French Muslim soccer star, Nicolas Anelka, has drawn President Obama, rapper Jay-Z and singer Beyoncé into a controversy surrounding his use on Saturday of a gesture that is widely considered to be anti-Semitic, and has been described as “the Nazi salute in reverse.”
Under heavy criticism for publicly using the gesture, after scoring a goal for British soccer club West Bromwich, the athlete tweeted a picture of Obama and the pop culture icons motioning in a way that may appear to be similar. However, a 2012 report from the time that the picture was taken said that the group was “brushing imaginary dirt off their shoulder” in “an obvious reference to the Jay-Z hit song” entitled “Dirt off Your Shoulder.”
The White House did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment on the picture.
The gesture, known as the “quenelle” was created by French anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné, and has been used by his followers in front of Nazi concentration camps, synagogues and even when standing beside unsuspecting Jews.
“It’s the Nazi salute in reverse,” Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organizations, said recently. “Very clearly, Mr Dieudonné is developing a nearly professional anti-Semitism under the cover of telling jokes.”
On Friday French Interior Minister Manuel Valls criticized the comedian and said that his ministry was looking for legal ways to ban his shows.
“Dieudonné M’bala M’bala doesn’t seem to recognize any limits any more,” Valls said. “From one comment to the next, as he has shown in several television shows, he attacks the memory of Holocaust victims in an obvious and unbearable way.”
Dieudonne’s film, “The Anti-Semite,” was banned from the Cannes Film Festival last year. He has openly supported former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s offensive views on Israel and the Jewish people, and has described Holocaust remembrance as “memorial pornography”.
After his use of the “quenelle,” Anelka, who is friendly with Dieudonné said that his decision to use the hateful gesture was a tribute to his friend.
“This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné,” Anelka tweeted.
The move was sharply criticized by French leaders.
France’s Minister for Sport, Valerie Fourneyron, tweeted that, “Anelka’s gesture is a shocking and disgusting provocation. Anti-semitism or incitement to hatred has no place on the football field.”
A spokesperson for Britain’s Football Association said that the FA would investigate the incident. But Jeremy Newmark, a former Jewish communal executive said that the FA’s decision was insufficient. “The @fa investigation into Nicholas Anelka smacks of an excuse for inaction. Racism requires a swift & firm response,” he wrote on Twitter.
The caretaker manager for Anelka’s soccer club, Keith Downing, quickly came to the star’s defense. He said that Anelka was “totally surprised” by the outcry. “It has got nothing to do with what is being said,” Downing said. “It is absolute rubbish.”
Earlier this month an anonymous “anti-Fascist and pro-Israel” hacker exposed the email addresses and identities of thousands of Dieudonné’s supporters.