Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), called on NBA star Tony Parker to apologize for his past use of the “quenelle” gesture which is widely considered to be anti-Semitic, and has been described as “the Nazi salute in reverse.”
The call comes a day after French soccer star Nicolas Anelka ignited a furor over his use of the gesture after scoring a goal for English soccer club West Bromwich.
Calling Parker’s use of the gesture “disgusting and dangerous” and, saying that the star was “mainstreaming anti-Semitic hate,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the SWC, said that Parker should, “apologize for his use of the quenelle ‘Nazi’ salute.”
“As a leading sports figure on both sides of the Atlantic, Parker has a special moral obligation to disassociate himself from a gesture that the government of France has identified as anti-Semitic,” Cooper said, in an interview with The Algemeiner.
Representatives for the NBA, and Parker’s team the San Antonio Spurs, did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment.
Parker’s most overt use of the “quenelle” gesture which has been reported on by a number of French newspapers including Libération, Rue89 and Slate’s French site, appears to have taken place earlier this year. News reports from September and October show a picture of Parker backstage at a French theater doing the “quenelle” while standing beside French anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné, who invented the gesture.
In another reported use of the gesture while appearing on the Grand Journal TV show, Parker is asked, “How big is (French President) François Hollande?” The player then gets up, and smiling, crosses his right arm over to his left shoulder, French Jewish news site JSS News reported in October.
The “quenelle” has been used by followers of Dieudonné in front of Nazi concentration camps, synagogues and even when standing beside unsuspecting Jews.
“It’s the Nazi salute in reverse,” Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, said recently. “Very clearly, Mr Dieudonné is developing a nearly professional anti-Semitism under the cover of telling jokes.”
“Clearly everyone agrees that this is a provocative instrumentation of a reverse Nazi salute,” French Jewish artist and activist Ron Agam, told The Algemeiner.
On Friday, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, criticized the comedian and said that his ministry was looking for legal ways to ban his shows.
“Dieudonné M’bala M’bala doesn’t seem to recognize any limits any more,” Valls said. “From one comment to the next, as he has shown in several television shows, he attacks the memory of Holocaust victims in an obvious and unbearable way.”
Artist Agam said that “There is an enormous amount of anger and fear” among French Jews, “due to the newly aggressive resurgence of anti-Semitic violence.”
“Dieudonné is one of the visible expressions of this outrageous behavior,” he said.