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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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The ‘Quenelle’: Product of Simple Hatred or Ignorance?

Quenelle in front of an Anne Frank poster.

Quenelle in front of an Anne Frank poster.

The “quenelle” craze that took over France and a few other European countries in the last few months is not merely the product of hate but rather one of sheer ignorance. Although both seem to correlate, historically at least, there is an important distinction that needs to be made.

Ignorance is what leads to blind hate. Whether that hate is justified or not is dependent on the individual, however there is without a doubt a relationship between ignorance and a lack of justification of one’s hate. Wait what?

The question is if the individuals who are frivolously displaying these signs on football fields and in front of Shoah museums are aware of what they are doing. Are they participating in a abhorrent furor of hatred, or are they-in their ignorance- trying to fit in a cultural fad?

Surely every time we see a new picture on social networking sites or a news source, the people who show off their “quenelle” in photos are either bemused or straight up laughing. Is it a sign of hatred? Or simply just someone trying to fit in?

Unfortunately it is both. By trying to fit in a racist, yet in their view, humorous show of body language they are not just trying to confirm into social norms that their peers and culture are exhibiting, they are consciously or even unconsciously exhibiting hate. You might be wondering: so what?

Are there no historical similarities? The formation of the fascist party led by Benito Mussolini in Italy displayed and vulgarized the use of the Roman Salute to move the masses. Let alone the use of the infamous Nazi Salute that has become one of the most overt representations of hatred. How about the use of the Japanese salute under Hirohito’s despotic regime? Is there no common affinity to the “quenell”? Something that binds all of these together?

Conformity. By displaying signs whether one knows why or not, builds a culture of complacency, ignorance and hatred. Especially when connected to the eternal and universal fact of trying to “fit in” or “be a part of something” in human nature, no matter at what cost. Even if it means the hatred of others for the purpose of finding one’s place in the cultural hegemony- the masses.

The “quenelle” is more than just a cultural fad, and it is more than just a representation of French anti-semitism. It is a form of language, I dare say, a mechanism by which hatred is not just spread but rather it is normalized in the minds of individuals. The more it becomes placed in mass culture and media the more it has become normal to see it. Not so different how by 1941, the Hitler Salute was absolutely embedded in all fabrics of daily life- it was everywhere.

Yet the gesture’s promoters say it is for comical means, to break down social conventions, and to promote free speech. Dieudonne himself who has been banned from performing in various French cities, and from entering the U.K has claimed that it was only a part of his “routine”. Really?

Is that why in 2009 in a political campaign promoting Anti-Zionism under the headline of “Pour Une Europe Libérée”- For A “Free Europe”, Dieudonné poses showing of his famous sign. Again immediately comparable to any National Socialist poster from the 1930’s. This leads me to the next question, in fact to a set of questions.

Does this gesture work to promote hatred and more ignorance, or is it just a display of the current anti-semitism in France? Maybe Both? And more importantly, do people stretch their right hand down pointing to the ground because they hate something, or because they are following their peers blindly-as ignorance dictates? These two things are not mutually exclusive, they seem to function together in a complexity so vigorous as to influence culture and to make people hate whether they actually do or don’t.

My immediate concern is the affect the gesture is having on younger generations. In other terms what if it is playing a didactic role in diffusing xenophobia under the guise of a cultural phenomenon- even a humorous and “harmless” gesture? If that is the case as they say, then we should ask ourselves what else would make someone to pose in front of Auschwitz-Birkenau while performing the “quenelle” for a photo? An innocuous antic?

Whatever the case may be the fact remains that the “quenelle” is a means to spread hatred, namely anti-semitism, and ignorance is the locomotive by which it can be spread. It is not an issue of free speech, rather one of defamation.

About the Author: Milad Doroudian is a history student at the University of British Columbia and a writer. He is currently working on a book on the Jassy Pogrom of 1941.


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7 Responses to “The ‘Quenelle’: Product of Simple Hatred or Ignorance?”

  1. A "harmless gesture"? Look at the photo again. Are we sure the guys making the gesture aren't trying to say, "Hey, this is where you should make the cut, removing my arm so that I cannot use it in a hateful way again." I think it's meant to be an "armless gesture".

    I see that photo and I see cowards who mock little girls who lost their lives in horrendous ways. I don't care if they think it's funny or cool to be cruel. If there's any hope for this world, people like this will never have the arms to continue the gestures of hatred and cruelty.

  2. Maliban Al Maliban says:

    dear sir: your attitude is why so many people have taken the path of jew hating instead of simply hating zionists and zionism. your type has driven them over the edge. now you get the consequences.

  3. Maliban Al Maliban! Number one: Jews are Zionists and Zionist are Jews. Number Two: We, the Jews don't care anymore whether jerks like you like us or not: our great country, Israel, is strong enough and proud enough to answer to those haters that will be foolish enough to try to mess with Israel ( remember 1948? and1956? and 1967? and 1973? and 1981? and 2006?) Number Three: go ahead and swallow you own venom!

  4. Maliban Al Maliban We in Canada dont hate the Jews, Why cant the rest of the world leave them alone? Maybe you should sing this song Maliban, and it will stop the hatred in your heart.
    "Jerusalem within your courts l:ll praise, The Lord's great Name and with a spirit lowly. Pay all my vows O Zion fair and Holy . Come join with me and bless Him all your days." Psalm 116 verse 10

  5. Maliban Al Maliban says:

    funny. i didn't know you spoke for everyone in canada. when did that election take place?

  6. Sientje Seinen, we should all ignore "men" like Maliban Al Maliban, who is actually just an angry white man from Utah with racist views against black folk and jewish folk, at least according to his FB page. He also has a hang-up on gays, and apparently has some sort of hamster fantasy. On top of his hatred, he's extremely unbalanced, and as such, it is best to humor the guy, as his cries for attention will only get louder and louder until he blows what's left of his lid.

    And Lincoln was a Republican, not a nazi. All these racist bastards in the republican party need to kill themselves or join the actual nazi-party. They've tainted enough already.

  7. O, really? And that is why the rat called Nasralla is hiding in a hole up until now? You are delusional, my friend Maliban Al Maliban! The Second Lebanon war in 2006 was won by Israel, and the only reason that they (israelies) stopped and did not marched on Beirut was that the Arabs were crying to UN (like always) to stop "the aggressor". Cowards are those who were turning Katyusha's missles against civilians of Israel's northern cities, but, like always, failed in a real battle. I hope, Nasralla, as well as Russia and Iran, learned their lesson and will not mess with the Jews again!

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More Articles from Milad Doroudian
Quenelle in front of an Anne Frank poster.

The “quenelle” has become a form of language, a mechanism by which hatred is not just spread but normalized.

The first meeting of the Romanian Zionist Organization, 1920.

The history of Zionism in Jassy, Romania, amidst persecution and antisemitism.

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