January 16, 2014 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1055

French Comedian Dieudonné Promotes New Humor-Based Antisemitic Subculture

January 16, 2014 | By N. Szerman and R. Sosnow*
France | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1055


French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, whose comedy has long centered around antisemitic, anti-Zionist, and revisionist themes, has had numerous convictions for defamation, in both France and in Canada, and has had shows cancelled in Canada and in Belgium.[1] In January 2014, his antisemitic show "Le Mur" was cancelled across France.[2]

Dieudonne is also known for his invention and popularization of the use of the quenelle, a sort of reverse Nazi salute; the use of the gesture has been spreading in the past few years, notably by a number of prominent athletes and politicians, including French soccer star Nicolas Anelka, American basketball star Tony Parker, and National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. On January 11, 2014, it was used en masse by a group of young people outside the great synagogue in Bordeaux, France to mark the 70th anniversary of the Gestapo's evacuation of the city's Jews, who had been rounded up and imprisoned in the synagogue, to the death camps.[3] (For more on Dieudonné, see MEMRI Special Announcement No. 277, From The MEMRI Archives: Reports On French Muslim Antisemitic Comedian Dieudonne, January 3, 2014.)

French Footballer Anelka Refuses To Apologize For Post-Goal Quenelle

Following his quenelle after scoring in a December 28, 2013 soccer match, Nicolas Anelka,[4] who plays for the U.K. team West Brom, defended his use of the gesture via his Twitter account (@anelkaofficiel). He said that he had done it "as a special dedication" to his "comedian friend Dieudonné" and refused to apologize, though later he did agree not to use the gesture again.[5] As of this writing, demands for his apology continue, most recently from former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman. Anelka's refusal is in contrast to the apology of American basketball player Tony Parker, who expressed his regret for using the gesture in a photo taken a few years ago with Dieudonne; Parker added that he had not understood its implications.[6]

The Etymology And Origins Of The Quenelle

The quenelle gesture, invented, named, and popularized by Dieudonné, is a combination of the French bras d'honneur gesture – meaning "up yours" – and an inverted Nazi salute. The word quenelle is a verlan (French backwards slang) version of the vulgar expression nique-le ("fuck him"); it has no connection to the French dumpling of the same name.

The quenelle gesture was first reported seen in a non-antisemitic show by Dieudonné titled "1905," in connection with a gesture signifying a dolphin.[7] Later, Dieudonné himself linked the gesture to "anti-Zionism." In 2009, he topped the list of the French "Anti-Zionist" party, headed by the France-based Shi'ite activist Yahia Gouasmi,[8] in elections for the European Parliament, and, at a press conference launching his electoral campaign, he declared that "​​dragging a little quenelle to the bottom of the ass of Zionism" was a project dear to his heart.[9] His campaign poster shows him making the gesture:

"For a Europe free of censorship, sectarianism, speculators and NATO – The Anti-Zionist List"

The Quenelle: Adopted By Populist And Antisemitic Groups – And Used By Students, Police, And Soldiers

From the beginning, Dieudonné has claimed that his quenelle was an anti-establishment gesture; coupled with this, he has maintained that the establishment is corrupt, is ruled by the wealthy who use your money and lie to you, and is controlled by the Jews.

Dieudonné's brand of populism has been endorsed by populist movements and political parties, including the French extreme-right National Front party. National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is godfather to one of Dieudonné's children,[10] was photographed in a quenelle in a Strasbourg restaurant along with his former lieutenant Bruno Gollnisch.[11]

Le Pen, center. Source:, October 12, 2013.

The quenelle has been used by youth groups, students, police, and soldiers, though not all have seemed to be aware of its antisemitic connotations. Some, however, clearly are: French essayist and filmmaker Alain Soral, a leading thinker of the French far right and a friend of Dieudonné who, like him, has been accused of antisemitism and has been banned by some French media,[12] was photographed in front of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial mid-quenelle.[13] Two French soldiers in Paris were photographed doing the gesture in September 2013 in front of a synagogue;[14] and photos circulating online show members of the public making the gesture at in front of goods wagons used to transport Jews to their deaths during the Second World War.[15]

Two French soldiers doing the quenelle gesture in September 2013 in front of a synagogue

At Drancy internment camp, a quenelle in front of railroad cars used to transport Jews to their deaths

Dieudonné's Defenders: Prominent Actors, Others

Following accusations of antisemitism against him by media and by Jewish and anti-racist organizations, several prominent figures came to Dieudonné's defense. The renowned French humorist and actor Daniel Prevost, French-Algerian judoka Djamel Bouras, and top French actor Jamel Debbouze defended his freedom of speech.

An Antisemitic Symbol That Transcends Religion

The quenelle appears to have rallied anti-Jewish sentiment among people of all backgrounds, from the extreme right to Muslims. However, along with promulgating his "anti-Zionist" views and mocking and denigrating the Holocaust, Dieudonné is also promoting joining Islam as a means of fighting Zionism. On Iran's Sahar TV in September 2013, he said: "The time has come to form a united front against Zionism. Muslims must reach out to the Christians, and the Christians – who are now lost – must join Islam. The modern Islam, open to all, was launched by the Islamic Revolution by Imam Khomeini. It provides a very broad, universal perspective, which affects the entire planet, with all its continents. Let us fight injustice. Injustice has a name – Zionism" (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 4094, Dieudonné Praises Antisemitic 'Quenelle' Salute, Calls For Coup d'etat In France).

The Subculture Created By Dieudonné

Dieudonné has created an antisemitic subculture comprising symbols and attitudes that are fully understood only by his fans. This subculture includes many young people, as seen in the audiences his shows draw,[16] and several bloggers. The blog and portal focuses on news on activities of Dieudonné and other "anti-Zionist" artists, and news on reactions to them; it also includes antisemitic content.

"Holocaust Weekly" featuring the "golden quenelle," offered by, accessed January 13, 2014.

The Shoah Hebdo ("Holocaust Weekly") publication, featuring the "golden quenelle," offered on, is a play on the secular satirist weekly Charlie Hebdo that has been critical of Dieudonné's incitement. Charlie Hebdo's December 31, 2013 issue featured a caricature of of Dieudonné on its cover, stating "Happy New Year! Happy Quenelle!" [17]

In addition to the quenelle, another symbol used by Dieudonné is the pineapple – which in 2011 he appropriated for an antisemitic children's song he wrote and popularized, called "Shoananas," or "Holocaust Pineapple" (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 2444, French Comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala tells Iranian TV about His New Children's Song "Holocaust Pineapple" and States: Most Slave Traders Were Jews; More Freedom of Speech in Iran Than in France, April 10, 2011).

The image below, from,[18] titled "Shoasis," depicts Auschwitz, denoted by the well-known gate inscription "Arbeit macht frei," as an "oasis" for happy pineapple inmates in striped uniforms. It states: "Guaranteed amount: Six million [to be gassed] with Zyklon B" and "No Goyim [Gentiles]."

Image from, accessed January 13, 2014

French Government Action Against Dieudonné

January 2014: Dieudonné's Shows Banned In French Cities

In the face of the growing popularity enjoyed by Dieudonné's antisemitic shows in cities across France, in January 2014 Interior Minister Manuel Valls first considered banning the shows, based on Article 10 of the European Convention, which both affirms freedom of expression and sets out cases where it should be restricted to prevent social unrest.[19] Minister Valls also noted that Dieudonné's activities are financed by Iran.[20] The ban was being considered in advance of Dieudonné's new tour, which was set to kick off January 9 in Nantes.

On January 6, French President François Hollande asked the prefects, who represent the state in the country's various administrative divisions, to be "watchful and unbending"[21] in implementing the circular that they would receive from Minister Valls. After the release of the circular, which recommended a ban on Dieudonné's show, Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, who is a former foreign minister, declared that the show would be banned in Bordeaux. He was followed by Tours Mayor Jean Germain, and by mayors of other cities as well. However, although the prefect of Nantes tried to have the show banned, and although protestors demonstrated to demand that it be banned, the Nantes administrative court allowed it.

Following the Nantes court decision to allow the show, the State Council, under which all French administrative courts fall, was requested by Minister Valls to uphold the ban on Dieudonné's show in Nantes. The State Council approved the minister's request and overturned the Nantes administrative court's deferral, and the show was banned.

On January 11, Dieudonné announced at a press conference that he was relinquishing his "Le Mur" show, which he had aimed to perform all over France. Stressing that he was neither a Nazi nor an antisemite, he said that he would be moving on to deal with other topics, but that he would continue to "rattle people." In a state based on the rule of law, the law must be followed, he said, but added that Interior Minister Valls had declared war against him, and called for a January 26 demonstration at the Bastille.

On January 13 in Paris, Dieudonné presented a show without controversial antisemitic content but that nonetheless still constantly alluded to it. For example, he replaced "Shoananas" with "fresh ananas." The was authorized by the police and drew a large audience. This new show, called "Asu Zoa,"[22] was, according to media outlets,[23] merely a toned-down version of "Le Mur."

2013: Dieudonné's Financial Doings Investigated

Other state action against Dieudonné, who is also a successful businessman, is an investigation into his finances, launched about a year ago. He has sent over 400,000 euros to Cameroon since 2009 – of this 230,00 euros in 2013 alone. Dieudonné has also been busy lately promoting his range of quenelle-related merchandise; his wife has registered the term as a trademark with the French National Industrial Property Institute.

From The MEMRI Archives: French Comedian Dieudonné Praises Quenelle, Calls For Coup d'Etat In France

Discussing the surge in the popularity of the quenelle, in August 2012, Dieudonné urged people to "be subversive, slip quenelles, disobey." He called on disgruntled soldiers and police to stage a coup d'etat in France and said: "We will back you up. The people will follow you. Stage a coup."

Also, during a September 2011 visit to Iran, he told Iran's Sahar TV, "Zionism killed Christ" – thus reflecting the connection between "Zionists" and "Jews" in today's antisemitic discourse – and added, "We need to convince the Christians to join this great universal, Islamic movement."

To view the MEMRI TV clip of these statements, click here.

August 2013

Dieudonné: "This [scarf] is a gift from [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al – a personal gift that he gave me when we met in that region. This scarf is from Hamas, the proud fighters of Hamas, who are on the threshold of Hell.


"I did not think that the quenelle movement would go so far. Not a day goes by without me receiving [a photo of] a quenelle."

Series of still photos of people 'slipping quenelles'

"'Here are some examples...'

"A quenelle up the ass of the system...

"'Here are some more... Take that! As much as you want!'

"A lot of people ask me: Dieudo, what does it mean to 'slip a quenelle'?

"People don't know! Today, I would say that this concept, this magic formula, does not belong to me anymore. It belongs to the revolution, which is coming. Listen... It is right here... It is the path that will guide us to victory: Be subversive, slip quenelles, disobey. Be a pain in the ass of this shitty system. It is a wind that transcends all ethnic, religious, and social boundaries.

"It is a tsunami. The Tsunami of quenelles will sweep away the elites of deception. They are lying to us to such a degree...


"Everybody is slipping quenelles all over the place. People need it. policemen, for example...

"Images of members of French Armed forces 'slipping the quenelles'

"The policemen are with us. They support the quenelle movement. Look at them. The soldiers...

"We are almost at the point where we will have a coup d'état soon. A lot of people say to me: 'A coup d'état would be great.' Well, it's up to the experts to carry it out. It's up to the army and the policemen, many of whom are angry today. We will back you up. The people will follow you. Stage a coup.


"Lies can be molded, not the truth. Sign the petition against the [French organization] LICRA [International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism], which is the cancerous tumor of the issue. We need to blow up this tumor by legal means, by a petition. By means of this petition... The larger we grow... Imagine, there are already 20,000 of us demanding that [LICRA] be dissolved. That's great. This organization is extremely harmful.

"Thank you very much. So long, and Vive la France!" [...]

September 2011, Iranian Sahar TV

"The values of Islam are reaching the entire world. That is why Zionism has developed Islamophobic rhetoric today. One needs only to watch TV or listen to political speeches to see that the foremost enemy of democracy and freedom is, according to Zionism, Islam.

"That is why many Christians today... After all, Zionism killed Christ! It is Zionism that claimed that Jesus was the son of a whore – that is how they describe Mary – whereas in Islam there is respect... even more than respect – Jesus announces the coming of the Prophet, the Messenger. That is why there is a lot of work to be done.

"Just like we see is happening in Lebanon, for instance, we need to convince the Christians to join this great universal, Islamic movement. Islam is not a boundary – it is the gateway to freedom.


"In the past few years, an all-out media war has been launched against the Muslim world. Clearly, they want to divide the Christians. Before [the advent of Islam], the Christians had already been stripped of their religion, and the churches had been emptied. Wherever Zionism appears, it immediately tries to strip the country of its moral values. Eventually, along came Islam – a wind of freedom that has come to liberate the peoples."

Interviewer: "[Zionism] is suffocating them..."

Dieudonné: "That's right. That is why more and more people are turning to Islam.


"Here [in Iran], the rule has two branches – on the one hand, you have the politicians, and on the other, you have the wise men who observe and offer counsel. Unfortunately, this is not the case in France. That is why the war against Islam has become a priority there. I think that there is a consensus about this, at least in France.


"Israel as a venture is almost over. I do not believe that Israel will survive this decade, so the most hysterical Zionists – the ones who are not open to dialogue – will inevitably have to leave. They will undoubtedly reach France, because the French president is an inveterate Zionist, and the media, as well as most of the State's institutions today, are under Zionist control.

"One gets the sense that Zionism is getting ready to move. I believe that France is a place for them to fall back on – perhaps temporarily – before the U.S. What is certain, however, is that after Israel and the U.S., Paris has become, in my opinion, one of the capitals Zionism.


"My son is with me here today. He looks around and is impressed to see a proud country standing on its own two feet. What we need is a model. We need to see that there is a life after Zionism."


Interviewer: "Why do the Zionists insist on committing crimes all over the world?"

Dieudonné: "I think it is a science of deception and profound hatred of humanity."

Interviewer: "But why?"

Dieudonné: "Well, I don't know. I think this is a trial set upon humanity. We will overcome this trial. We will survive Zionism.


"The time has come to form a united front against Zionism. Muslims must reach out to the Christians, and the Christians – who are now lost – must join Islam. The modern Islam, open to all, was launched by the Islamic Revolution by Imam Khomeini. It provides a very broad, universal perspective, which affects the entire planet, with all its continents. Let us fight injustice. Injustice has a name – Zionism" [...].

*N. Szerman is the Director of the French department at MEMRI; R. Sosnow is Head Editor at MEMRI.


[2], January 6, 2014.

[3], January 11, 2014.

[4], December 29, 2013.

[5], December 30, 2013.

[6], December 30, 2013.


[8] Gouasmi is president of the French Shi'ite Federation and founder of the Shi'ite Zahra Center.

[9] Le Monde (France), September 5, 2009.

[10], January 13, 2014.

[11], December 10, 2013.

[12], December 18, 2013.

[13] Lemondejuif, July 16, 2013.

[14] Le Monde (France), November 9, 2013.

[15], December 24, 2013.


[17], December 30, 2013.


[19], January 6, 2014.

[20], January 8, 2014.

[21], January 7, 2014.

[22] "Asu Zoa" means "the face of the elephant" in Ewondo, a Cameroon language; however, the Jewish magazine Alliance saw it as an acronym for "United States of America – Zionist Organization of America."

[23], January 14, 2014.

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