An inquiry has been opened in Toulouse after a photo of someone making an
anti-Semitic gesture outside a Jewish school in the southern French city
appeared on the Internet.
The school, Ohr Torah, was where an Islamist
gunman killed four Jews almost two years ago. The school changed its name from
Otzar Hatorah after the incident.
Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet told
AFP that he opened the inquiry on December 13, the “same day” he was informed
about the photo by a staff member of the school. Leaders of the local Jewish
community said the photo first appeared several weeks before.
photo, a young man wearing black sunglasses and a white T-shirt with the
likeness of Yasser Arafat is making a gesture known as the quenelle, seen by
many as reminiscent of the Nazi salute.
The gesture was made popular by
Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a black comedian who in 2009 ran in continent-wide
elections at the head of the “Anti-Zionist List.” His shows have repeatedly
insulted the memory of Holocaust victims.
Recently, French Interior
Minister Emmanuel Valls announced his ministry was considering legal ways to ban
Dieudonne’s performances, calling the comedian “a little contractor of hatred...
a racist and an anti-Semite... possessed by hatred of the Jew.”
2012, Mohammed Merah opened fire at the school, shooting to death Rabbi Yonatan
Sandler and his children, Aryeh and Gavriel. Afterward he shot and killed Miram
Monsenego, the young daughter of the school’s headmaster.
Prior to the
attack he killed three French soldiers in the nearby city of Montauban. In the
end, Merah was killed by members of a special police anti-terror unit who had
surrounded his apartment in Toulouse.
Since then, the Jewish school has
become a target for anti-Semites. Last September, a 20-year-old male was
sentenced to one year in prison for having phoned the school to say: “I am
Merah’s cousin and I’m going to kill you all.”
Valet, the city
prosecutor, said he was determined to fight anti-Semitic activity and the
glorification of Merah “without weakness.”
On Monday, the prosecutor’s
office in Paris announced it had opened an inquiry against Dieudonne for “racial
incitement,” citing statements he had made against a Jewish radio journalist
during a recent appearance in the city.
“When I listen to him, Patrick
Cohen, I tell myself: gas chambers? What a pity!” the comedian reportedly
Recently, a British soccer player and a player in the NBA, both
French nationals, were caught making the quenelle gesture.
player, Nicolas Anelka, did so on Saturday after scoring a goal for his team,
West Bromwich Albion.
The European Jewish Congress turned to both the
English Football Association and UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, in
a bid to stamp out the gesture. In a letter to both organizations, EJC president
Moshe Kantor wrote that “the legitimization of anti-Semitic acts by players who
are supposed to act as role models for youth is a particularly dangerous
He called for “action to confront this phenomenon as it
relates to football.”
Tony Parker, a point guard for the NBA’s San
Antonio Spurs, made the gesture in a video that appeared on YouTube. In the
video, he is shown alongside Dieudonne. Parker apologized on Monday at the
request of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, saying he had not been aware of the
gesture’s racist overtones and promising he “will never do it
Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham H. Foxman
welcomed Parker’s apology, saying the quenelle had become a “faddish element”
that had the “potential to be mimicked by other young fans and athletes around
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