How 'Quenelle' Salute Creator Dieudonne Built Bridge to Anti-Semitic Far Fight

Hatred for Jews Unites Foes of French Establishment

Not Funny: French comic Dieudonne Mbala-Mbala, shown here with basketball star Tony Parker, maintained his cachet with celebrity friends, even as he has spiralled into anti-Semitic alliances with far right hatemongers.
twitter
Not Funny: French comic Dieudonne Mbala-Mbala, shown here with basketball star Tony Parker, maintained his cachet with celebrity friends, even as he has spiralled into anti-Semitic alliances with far right hatemongers.

By Robert Zaretsky

Published January 03, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, according to French authorities, is under investigation for inciting racial hatred. They have also urged city officials to consider barring Dieudonné from public performances during his upcoming tour.

Prodding the government to act was the video clip of Dieudonné’s current show in Paris, when he mentions the name of Patrick Cohen, a journalist (and antagonist) who happens to be Jewish. Smiling, Dieudonné sighs: “When I hear Patrick Cohen talk, I say to myself… the gas chambers… what a pity.”

Rarely has the meaning of “mourir de rire” — to die laughing — taken on so dark a hue.

Whether God gave us this comedian, as his name suggests, is a question best left to theologians. But leave it to historians to discuss how France’s past has given this man to us. The comic’s career reflects not just the nature of political discourse in France, but also reveals the practical and ethical puzzles that its political parties face as they attempt to respond to it.

The child of a mixed marriage — his mother is French, while his father is from Cameroon — Dieudonné first won celebrity two decades ago as part of a comedy duo. Partnering with his childhood friend Élie Semoun, the child of a Moroccan-Jewish family, the two men — a large man with a cherubic face side by side with a slight fellow with angular features — lampooned the everyday racism that blacks and Arabs confronted in France. The duo was a smash hit, but their partnership would soon founder. (Semoun no longer recognizes his former friend, living as he does in a “world of hate.”)

From the theater, Dieudonné drifted to the political stage. Determined to oppose a candidate from the racist and anti-Semitic Front National, he ran for office in the city of Dreux in 1997, but received less than 8% of the vote. Clearly, winning applause was one thing, quite another was winning votes.

Yet Dieudonné persisted: in 2002 he ran an even more disastrous legislative campaign in a Paris suburb against the Socialist candidate — none other than Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man who would have his own tragi-comic turn at a New York hotel a decade later.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.