say it is a variant of the Nazi salute designed to express admiration for the murder of Jews without incurring the punishment reserved in the French penal code for doing so.
French courts rarely hand out prison sentences, even suspended ones, and such heavy fines on actions like the one committed by Gerard.
Gerard, 34, who is known in online anti-Semitic circles as “Joe le Corbeau” — French for “Joe Crow” — was arrested in 2014 near Marseille in southern France.
The photo, which surfaced on social networks, showed a young man wearing sunglasses performing the quenelle while standing in front of the school’s entrance. He wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The same man, who has not been identified, according to 20minutes, also posed in front of the apartment of Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist who attacked the school two days before police killed him in a shootout at his apartment.
Gerard was arrested more than a month after the photo surfaced because social networks did not immediately agree to cooperate with the police request for information about the suspect, France3 reported in 2014.
Advocates of the quenelle say it is not anti-Semitic but anti-establishment. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate,” echoing a position held by the CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities and organizations.