French Jewish leaders condemn theaters for hosting anti-Semitic comedian

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The umbrella group of French Jewish communities condemned 20 theaters that plan to host the overtly anti-Semitic one-man show of comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.

The CRIF umbrella issued the condemnation on Tuesday in connection with the show by Dieudonne, who has been convicted multiple times for inciting hate against Jews. He intends to take his newest act, titled “The Impure Beast,” on the road later this month.

Among other anti-Semitic references, it features dirty jokes about Ilan Halimi, a French Jew who was tortured and murdered in 2006 because he was Jewish.

“CRIF deplores the many theaters that chose to offer him a podium to disseminate to an instrumentalized audience his hatred of Jews and of those who dare criticize him,” reads CRIF’s statement about the six-month tour, which is due to begin on Dec. 27 at Zenith Nantes Metropole, one of the largest event halls in western France.

CRIF singled out for criticism the Fimalac event hall operator, which owns Zenith. Some one third of Dieudonne’s 20 bookings across France are in theaters owned by Fimalac, CRIF said, and called on Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin to “remind the firms of their obligations, moral and otherwise.”

Dieudonne is the inventor of the quenelle gesture, which echoes the Hitler salute and which has become a preferred greeting in anti-Semitic circles across the French-speaking world, but which Dieudonne says is a gesture of discontent with the establishment.

He wrote “The Impure Beast” after many French mayors banned his previous tour in their municipalities, at the request of then-interior minister Manuel Vals, who is now France’s prime minister.