FA is right to ban 'quenelle' gesture from soccer


Give anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred an inch and they will try to take a mile. So soccer authorities in England are right to stamp out a salute being used to bait Jews in neighboring France, before it takes root in the English game.

With one straight arm pointing downward, and the other folded across the chest, those who perform it can rightly argue that the gesture isn't a Nazi salute. Yet the straight arm makes it impossible not to be reminded of the homage to Adolf Hitler. That ambiguity is part of what makes this gesture, dubbed the "quenelle," so insidious and dangerous. The grey zone can give a cloak of deniability to those who perform it with hatred in their hearts.

"Me, racist, anti-Semitic? Of course not!" they can claim, which they couldn't if they did a Nazi salute.

Which is what Nicolas Anelka said after the French striker became the first — and hopefully the last — player to perform a quenelle in a Premier League game, when he scored his first goals for West Bromwich Albion.

Like others who do it, Anelka said the gesture is simply "anti-system," a new form of Gallic "up yours!" to the establishment. But if it really is that innocuous, why are other people posting photos of themselves doing quenelles at Auschwitz, at Jewish sites, Holocaust memorials and such like?

In the town of Toulouse in southwest France, a prosecutor is investigating whether charges can be filed against a man who posed doing a quenelle in front of the Jewish school where a radical Muslim killed three children and a rabbi in 2012. In Bordeaux, also in the southwest, an anti-racism group filed a legal complaint about quenelles in front of a synagogue there.

Does Anelka not know about this taunting of Jews, their history and culture? If so, ignorance isn't much of a defense. Or, worse, does he not care?

Whether Anelka intended to or not, he associated himself with such people by making the same gesture on Dec 28. He could seek to split hairs and argue that context is everything, that a quenelle in a stadium doesn't have the same undeniably anti-Semitic meaning as when the gesture is performed, say, in front of a wagon like those used by the Nazis to transport Jews to death camps. Yes, there's a photo of someone doing that, too.

If he wanted to puncture any ambiguity, make clear that he meant no offense to Jews, Anelka could have followed Tony Parker's lead. The San Antonio Spurs guard apologized after an old photo of him doing the quenelle surfaced. Parker said he only learned recently of "the very negative concerns" associated with the gesture.

"We need to be more aware that things that may seem innocuous can actually have a history of hate and hurt," Parker said.

There's been no such contrition from Anelka. He argues that England's Football Association has misinterpreted his gesture and he asked Wednesday that it drop charges which could see him banned for at least 5 games.

"I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist," he wrote on his verified Facebook page

Despite acknowledging that Anelka's gesture "caused offense in some quarters," his club has continued to field him. Seemingly, the goals Anelka scores matter more to West Bromwich than what goes through his mind or his friendship with Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, the rabble-rousing so-called comedian who invented the quenelle and has been convicted multiple times for inciting racial hatred or anti-Semitism.

In France, some employers haven't been as forgiving as WBA. The French army says it disciplined two soldiers who were photographed performing the gesture in front of a Paris synagogue. After a photo circulated on Twitter of cartoon characters Asterix and Obelix performing the gesture at a theme park north of Paris, the owners issued a strong condemnation and say a temporary contractor also photographed doing a quenelle won't be hired again.

Knee-jerk critics accused the FA of dithering because it took three weeks before charging Anelka on Tuesday with making a racially or religiously aggravated abusive gesture. That impatience was unfair. Because even in France, this is a knotty issue. No French court of law has declared the quenelle illegal or prosecuted people for doing it. So the FA is out on a limb in seeking to throw the book at Anelka.

In dedicating his quenelle to "my comedian friend Dieudonne," Anelka showed atrocious taste in friends and humor. Anti-Semitism is never funny. And Dieudonne isn't even original, spouting tired rubbish about Jews being "crooks" and making light of the Holocaust.

As his "friend," does Anelka not know of the hateful things Dieudonne has said? Hard to believe. Or, worse, doesn't he care? The FA cannot find Anelka guilty simply by association. But all of us are judged in part by the company we keep.

A quenelle — by Anelka or anyone — should never pass unchallenged on a soccer field. The FA is right to draw this line. The inch must not become a mile.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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This is a-bso-lu-tely ridiculous. I am French, I don't do the "quenelle" (its real meaning is kind of vulgar if you know it) but I can assure you that it's not an antisemitic gesture. And Dieudonné isn't racist. Obviously you've never heard his jokes. In his (hilarious) shows, he talks about slavery, holocaust, totalitarism, dictature, any form of racism, terrorism, casual violence, communitarianism... He makes fun of black/white/brown/yellow people, his worst enemies and his best friends. His mother is French & his father's Congolese; his wife is white too! He said it himself : racism is stupidity. His humor's based on provocation and since media mainstream banned him from radio & tv after he made a (not so funny but inoffensive) sketch about a zionist settler, and receives death threats since then, he likes to denounce (with sarcasm & irony) how far from authentic judaism the zionism is. That's why he has the support of a lot of anti-zionist rabbis & jews who basically say "We're normal citizens, normal human beings, don't make us the sanctified victims in France of anywhere else, we don't wanna justify everything we have and everything we do with our terrible loss. Palestinian people don't have to suffer like we did. No one should." Dieudonné is nothing more than an humorist. I don't think any of his fans or friends agree with each word he says. What matters is that millions of (very various) people think he's funny, because -I repeat it- he's just an humorist. You wrote your disgust of Anelka's quenelle but a so-called democratic governement is actually judging what is funny and what isn't, when we're allowed to laugh and when we're officially anti-semitic - -" . The question is : can we laugh when Michael Scott in The Office US says "If I had a gun with two bullets, and I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden, and Toby, I would shoot Toby twice." ? Because I'm pretty sure our minister Manuel Valls would be officially shocked.

And about Anelka, the representant of the jewish community here in France said it wasn't anti-semitic or racist. Dieudonné always said it was anti-system and also uses the term "quenelle" to designate a big lie from the french governement. So, whoelse has the right to imagine & say the quenelle is nazi ? Doing the quenelle in front of a synagogue is quite stupid but it could just mean "Not wanting to talk all day about the Shoah doesn't make us anti-semitic.". I'm not in their heads, I can't tell what they wanted to say by this quenelle. I can't defend or condamn them when I know nothing about these guys. But anyways, do I have to remind you that nazism is more than the hatred against jews ? For Anelka, a nazi salute would be an insult to his own family, origins, religion, etc. (same for Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala and a lot of "quenellistes")

On the other hand, I would totally understand if the FA considers the quenelle to be a political gesture since it's against the establishment. But Dieudonné was having trouble and Nicolas Anelka, as his personal friend, wanted to show his personal support in a moment of glory. I don't think the FIFA laws tell us a soccer player can't dedicate a goal to a friend who's also a public figure.

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Sorry, but sounds like some people in France did not learn how evil the Nazis truly were and thise Anti Semites need a good kick upside their fat Nazi heads!! Good in FIFA!!

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Anti-Semitic or not, the quenelle is still an offensive gesture and should be punishable like it's equivalents (the middle finger, up yours, etc.). The FA is right to ban the quenelle and to suspend Le Sulk.

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I read more about incidents like this involving soccer than all other pro sports combined. If soccer players, and their fans, can't learn manners then the sport should be outlawed.

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I am pretty sure soccer fans are not as rude, crude and racist as your sverage US NHL ice hockey fans, di lets out law ice hockey???

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I read more about incidents like this involving soccer than all other pro sports combined.

Maybe because soccer is the only truly international sport that spans the globe so we're bound to have a clash of cultures and personalities to an extent not found in other sports?

If soccer players, and their fans, can't learn manners then the sport should be outlawed

Yeah, well then baseball and hockey come first.

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