Anelka’s Nazi-style gesture is far worse than a racial insult
Suarez was banned for eight games. Anelka should get sixteen
Unless you have a special interest in French anti-Semitism, you’re unlikely to have heard of the quenelle, or the man who invented it, until just over three weeks ago. After Nicolas Anelka’s salute last month, however, it’s been difficult to avoid knowing that the quenelle is a form of inverted Nazi salute.
Now that the FA has charged the West Brom footballer with making an abusive and insulting gesture, aggravated by “reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief”, the focus has moved to the sentence that his gesture deserves.
The key here is context. The quenelle’s inventor, the French “comedian” Dieudonné M’bala Mbala, is unambiguous about his message. The pernicious, all-powerful Jews are the subject of hilarious jokes such as his references to the Shoananas, melding the Hebrew word for the Holocaust with the French word for pineapple and — purely by chance, of course — thereby avoiding French laws banning Holocaust denial.
It’s not that Jews are a theme of his. They are the theme. Dieudonné has to date managed eight convictions for offences linked to anti-Semitism.
Anelka says that Dieudonné is his friend and he was merely showing solidarity. That’s akin to a BNP supporting footballer saying that he only gave a fascist salute out of affection for his friend Nick Griffin. And that is Anelka’s defence.
As for the idea that the quenelle is anti-Establishment rather than anti-Semitic: that’s the whole point. Dieudonné says Jews are the Establishment. For him, it’s the same.
More context: just as you didn’t know about the quenelle until last month, nor did almost any football fans. Thanks to Anelka, they do now. You can bet your season ticket there will be copycats; and the FA’s sentence has to do everything it can to stop that happening. When Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra, he was banned for eight games. Yet Suarez’s offence was, however vile, a form of private insult shouted in the heat of a match. Anelka’s quenelle was premeditated and in public.
The minimum ban laid down for Anelka’s offence is five games but the only proportionate ban for his thought-through public gesture of racism has to be at least 16 — double Suarez’s punishment. Anything less and the FA’s claims to take all racism seriously will be meaningless.