Wiesenthal Center commends Swiss justice in Dieudonné case - opinion

Dieudonné has mutated into a political polemicist and is bent on defaming, denying and deriding the Holocaust and Jews – for which he has been tried in court many times

 DIEUDONNE M’BALA M’BALA raises hands with fans near a Paris theater, which canceled his show in February 2004 fearing his performance would spark protests by anti-racist and Jewish groups.  (photo credit: John Schults/Reuters)
DIEUDONNE M’BALA M’BALA raises hands with fans near a Paris theater, which canceled his show in February 2004 fearing his performance would spark protests by anti-racist and Jewish groups.
(photo credit: John Schults/Reuters)

We recall how Dieudonné M’bala M’bala began his career as a comedian, together with his Jewish friend, Elie Semoun. After they split, Dieudonné turned antisemitic, expressing friendship towards the late Robert Faurisson, infamous Holocaust denier, and Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the extreme-right party National Front and who had commented “the gas chambers to kill Jews are a mere detail of history.” Jean-Marie is the father of Marine, runner-up in the latest French Presidential elections.

Antisemitism has always permeated Dieudonné’s artistic career. One of the most bizarre of his feature films, The Antisemite, sees his wife begging him to go to a psychologist to treat his Judeophobia, only to discover the psychologist is a Jew, as is his wife.

Dieudonné has mutated into a political polemicist and is bent on defaming, denying and deriding the Holocaust and Jews – for which he has been tried in court many times. His lawyers have used all possible freedom of expression formulas to justify his Jew-hatred. The Wiesenthal Center has repeatedly denounced his antisemitism. The financial angle has been more successful.

The financial angle

Although he had been able, over the years, to build a rickety system of chinese boxes and claimed to be penniless, using his wife as a screen or shell companies in France and Cameroon. Dieudonné has been condemned to suspended prison sentences and fined by several French tribunals for embezzlement and fraud.

French comedian Dieudonné (credit: REUTERS)French comedian Dieudonné (credit: REUTERS)

After decades of insolvency towards the Jewish owners of the Paris theatre La Main d’Or, in which he usually performed, on 8 November 2017 he was at last condemned to pay arrears and was definitively expelled. On that stage is where he invented the quenelle – an upside-down Hitler salute – and launched his dancing girls troupe, dubbed the Shoah-nanas (in French, nanas means babes). On that same day, he was also condemned for his antisemitic show.

The political test

In 2009, Dieudonné founded the Anti-Zionist Party for the European Parliamentary elections, which brought together activists from the far Right, the far Left and religious fundamentalists. Among his political acolytes: Alain Soral – a reported extreme right antisemite, conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier; Yahyia Gouasmi – a Shi’ite propagandist, president and financier of the party, alleged to be an Iranian liaison agent; and Ginette Hess-Skandrani – former Green Party militant, expelled, turned anti-Zionist and pro-Hamas campaigner.

The party – that boasted the support of Ramírez Sánchez a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal, Hamas and Hezbollah, among others – was shut down in 2019. Parading his anti-Zionist and anti-Western narrative over the years, Dieudonné has been welcomed by both Sunni and Shia representatives, has cozied-up to world leaders leaders, such as former leader Muammar Gaddafi, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former president Hugo Chavez and President Bashar al-Assad.

The Swiss verdict

In a recent trial over a 2019 show, a Geneva court found Dieudonné guilty of racial discrimination, and for having consciously and willingly made negation and discriminatory remarks about the victims of the Shoah in such a way as to undermine their human dignity.” This is based upon 2005 rulings of the European Court of Human Rights that negationist speech could not be equated with freedom of expression.

Last Monday, the Geneva tribunal condemned Dieudonné to pay a fine of 30,600 Swiss Francs (NIS 105,486).

On tour from June 3 to 18, he will cross France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Considering Dieudonné’s apparent recidivism in avoiding to pay his fines, the Wiesenthal Center called on the Geneva police to detain him on Swiss soil until he pays his court-imposed penalty for Holocaust denial and Judeophobia.

Appeal after appeal has been used to put off any sentence of incitement to hate. Perhaps, it will take a Swiss tribunal to finally bring Dieudonné M’bala M’bala to justice.

The writer is director of international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.