Dieudonne, the French comedian and controversialist, came to our attention on account of his quenelle gesture. It is essentially an inverted Nazi salute.
In 2012 he made a film called The Anti-Semite, which is a relentless, incoherent attack on the Jews. Recently he has excelled himself by pledging allegiance to the gun man Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four people in a kosher supermarket in Paris. On his Facebook wall he declared: ‘As far as I am concerned, I feel I am Charlie Coulibaly.’ (A not so subtle pun on the Je Suis Charlie meme.)
Like so many of today’s trendy anti-Semites, Dieudonne tries to present his Jew loathing as an opposition to ‘Zionism’ – a movement that began in the late nineteenth century, with the specific aim of creating a homeland for the Jews in Israel.
As Zionism is seen by many as a reactionary movement spawned at the height of the colonial era, it is not popular with the ‘anti-imperialist’ left. That is why you’ll often find socialists holding their BDS placards outside Jewish businesses in Europe, claiming that Jews are fine, whereas Zionists are bad.
But is twenty-first century anti-Zionism clearly disassociated from anti-Semitism? If we consider the nuances (or lack thereof) of Dieudonne’s anti-Zionism, we may find an answer.
Consider his appearance on Iranian TV. He claims that the values of Islam are spreading throughout the world. To oppose this, he suggests that ‘Zionism’ has created an Islamophobic narrative. ‘Zionism’ presents Islam as the foremost enemy of freedom and democracy; and many Christians are beginning to understand this process, because ‘Zionism killed Christ.’
Anti-Semitism is best understood as a morbid conspiracy theory. It is fitting to consider this in light of Dieudonne’s assertion that a late nineteenth century nationalist movement killed Christ.
Dieudonne goes onto suggest that ‘Zionism’ not only killed Christ, but also presented his mother as a whore. At this point we may suspect that when Dieudonne talks about ‘Zionism’, he is really talking about Jews.
Because Islam shows more respects for Christ, and Christ himself in some way announces the coming of the next prophet, Dieudonne calls on Christians to convert to Islam.
He says that the Christian world had been ravaged before the arrival of Islam. He doesn’t specify what caused the destruction, but implies that Zionism played its part. The Islamic conquests – which actually destroyed the classical Christian world – were an act of ‘liberation.’
He praises modern day Iran for having a Clerical class; whereas his homeland, atheistic France, wallows in secularism. So it’s preferable to be hounded by the Revolutionary Guard for listening to American music than to be guzzling red wine in Paris – according to Dieudonne.
And it gets a lot more exciting, because Israel, he assures us, is on the brink of collapse. He predicts that the Zionist project will be over by the end of the decade, and the Zionists will be scattered into a diaspora once again.
By now it should be clear that Dieudonne doesn’t like Zionism. But he has another bete noir: the French establishment. And you may not be surprised to discover that he think the French establishment is controlled by Zionism. So a nineteenth century nationalist movement killed Christ two thousand years ago, and today finds itself quite busy controlling France.
Silliness can morph into nastiness very quickly. Dieudonne has tapped into the anti-politics mood of our time, and merged it seamlessly with anti-Semitism. He is a big name in France, and his tours frequently sell out.
Populism and anti-politics have been merged in the UK by Russell Brand. In Italy Beppe Grillo has done the same. Like Dieudonne, they are former comedians with vast egos who have decided to swap the standup circuit for the political arena.
Brand and Grillo certainly aren’t racists. Dieudonne has distinguished himself by adding anti-Semitism to his anti-establishment agenda.
He presents himself as the voice of the voiceless immigrants from France’s former North African colonies. As his appeal is to the disenfranchised, his supporters also include many other disgruntled figures from the margins of French society.
It is understandable why people who feel that they don’t have a stake in their society would hate the establishment. It is also inevitable that certain leftists would see the appeal of someone who can rally these demographics.
But Dieudonne’s vision is nihilistic and permeated with racism. Liberal apologists should not have fallen for him.
He has lost a lot of supporters after pledging allegiance to Coulibaly. He has also been arrested – yet again – for hate speech. (A troubling development in a country that is now the cynosure of the debate on freedom of expression.)
Persecuting Dieudonne will only add to his renegade appeal. He sees himself as some kind of victim when he is in fact a demagogue and victimiser. This is a man who speaks of the ‘brave warriors’ of Hamas, and proudly wears their insignia. He is a lightening rod for extremism in a country that has had to deploy ten thousand troops to keep the peace.
His preposterous worldview should be challenged and defeated head on. He is little more than a glorified conspiracy theorist. His arguments can not withstand scrutiny.