Asian immigrant's disgust at European anti-Semitism

With soccer star Nicolas Anelka in mind, the "quenelle" gesture popularized by French "performance artist" Dieudonné says something about anti-Semitism in Europe and why it should bother us, immigrants or not

Anelka's "quenelle" gesture
Vijeta Uniyal
On 3 January 2014 14:33

The case of French footballer Nicolas Anelka, his "celebratory" quenelle gesture and his subsequent curious defense has once again raised allegations and concerns over the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

The quenelle gesture which has been described by some as an inverted Nazi-style salute, has been popularized by the French comedian Dieudonné. Monsieur Dieudonné and his fans defend quenelle as an "anti-establishment" gesture and maintain that it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

The fact that Monsieur Dieudonné has been convicted seven times for his anti-Semitic utterances and may well be on the way to his eighth trial, this time for implying that a Jewish journalist belongs in a gas chamber, hasn't deterred his supporters from keeping on making that claim.

Monsieur Dieudonné who considers himself as a performance artist does not draw his fan-base from the French Far-Right, but from the mainstream of French society, mainly educated, urban youth.

In the age of Social Media the quenelle gesture has gone viral throughout Europe with people sharing their photographs of joyfully giving quenelle salutes and occasionally with very disturbing backdrops, like the Auschwitz death camp, the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam or the Jewish school in Toulouse where a massacre took place in 2012.

The French Striker Nicolas Anelka has been quick to plead ignorance to the wider implications of his highly public gesture, so did NBA Star Tony Parker before him and other major or minor celebrities like him in the past.

The incident wIll hardly affect Mr. Anelka's football career and most probably he will be let off with a proverbial slap on the wrist. Considering the nature of Social Media this infamous gesture too may fade away as just another seasonal fad.

However, a question would still remain unanswered. Can one assume that anti-Semitism (or the term M. Dieudonné and his friends hide behind - "anti-Zionism") is once again socially acceptable in Europe?

Is there a ready and receptive audience? Or better yet, does it pay to play with anti-Semitic symbolism in Europe today?

Going by Monsieur Dieudonné's example, it most certainly does. His wife has capitalized on the market potential and registered quenelle as a trademark and he has now rolled out his own range of Quenelle-merchandise.

What Monsieur Dieudonné is doing, is by no mean new to Europe. He is playing with the age old clichés, conspiracy theories and selling a repackaged brand of anti-Semitism.

What we have not seen in recent times is the level of acceptance for such ideas. His fans would not consider themselves as being anti-Semitic or even Far-Right for that matter.

They are often well educated and otherwise liberal. But in these times of economic stagnation they are discontented. Despite their college degrees they are not getting what they think they are entitled to.

It would be preposterous for them to even to think that it could to some extent be their fault. Well, then it certainly has to be a racket. If they are not getting what they think they deserve, then someone must have rigged the tables. "Performance artists" like Dieudonné are more than willing to fill such "intellectual gaps" with their conspiracy theories. 

These are not a band of seduced, misguided or misled youth. You have to be really mean-spirited to perform or defend the act of raising an unmistakably anti-Semitic gesture in the Anne Frank House or the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, and still have the audacity to point fingers at others for their transgressions.

Despite being a recent immigrant to Europe, I have lived here long enough to know that people I am referring to have no idea of their own history, have no idea of the complexities of international politics, and, most surprisingly, have never even met a single Jew in their life.

Whenever I have directly confronted and disapproved of such acts and utterances, I have repeatedly been asked a question (and often by righteously indignant perpetrators themselves); why does "their" anti-Semitism bother "me"?

It does bother me. As an immigrant who has made a conscious choice of calling Europe my home, it bothers me even more than it should bother them.

Immigrants like me have come to the West in search of a haven, where they can pursue their dreams without fear and realize our potential without restrictions.

Anti-Semitism stands at the very core of the idea and the ideology that threaten the values that have made Europe and the West great. We do not need to dig deep into European history to know that whenever anti-Semitism rears its head, Europe has been plunged into darkness and destruction.

It is therefore imperative for us all in Europe to realize that resurging anti-Semitism is not merely a problem or matter of concern to the Jewish communities, but to the rest of freedom loving Europeans as well.

Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian entrepreneur based in Germany. He is founder of "Indian Friends of Israel", an initiative of Indian Diaspora in Europe to promote friendship between India and Israel. The article reflects the personal view of the author. He tweets @iUniyal

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