By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
PARIS, France – Despite France’s ability to nationally ban comedian Dieudonne’s tour, the Interior Minister Manuel Valls called on local officials to make similar decisions, based on the content of Dieudonne’s show. Dieudonne threatened to appeal.
Several French towns and cities have banned Dieudonne’s controversial comedy act due to its alleged anti-Semitism, including Marseilles, Tours, Nantes, and Bordeaux. Dieudonne has never paid one of his several fines for anti-Semitic outbursts. He continues to claim bankruptcy from his Theatre du Main d’Or in Paris.
French President Francois Hollande has urged officials to enforce the authorized bans. “I’m calling on all state representatives, especially prefects, to be alert and inflexible. No-one should be able to use a stage show to openly promote anti-Semitic ideas,” said Hollande.
Dieudonne vowed to appeal. While Dieudonne has appeared on stage several times with holocaust denier and historian Robert Faurisson, Dieudonne contended that he is not linked to Faurisson or French right-wing extremists. Instead, Dieudonne claims to be a mere anti-establishment anti-Zionist.
Dieudonne’s attorney, Jacques Verdier said, “The cancellation of a performance is an act of censorship. If there is no public disorder then it is a troubling artist that one wishes to forbid.”
Verdier further stated that he would seek an injunction to overturn the “recommended” bans, which went around French Constitutional provisions leaving the decision to prefects. The comedian has already sold nearly 6000 tickets for his Nantes performance, and remains booked for several French venues until June.
Dieudonne faces six convictions for hate speech against Jewish persons, based on his routine about gas chambers and deriding of Holocaust victims and survivors. He denied completely that his “quenelle” gesture is a variation of the Nazi salute, but rather is an “anti-establishment sign.”
The quenelle consists of a right hand pointing straight down and touching the left hand to that arm. In late-December 2013, West Bromwich footballer Nicolas Anelka performed the gesture during a goal celebration, in what Anelka described as “a dedication to Dieudonne” rather than an anti-Semitic gesture. France’s sports minister criticized Anelka’s action as “disgusting.”
Critics claim French censorship of Dieudonne may cement his cult-like status; especially if the bans against Dieudonne are overturned on legal grounds.
“Rather than embarking on pre-emptive bans with a shaky legal foundation and uncertain political results, the authorities should concentrate on punishing crimes once they are committed,” said a statement by France’s Human Rights League (LDH).
In this light, France must determine whether its ban on Dieudonne is a prior restraint of his future speech, or a fitting punishment for his continued anti-Semitic comments amidst unpaid fines.
For further information, please see:
BBC News – Dieudonne: Hollande Backs Nantes and Tours Bans – January 7, 2014
Euronews – Joke Is on Dieudonne as French Cities Ban His Show – January 7, 2014
The Independent – ‘Anti-Semitic’ Comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala Has His Show Cancelled in France after Nicolas Anelka’s Inverted Nazi Salute – January 7, 2014
Reuters – French Cities Ban Comedian Accused of Anti-Semitic Jibes – January 7, 2014
CNN International – Anti-Semitism Row Shines Light on Fractured French Society – January 3, 2014