(JTA) — Soccer star Nicolas Anelka said the Jewish wife of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls influenced the politician to oppose the quenelle salute.
Anelka, who was fired last week from his British soccer team for performing the gesture in December, made the charges in an interview published Friday by the French edition of the Metronews daily.
Valls, who was recently nominated prime minister, called the quenelle salute “a gesture of hatred .., an anti-Semitic gesture” at a press conference in January, when he was still interior minister. But Anelka and his friend Dieudonne M’bala M’bala — the gesture’s inventor and the owner of seven convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews — say it’s merely anti-establishment.
“He’s not so bad,” Anelka told Metronews of Valls. “I think he was under the influence of his wife on this quenelle issue.”
Anne Gravoin, Valls’ wife whom he married in 2010, is a violinist of Jewish Moldovan descent. In a 2012 talk in Paris, he said: “Through my wife, I am eternally bonded to the Jewish community and Israel.”
Last month, the West Bromwich Albion team, where the France-born Anelka was playing as a forward striker, fired him over “gross misconduct,” both for making the quenelle –- the act of folding one arm over one’s chest while pointing downward with the other arm — during a Dec. 28 match and for failing to apologize for it or to accept a club fine over the incident.
In February, the British Football Association imposed a $130,000 fine on Anelka and handed him a five-match ban.
His interview for Metronews was his first in-depth reaction to the sanctioning.
He denied harboring anti-Semitic sentiments and denied that the quenelle, which critics say echoes the Nazi salute, was anti-Semitic. Claiming so, he said, was paranoid.
He also said that for him, the affair has “turned Dieudonne from a friend to brother.”
In the interview, Anelka alluded to another of Dieudonne’s inventions called “shoananas.” A mashup of the Hebrew word for Holocaust and the French word for pineapple, it is seen as a way of suggesting the Holocaust is a hoax or mocking it without breaking France’s laws against genocide denial.
“If this continues, those who decide that the quenelle is racist will soon forbid the consumption of pineapples,” he said.
Many of Dieudonne’s fans have taken to posing while performing the quenelle near or while holding a pineapple, and then posting the photos online.