Nazi Hunters Call for 'Uprising' Against Anti-Semitic Comedian
A prominent Nazi-hunting family has called for protests against anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne over his vitriolic brand of humor targeting Jews, as a government minister said he must pay fines accrued for racist abuse.
France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls is training his sights on Dieudonne, whose trademark gesture - known as "quenelle" - is viewed as being Nazi-inspired, and is examining options to try to legally block performances by a man he brands a "little trader of hate".
On Friday, Valls vowed to ensure that Dieudonne, 47, would have to pay the 65,000 euros ($88,500) he has run up in fines.
Since 2000, Dieudonne has been fined seven times for defamation, using insulting language, hate speech and racial discrimination. But Jewish rights groups say he has managed to evade the fines by placing his assets in his wife's name, and have called for tougher action to be taken.
Valls meanwhilel has insisted that Dieudonne would be "forced to pay", adding that "nobody is above the law".
Dieudonne's inverted down-arm salute, seen as Nazi-style, shot into the limelight again this week after his friend, French soccer player Nicolas Anelka, used it to celebrate a goal in Britain. The on-field sign sparked a media storm and after initially defending his move Anelka agreed not to repeat it.
Dieudonne insists the gesture is not anti-Jewish and merely reflects what he calls his "anti-establishment" views, but rights groups say his long history of anti-Semitic comments and performances suggest otherwise.
As the furor deepens, veteran Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld have called on people to "rise up" to protest against Dieudonne.
Along with their son Arno, they will be present at a theater in Nantes, western France, next Wednesday, where the bearded comedian is due to perform the following day.
"The three of us are going to Nantes," Arno Klarsfeld told AFP.
"It is legitimate and normal when someone makes anti-Semitic speeches and says that not enough Jews were gassed in the gas chambers, that people rise up to protest," he said.
"People who go to see Dieudonne go there to hear Jew-bashing," Klarsfeld asserted, pointing towards his links with a wide variety of religious and political extremists. "He unites anti-Semites from all sides. They are Islamists, ultra-left or far-right.... His shows are anti-Semitic political rallies."
Klarsfeld thanked Valls for taking up the issue.
The Klarsfeld's are not the only ones planning to picket the extremist comedian's theater. Last week the militant Ligue de Defense Juive (LDJ) promised to stage a protest of its own next week, and warned Diedonne's constant bating of Jews would not go unanswered.
"Every day Deidonne incites against Jews in his theater... we will not accept this," a spokesman for the group told Arutz Sheva, adding that more and more Jews would "fight back" through vigilante attacks against anti-Semites if the authorities did not take the issue more seriously.
Mayors in several towns where Dieudonne is due to play, including Marseilles, Limoges and Nantes, have called for the performances to be banned.
By the start of the week most of the 5,000 tickets available for the Nantes show, which kicks off his latest tour, had been sold, according to the Zenith theater where he is due to perform.
The controversy his tour is provoking is a far cry from the comedian's early career when he teamed up with Jewish comic Elie Semoun in sketches that tackled racism and slavery. Semoun now accuses Dieudonne of stealing his ideas and transgressing all borders of decency and good taste.
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Paris. In a New Year's address, President Francois Hollande pledged to be "intransigent" on racism.
The French-born son of a Cameroonian father and a white mother, Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala has described Holocaust celebrations as "memorial pornography", made "Heil"-like signs on television as part of a sketch and befriended far-right leaders such as Jean-Marie Le Pen.The Shia Muslim convert - who has received support in the past from the Iranian government - has also honored Holocaust-deniers at his performances, and recently lamented that it was "too bad" that there are no more gas chambers.