French striker Nicolas Anelka performs the 'quenelle' after scoring a goal.
French striker Nicolas Anelka performs the 'quenelle' after scoring a goal. Photo by AFP
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French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala may have dropped his show that was banned for anti-Semitic language, but that hasn't stopped his detractors from taking action in a French court against the "quenelle," a gesture he invented that has been described as an "inverted Nazi salute" and repeatedly invoked by fans at Jewish sites around the country.

Campaigners in Bordeaux are asking a court there to decide whether "targeted quenelles," gestures aimed at Jewish institutions or sites, constitute an illegal "insult of a racist nature," the Guardian reported on Saturday.

According to the report, local police launched an investigation to try to identify and bring to justice people pictured outside a Bordeaux synagogue posing while making the gesture – the same synagogue where French Jews were rounded up in 1944 and sent to concentration camps. Others have been photographed making the gesture outside synagogues, Holocaust memorials and other Jewish landmarks.

Clotilde Chapieu, head of the Bordeaux branch of an anti-racism and anti-Semitism watchdog group, which brought the lawsuit, told the Guardian, "Enough is enough. We've been tolerant for a long time: now it has to stop. The quenelle ceased being an anti-system gesture a long time ago, if it ever was. It is anti-Semitic. And where it is clearly anti-Semitic – as it is in the photos – then it has to stop.

"If the court decides it's a racist insult, we have won," Chapieu told the paper. "It will send a message to young people that the republic doesn't compromise over its values, that there's no impunity for those who make this gesture in specific places and situations who are breaking the law. Anti-Semitism isn't an opinion – it's a crime."

The "quenelle" made it into the headlines last month when soccer player Nicolas Anelka celebrated a goal he scored in the Premier League for his club West Bromwich Albion on Saturday with the gesture, sparking an outcry from Jewish groups and French officials.