Amid a spate of anti-Semitic attacks, a French court for the first time punished a defendant who performed the quasi-Nazi quenelle salute.
The correctional tribunal of Bordeaux on Wednesday convicted the defendant, a 28-year-old Moroccan native, of incitement to racial hatred for performing the quenelle in front of a synagogue, and fined him the equivalent of $4,130.
The man, who was not named in media reports on the sentencing, was sued by the France-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, or LICRA, after posting photos of himself performing the quenelle in front of the city’s Grand Synagogue earlier this year, according to Le Figaro.
LICRA said that the sentence is the first criminal conviction in connection with a quenelle – the act of folding one arm over one’s chest while pointing downward with the other arm.
Invented and popularized by the comedian and professed anti-Semite Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the quenelle was qualified as “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate” by French Prime Minister Manuel Vals. But Dieudonne and others maintain it is merely anti-establishment.
The defendant, who was arrested, interrogated and then released pending trial on January 17, said he is not an anti-Semite. “On my Facebook account I try not to confuse anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” he reportedly said during his trial.
His Facebook account also features a photo of a man performing a quenelle in front of a portrait of Adolf Hitler, with the caption: “I committed suicide but nowadays I’d get the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Wednesday’s sentence came amid what the Drancy-based National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism has called an influx in violent attacks against Jews in recent weeks.
The most recent incident occurred Saturday in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles. Four men of African descent assaulted a Jewish man on the street as he was returning from synagogue with his son, according to a report on the news site JSSNews.com.
The attackers performed the quenelle before one of them punched the father with his fist, causing minor injuries. The victims filed a complaint with police, who are looking over security camera footage to catch the culprits, the news website reported.