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PARIS - A controversial comedian's sketch portraying an Orthodox Jew giving a Hitler salute was not anti-Semitic and cannot be punished under French law, a Paris court ruled yesterday.

The court threw out charges of racial discrimination brought by four Jewish and anti-racist organizations against Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala for a television sketch that criticized Israel's policy of settling Jews in the territories.

In the short sketch, Dieudonne dressed as an Orthodox Jewish settler in combat dress and skullcap, shouted "IsraHeil" and urged young viewers to join an "American-Zionist axis."

"The court has recognized a comedian's right to criticize the policies of a state and not be branded an anti-Semite, even if this state is Israel," Dieudonne's lawyer, Francois Roux, said after the judgment.

Representing the plaintiffs, Alain Jakubowicz said the ruling followed the letter of the law but ignored the hurt that the sketch had caused French Jews.

"The words and acts in question are not criminal, since they do not address the Jewish community in general or target an individual or group of individuals because of their Jewish faith," the court ruling said.

Dieudonne, a French-African humorist, immediately demanded an apology from Justice Minister Dominique Perben.