What the Heck Is a 'Quenelle'?

It's a Bird, It's a Plane — It's Notorious Anti-Semitic Gesture

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By Allison Kaplan Sommer

Published January 01, 2014.
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The BBC continued: “Dieudonne made the gesture when he headed his own anti-Zionist campaign in the European elections in 2009. French media trace it further back, to one of his performances in 2005. It came to greater prominence in September when two soldiers were photographed appearing to make the gesture outside a Paris synagogue. There are thousands of examples posted online, some at sensitive sites such as the Auschwitz death camp, and Dieudonne fans can be seen repeating it outside his theatre.”

Not satisfied with one source, I went to the ultimate authority of our time - Wikipedia. There were two listings for “quenelle.” Their description of the dish known as “quenelle” was slightly more appetizing than that of the BBC - “a mixture of creamed fish, chicken, or meat, sometimes combined with breadcrumbs, with a light egg binding…The word quenelle is derived from the German Knödel (noodle or dumpling).Quenelle may also refer to a food item made into an oval or egg shape, such as ice cream, sorbet, or mashed potato quenelles.”

The Wikipedia description of the quenelle gesture was harder to stomach: “a gesture which is performed by pointing one arm diagonally downwards, while touching that arm’s shoulder with the opposite hand.

French political activist and comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is credited with creating and popularizing the gesture, which he first used publicly in 2009 while campaigning as a candidate for the 2009 European Parliament elections at the head of an “anti-Zionist” list.

While Dieudonné says the quenelle is “an anti-establishment gesture,” it takes the appearance of a Nazi salute in reverse, and critics describe it as an expression of anti semitism. In France, displaying Nazi symbols is illegal if done to cause offense, and the quenelle is viewed by some as an underhanded manner of expressing hatred for Jews without inviting legal prosecution.The negative intent of the gesture, they say, is further underlined by Dieudonné’s history of anti-Semitic remarks and racial hatred convictions.

The location of a number of photographed quenelle salutes in front of prominent Holocaust landmarks and Jewish institutions further suggests the prejudicial nature of the gesture.”


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