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When the Government Can’t Help

This is a cross-post from Marc’s Words

Watching the Dieudonne saga in France unfold is like watching a car crash in real time, as awful as it is, looking away is almost impossible. But unlike bystanders who watch the car crash while doing nothing the French government and judiciary have been incredibly active. The French “comedian” has been successfully prosecuted nine times for making anti-Semitic statements. He owes a total of 65,000 euros in fines for his crimes. His shows have been banned around France for their offensive, anti-Semitic content. Dieudonne’s 2007 bid to stand for President of France fell flat because he couldn’t even find the necessary 500 elected officials willing to provide him with their signatures. Yet still his popularity grows.

Dieudonne only recently skyrocketed to international infamy after spouting his venom for years. The reason he is suddenly a talking point is because the “quenelle”, a symbol he invented, has gone viral. Talking about Dieudonne without speaking of the Quenelle is to miss half the story. The Quenelle is an inverted Nazi salute that he says is a symbol against “the establishment”. The Quenelle went viral when supporters of Dieudonne got into the habit of getting themselves photographed making it in places of Jewish significance. These include Auschwitz and Jewish synagogues, as well as at the Ozat Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse where a terrorist murdered 4 people, 3 of them children under the age of 9.

To call Dieudonne popular among the French populace would be incorrect, Dieudonne is not popular with the French as a whole. A poll published by the BVA Group in France found that 80% of those questioned had a negative opinion of Dieudonne with just 14% holding a positive view. But Dieudonne is not running for public office, Dieudonne is a performer and his performances are sold out. This fact is particularly sad since the government has clearly taken such a proactive stance in combatting this latest outbreak of anti-Jewish hatred.

The irony in Dieudonne’s anti-Semitism is that he himself is the embodiment of one of his own anti-Semitic tropes. After saying on stage “all you have to do is roll up your sleeve and show a concentration camp number for the money to come rolling in” it is worth paying his finances a little scrutiny. He has refused to pay his 65,000 euro fines for anti-Semitism on the grounds that he is financially insolvent, he owes 800,000 euros in back taxes and claims not to have earned a penny in years. The companies that own Dieudonne’s home and which accept payment for his various shows are registered in the names of his mother and wife. These firms are estimated by the French authorities to have had a turnover of 1.8 million euros in 2013 with a profit of 230,000 euros. Perhaps it would be more correct to say “all you have to do is go on stage and attack Holocaust victims for the money come rolling in”. It is certainly true in his case.

Meanwhile the Foundation for the Support of Holocaust Victims has reported that one in four Holocaust survivors in Israel are suffering from “economic distress”. There are 20,000 Israeli survivors living on less than $1,250 per month. I wonder how many of Dieudonne’s fans are aware of that, I doubt many would believe it, I doubt any of them would care. For them the Jew is a symbol of all that’s wrong with the world and no amount of effort on the part of the French government seems to be changing their minds. When anti-Semitism is popular with 14% of population, you don’t have to be right to be adored, you don’t have to be honest, you just have to say in public what people have been thinking all along. This begs the question; if anti-Semitism grows in popularity when a government takes no stance against it and in a situation where the government takes a strong stance against it what are Jews supposed to do to protect themselves? French Jews have been moving to Israel in larger numbers than ever before, that’s not an answer it’s a response and a sad one at that.