Comment and Opinion

Fathom Journal: The unwelcome arrival of the quenelle, by Dave Rich

‘The scene is the Zenith de Paris theatre, December 2008. French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is on stage, describing to his audience the genesis of the sketch they are about to watch. It is a response, he explains, to a hostile review by the ‘billionaire philosopher’ Bernard-Henri Lévy – cue pantomime boos from the crowd – who had described Dieudonné’s previous show as ‘the biggest antisemitic meeting since the last world war.’

If you really want to ‘stick it to them the right way … to send them climbing up the wall,’ he tells his cheering, laughing fans (without ever defining ‘them’) you will welcome on stage ‘the most unfrequentable person in France.’ On walks Robert Faurisson, France’s best known Holocaust denier, to applause, with Dieudonné shouting ‘Louder! Louder!’; and the audience responds to Dieudonné’s appeals by greeting Faurisson with cheers and whistles of acclaim.

The punch line to the sketch comes when Dieudonné calls on stage his assistant Jacky, in his ‘suit of light’, to give Faurisson an award ‘for unfrequentability and insolence.’ Jacky’s ‘suit of light’ is a mocked-up concentration camp uniform, complete with stitched-on yellow star. ‘Photographers, let it rip!’ Dieudonné cries, as the three of them stand together on stage. ‘Look at the scandal! Let’s have an ovation!’ And an ovation is what they get. ‘I’ve been treated, in my country, like a Palestinian.’ Faurisson tells the audience, ‘I’m treated like a Palestinian and I can’t help making common cause with them.’

The manner in which Dieudonné manoeuvred a Parisian audience into expressing their anti-establishment sentiments by cheering Robert Faurisson (has he ever had such an ovation, even from an exclusively far right audience?) and laughing at Jacky’s ‘suit of light’, all on the premise of sticking it to ‘them,’ shows the ease with which raw, old-fashioned antisemitism can be inserted into contemporary radical politics. ‘Making common cause’ between Holocaust deniers, neo-fascists, the pro-Palestinian left and the revolutionary Islamists of Iran is precisely what Dieudonné has spent the past decade trying to achieve. Originally from the political left, he has moved via anti-Israel rhetoric and the fascist Front National (FN) to the establishment of his own Parti Anti Sioniste (Anti-Zionist Party – PAS). Alongside him in PAS is essayist and film maker Alain Soral (see photo), who underwent a similar journey from the Marxist left to the FN before finding a political home with Dieudonné.

Read the article in full at Fathom Journal.