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Thursday, January 9, 2014

French Court Upholds Ban on Comedian Who Mocks Holocaust Commemoration

A French appeals court decided late Thursday to uphold a ban on performances by the stand-up comedian known as Dieudonné, who invented an obscene salute popular with anti-Semites and frequently sprinkles his act with diatribes against Holocaust remembrance.

The ruling reversed a decision by a lower court earlier in the day in the city of Nantes, where the performer was preparing to entertain 6,000 fans at the start of a 22-city tour that France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, has called a threat to public order.

The court order stopping the performance was hailed online by critics of the comedian, including Boruch Szlezinger, a Holocaust survivor, and Yann Galut, a socialist member of Parliament. Mr. Szlezinger, whose grandson helped him share his experiences at Buchenwald with younger generations on Twitter, wrote, “Today, the French government said no to hate.”

Mr. Galut said the ruling showed that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in our Republic.”

Outside the theater in Nantes, as fans of the comedian and riot police officers faced off, Dieudonné dispatched his sidekick Jacky to address the crowd and called for calm on his Facebook page.

In another update, the comedian advised his supporters that the authorities “are looking for physical confrontation, so go home singing the Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. Citing a Wikipedia entry, Dieudonné also claimed that the judge who upheld the ban, Bernard Stirn, was a great-nephew of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish army officer falsely accused and convicted of spying for Germany in 1894. According to the comedian, the judge’s background alone was enough to explain “why the show was forbidden.”

Although the comedian insists that the stiff-arm salute he calls a “quenelle” was not inspired by the Nazis, but is a gesture of obscene disdain for the French establishment, anti-Semites who read his anti-Zionist rhetoric as a kind of code to skirt French laws against inciting racial hatred now frequently do it at Holocaust memorials and other Jewish sites.

Earlier this week, BFMTV reported that the interior minister was heckled by Dieudonné supporters, some flashing the quenelle, as he arrived at a train station in Rennes, about an hour from Nantes.

BFMTV video of Interior Minister Manuel Valls being heckled by fans of the comedian Dieudonné.