French court slaps $15,000 fine on admirer of quasi-Nazi salute

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A French court fined and gave a suspended prison sentence to a man who disseminated a picture of a quasi-Nazi salute being performed at a Jewish school.

The Toulouse Appeals Court on Wednesday slapped Noël Gérard with a $15,000 fine and a 6-month suspended sentence for sharing in 2014 on social media a picture of a man performing the quenelle salute in front of the Ohr Hatorah school, where in 2012 a jihadist killed a rabbi and three children, the news site 20minutes reported.

The salute performed by Gérard, whom the judges convicted of incitement to hatred, is promoted by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. His critics say it is a variant of the Nazi salute designed to express admiration for the murder of Jews without incurring the punishment reserved in the French penal code for doing so.

French courts rarely hand out prison sentences, even suspended ones, and such heavy fines on actions like the ones committed by Gerard.

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Gérard, who is known in online anti-Semitic circles as “Joe le Corbeau” — French for “Joe Crow” — was arrested in 2014 near Marseille in southern France.

The photo, which surfaced on social networks, showed a young man wearing sunglasses performing the quenelle while standing in front of the school’s entrance. He wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The same man, who is not Joe le Corbeau and has not been identified, according to 20minutes, also posed in front of the apartment of Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist who attacked the school two days before police killed him in a shootout at his apartment.

The arrest happened more than a month after the photo surfaced because social networks did not immediately agree to cooperate with the police request for information about the suspect, France3 reported in 2014.

Advocates of the quenelle gesture say it is not anti-Semitic but anti-establishment. But French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Dec. 31 of 2014 that it was “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate,” a position also held by the CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities and organizations.

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