Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), has accepted an apology issued by NBA star Tony Parker, after strongly criticizing 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.” However, the group said that it is crucial that Parker also issues the statement in French.
“The Simon wiesenthal Center takes Mr. Parker at his word,” Associate Dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper told The Algemeiner.
“There is however, one more crucial step that he needs to take: A statement in French to reassure 600,000 French Jews and the multitude of his young fans in France that he disassoicates himself from the ‘quenelle’ salute and everything it stands for,” Cooper said.
On Sunday, Cooper called for Parker to apologize after The Algemeiner reported the use of his offensive gesture.
Parker should, “apologize for his use of the quenelle ‘Nazi’ salute,” Cooper said at the time. “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.”
Parker responded with a statement of regret on Monday and said that a photo showing him standing alongside anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné, who created the gesture, was three years old.
“While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it,” Parker said. “When l was photographed making that gesture three years ago, I thought it was part of a comedy act and did not know that it could be in any way offensive or harmful.”
“Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions,” the NBA star promised. “Hopefully this incident will serve to educate others that we need to be more aware that things that may seem innocuous can actually have a history of hate and hurt.”
But not everyone was satisfied with Parker’s response.
“He apologized regarding the picture, but he didn’t apologize regarding being photographed with a well known anti-semitic provocateur, so for me the apology was not complete,” French artist and activist Ron Agam, told The Algemeiner.
“Three years ago Dieudonné was seen publicly with his friend, well known holocaust denier president Ahmadinejad in Iran, and his visit was very well publicized,” Agam said. “No one could ignore what Dieudonné meant three years ago.”
The “quenelle” gesture 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.”
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.”
The gesture has also been used by other prominent figures and sports stars including French soccer player Nicolas Anelka, who apologized on Monday for his own use of the ‘quenelle,” after scoring a goal for British soccer club West Bromwich.