A few weeks ago, when French Jewish actor Elie Semoun was a prime-time guest on one of the main French television channels, Canal Plus, the words of Sebastian Thoen, a standup comedian who introduced him may have been meant to be to be laudatory, but took quite a different turn: "You never plunged into communitarianism [Jewish activism] ... You could have posted yourself in the street selling jeans and diamonds from the back of a minivan, saying 'Israel is always right, f*** Palestine, wallala.' You show that it is possible to be of the Jewish faith without being completely disgusting."
Semoun was obviously ill-at-ease, but did not react. A couple hours after the show, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) issued a statement denouncing a "dangerous trivialization of anti-Semitism." The President of the TV channel responded by saying that the Jewish community had "no sense of humor." The incident occurred, however, in a context where the French Jewish community has no reason to have a sense of humor.
At the end of 2012, Jewish France was republished. The book is a tirade of extreme anti-Semitism, originally published in 1886 by the author Edouard Drumont, and reprinted repeatedly until after World War II and the fall of the Vichy regime.
The publishing company sent a press release for the latest book launch: "A classic of French literature is finally available again." When Jewish organizations protested, articles in Le Monde and Le Figaro (the two leading French daily newspapers) said that Jewish organizations had "overreacted." The publishing company that reprinted Jewish France issued or reissued other books at the same time, such as The International Jew by Henry Ford; The Controversy of Zion by Douglas Reed, the first anti-Semitic writer to deny Hitler's extermination of the Jews, and an Anthology of Writings Against Jews, Judaism and Zionism, including excerpts from the most libelous anti-Semitic writings of the last two centuries. These books are now available at all the most popular French bookstores. Thousands of copies of each have been sold. The CEO of the publishing company Kontre Kulture [Counterculture, with a play on words] is a famous French anti-Semitic writer, Alain Soral; his last book, Understanding Empire, purports to explain the "Jewish hold" on the world; it has been on French bestsellers lists for more than two years.
In recent months, an openly anti-Semitic black comedian, Dieudonné, presented a series of shows in the main cities of France and Belgium before large and enthusiastic audiences. One of his greatest hits is a song ridiculing the Holocaust and the "chosen people" : Shoah-Ananas (Holocaust-Pineapple). He popularized a gesture of greeting which he dubbed "quenelle" (a French dumpling), which echoes the Nazi salute. The "quenelle" salute consists of extending the right arm and straightening the hand, but the arm is lowered, and not raised at eye level. "Quenelle" is now used by many young people all over the country when they want to show what they think of Jews and Israel. Recently, pictures of French soldiers stationed outside a Paris synagogue and welcoming visitors with "quenelles" were published on several websites: a military investigation is now under way. The French Minister of Defense said that one should not attach "great importance" to what happened.
At the end of June, a documentary film, Oligarchy and Zionism, was supposed to be released nationwide. The movie poster, with a likeness to editorial cartoons from Nazi magazines at the time of the Third Reich, should have aroused suspicion: it showed a Jew turned into a spider crushing the planet with his crooked legs. The Jew wore a black jacket with the Star of David and the initials of AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] on his shoulders.