France

Hollande backs ban on antisemitic Dieudonné shows

Reuters/Thibault Camus/Pool

French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday endorsed government attempts to ban the performance by Dieudonné of his one-man show which has been widely condemned as antisemitic. 

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In a New Year address to civil servants, Hollande urged local officials to be firm in applying a memorandum, issued yesterday by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, which authorises mayors or police chiefs to cancel Dieudonné performances on public order grounds.

"The government ... has issued instructions to ensure that no one can use a performance for the goals of provocation and the promotion of overtly antisemitic theories," Hollande said.

The Socialist leader said local officials had to be "vigilant and inflexible" in their response to what he described as "shameful provocation", though he did not specifically mention Dieudonné.

The cities of Bordeaux, Nantes and Tours have already announced they will not allow the comic to perform in their theatres.

But their moves are expected to face legal challenges on freedom of speech grounds before the scheduled start of Dieudonne's tour in Nantes on Thursday.

Although Dieudonne has been performing antisemitic material for years and has been convicted repeatedly for hate speech, he has gained greater prominence in the last year as a result of the Internet-driven success of his trademark "quenelle", an arm gesture some have described as a reverse Nazi salute.

Dieudonné’s supporters say the gesture is simply code for an "up yours" message directed at the establishment.

But that claim has been undermined by the publication of pictures of Dieudonné fans performing quenelles outside synagogues, at a holocaust museum and in front of the school in Toulouse where Islamist gunman Mohammed Merah killed a rabbi and three Jewish children in 2012.

Dieudonné's popularity has exacerbated concern over a perceived resurgence of anti-semitism in France under the guise of a brand of anti-Zionism.
 

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