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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According to an expert interviewed in the French newspaper Liberation and cited widely, Jean-Yves Camus, the quenelle salute has become the focus of a “broad movement that is anti-system and prone to conspiracy theories, but which has anti-Semitism as its backbone”with a “conviction is that there is a world order dominated by Washington and Tel Aviv,” he said. “Behind speeches that are critical of NATO and global finance, and supportive of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad and [late Venezuelan president] Hugo Chavez, there is the underlying conviction that it is the Jews who are pulling all the strings.

Presumably, the sense that they are rebelling against some grand conspiracy against the evil Zionist world order - that they are ‘sticking it to the man’ is what puts that mischievous little twinkle in the eyes of those making the “upside-down” Nazi salute in selfies online.

After turning Europe upside down, the quenelle controversy rapidly spread to the U.S., when basketball star Tony Parker, who has been accused of making the gesture and thus “mainstreaming anti-Semitic hate.” He has since apologized.

Even the President of the United States has gotten dragged into the mess. In an effort to minimize the gesture, Anelka also tweeted a picture of President Obama making a similar gesture (which turned out to be baseless with proof that Obama’s action was instead a move associated with a hip-hop song by Jay-Z.)

The more we learn about Dieudonne, the comedian who started it all increasingly sounds like a really fun guy. Even as the quenelle-on-the-soccer-field swirled across the globe, he was getting into yet more hot water, with news breaking that he may be tried for racial incitement for the eighth time with the opening of a criminal investigation regarding possible suspicion of incitement to racial hatred after he made a remark hinting it was a shame that a Jewish journalist doing a story on him didn’t end up in a gas chamber.

If that’s not bad enough, it looks like Dieudonne is hoping to make a profit off all this publicity. The TV station France 24 tells us that he has “been working on launching a range of quenelle-related merchandise and in October 2013 his wife registered the quenelle as a trademark with the French National Industrial Property Institute.”

T-shirts? Coffee mugs? Whether or not racism turns a profit, it seems that in the near future, nobody will have to Google the word anymore.

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