Wiesenthal Center Calls on NBA Star Tony Parker to Apologize for ‘Disgusting and Dangerous’ Use of ‘Reverse Nazi Salute’
by Dovid Efune
Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), called on NBA star Tony Parker to apologize for his past use of the “quenelle” gesture which is widely considered to be anti-Semitic, and has been described as “the Nazi salute in reverse.”
The call comes a day after French soccer star Nicolas Anelka ignited a furor over his use of the gesture after scoring a goal for English soccer club West Bromwich.
Calling Parker’s use of the gesture “disgusting and dangerous” and, saying that the star was “mainstreaming anti-Semitic hate,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the SWC, said that Parker should, “apologize for his use of the quenelle ‘Nazi’ salute.”
“As a leading sports figure on both sides of the Atlantic, Parker has a special moral obligation to disassociate himself from a gesture that the government of France has identified as anti-Semitic,” Cooper said, in an interview with The Algemeiner.
Representatives for the NBA, and Parker’s team the San Antonio Spurs, did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment.
Parker’s most overt use of the “quenelle” gesture, which has been reported on by a number of French newspapers including Libération, Rue89 and Slate’s French site, appears to have taken place earlier this year. News reports from September and October show a picture of Parker backstage at a French theater doing the “quenelle” while standing beside French anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné, who invented the gesture.
In another reported use of the gesture while appearing on the Grand Journal TV show, Parker is asked, “How big is (French President) FranÃ§ois Hollande?” The player then gets up, and smiling, crosses his right arm over to his left shoulder, French Jewish news site JSS News reported in October.
The “quenelle” has been used by followers of Dieudonné 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 French Jewish organizations, said recently. “Very clearly, Mr Dieudonné is developing a nearly professional anti-Semitism under the cover of telling jokes.”
“Clearly everyone agrees that this is a provocative instrumentation of a reverse Nazi salute,” French Jewish artist and activist Ron Agam, told The Algemeiner.
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.”
Artist Agam said that “There is an enormous amount of anger and fear” among French Jews, “due to the newly aggressive resurgence of anti-Semitic violence.”
“Dieudonné is one of the visible expressions of this outrageous behavior,” he said.
Agam said Parker’s use of the gesture was a product of “Stupidity and boorishness coupled with blatant indifference towards the victims of anti-Semitism.”
“He should publicly apologize and renege on his support and friendship towards the humorist,” Agam agreed.
Dieudonné’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.” He has also created words and other gestures that are designed to be offensive to Jews.
Addressing the possibility that Parker wasn’t fully aware of what Dieudonné and the “quenelle” symbolize, Agam said that, “Everyone in France knows what Dieudonné stands for. His declared anti-Semitism has been on the front page of all major newspapers , no one can say, ‘they did not know of his viciousness towards the Jewish community.'”
“Tony Parker is guilty by association as are all the other people that claim to be his friends,” he said.
After his use of the “quenelle,” on Saturday, soccer star 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.
European Jewish Congress president, Moshe Kantor, called for the British Premier League to ban Anelka. “This salute is merely a lesser known Nazi salute and we expect the same kind of punishment to be handed down by the authorities as if Anelka had made the infamous outstretched arm salute,” Kantor said. “This salute was created by a well-known extreme anti-Semite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering.”
Agam said that he was pleased with how French leaders have reacted to the widespread use of the “quenelle.”
“The French authorities are being very conscious of the problem and are acting in a responsible way, condemning and prosecuting legally these (who are involved in this) terrible expression of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Earlier this month an anonymous “anti-Fascist and pro-Israel” hacker exposed the email addresses and identities of thousands of Dieudonné’s supporters.