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Dressing up antisemitism as freedom of speech

On the European Human Rights Court welcome ruling to uphold the hate crime conviction of racist comic Dieudonne

The obnoxious French “comedian” Dieudonne M’bala M’bala has been given a resounding kick in the rear he so richly deserves.

On November 10, three days before Islamic State terrorists killed 130 people in a ruthless rampage in Paris, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, delivered a verdict that may, hopefully, give antisemites and Holocaust deniers like M’bala some pause.

Seven years ago, M’bala finished a skit in Paris by inviting a Holocaust denier on stage to receive a prize. He received it from an actor pretending to be a Jewish concentration camp inmate dressed in pajamas bearing a Nazi yellow star.

As a result of a complaint, M’bala — a French citizen of African and caucasian ancestry — was convicted on hate crime charges and slapped with a fine of 10,000 euros. Claiming his brand of humour is generic rather than anti-Jewish, he took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, thinking he would be given a free pass to continue spewing his venom.

Well, he was dead wrong.

In a precedent-setting decision, which has been virtually drowned out by the November 13 events in Paris, the court ruled that French laws enshrining freedom of expression cannot protect bigots like him from prosecution. Under French law, the dissemnation of antisemitism and Holocaust denial are banned. In quashing M’bala’s feeble argument, the court ruled that his offensive performance could not be regarded as “entertainment” and was thus beyond the protection of a clause in the European Convention on Human Rights sanctioning freedom of expression.

M’bala’s conviction on charges of hate-mongering is an important milestone because it robs antisemites like him of the cynical rationale that expressions of racial hatred can be disguised as free speech and are thus acceptable.

Even if the court had not rejected his argument, M’bala is clearly a racist by any yardstick. He has consorted with Holocaust deniers like Robert Faurisson. He’s friends with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the extreme right-wing French politician who was recently ousted as leader of the National Front by his daughter, Marine Le Pen. He has lashed out at the so-called “Jewish lobby.” He has been known to use the quenelle, the provocative and insulting Nazi-like hand gesture that decent people find so objectionable.

It’s no wonder that Manuel Valls, the current prime minister of France, has branded him an “antisemite and racist.”

Yet M’bala is more than that. He supports Islamic terrorism, a scourge which must be eradicated, root and branch. Last January, in a Facebook commentary following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, he expressed sympathy for Amedy Coulibaly, the Islamic State acolyte who murdered four Jews in a hostage-taking incident in a kosher supermarket in Paris. Convicted of condoning terrorism, M’bala was given a suspended two-month prison sentence.

Antisemitic to the core, M’bala is unlikely to change his noxious views from this point forward. But now that the European Court of Human Rights has denied his appeal and labelled him a rank racist, he may think twice before he opens his filthy mouth again.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com