BBC Sport amplifies Anelka excuses, downplays antisemitism

On December 29th the sports section of the BBC News website published a story titled “Nicolas Anelka: West Brom striker defends goal celebration“.

BBC sport Anelka

The article opens with amplification of Anelka’s reactions to the criticism levelled against him as a result of his having used what is widely regarded as a neo-Nazi salute during a live-televised football match the previous day.

“Nicolas Anelka says he is “neither racist nor anti-Semitic” after using his official Twitter account to defend a controversial goal celebration. […]

Anelka made the “quenelle” gesture – described as an inverted Nazi salute.

“Of course, I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic and I fully assume my gesture,” Anelka, 34, tweeted.

“The meaning of quenelle is anti-system. I do not know what religion has to do with this story.” “

The article then goes on to state:

“The French government is trying to ban comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala’s shows over his use of the gesture and Anelka confirmed he did it in support of the performer.

“This is a dedication to Dieudonne,” Anelka said on Twitter.”

As the CST explains:

“The quenelle was invented by French comic Dieudonné Mbala Mbala. Anelka has excused his quenelle by saying that it was “just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné”; but this is no excuse, it just confirms the offence. Dieudonné has numerous convictions for antisemitism in France. One of these was for a sketch in which he gave a heroism award to French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. The ‘comedy’ was that the award was presented by a man in a concentration camp uniform, complete with a yellow star.”

The BBC’s claim that the concerns of the French government are confined to Anelka’s friend’s “use of the gesture” of course whitewashes the fact that the ‘comedian’ who has made a career out of antisemitism has a long history of brushes with the French authorities because of hate speech and racial incitement.  

“Nevertheless, on the eve of Anelka’s celebration, French Home Office minister Manuel Valls had indicated that he was looking at ways to ban Dieudonné’s ‘shows and public meetings’ after the comedian’s latest anti-semitic tirade, which had been directed at journalist Patrick Cohen.

Quote-unquote: ‘when I hear him [Cohen], I tell myself, you know, gas chambers…too bad’.

If Anelka’s quenelle was indeed nothing but a show of solidarity with a friend who’d found himself embroiled in trouble, it’s just as well we know what kind of trouble that is; and it’s not as if Dieudonné had no ‘previous’ in that department.

He’s been found guilty of incitement to racial hatred on several occasions, his first condemnation coming in November 2007 after making the following comment: ‘All of them [Jews] are slave-straders who’ve moved into banking, show-business and, today, terrorist action’.

Two years later, he contested the European elections as one of the star candidates of the so-called PAS (Anti-Zionist Party), a hotch-potch of an organisation – partly funded by the regime of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also financed Dieudonné’s 2012 feature film, L’Anti-sémite in which he shared the limelight with Yahia Gouasmi, the chairman of the French chi’ite federation, and the failed film-maker and professional polemicist Alain Soral, whose political trajectory has veered from hardcore communism to membership of the extreme right-wing Front National.”

The BBC article also amplifies the uninformed reaction of Anelka’s club’s manager.

“Albion caretaker manager Keith Downing said Anelka was “totally surprised” by the furore, despite the French government announcing on Friday that it was studying legal options to ban performances by Dieudonne.

“It has got nothing to do with what is being said,” Downing said. “It is absolute rubbish.” “

Given that the target audience of this report is for the most part unlikely to be well versed on the subject of antisemitic trends in some of the darker corners of French social media and considering that this offensive trend appears to be spreading in the sporting world, it is especially regrettable that BBC Sport has wasted the opportunity to adequately clarify the background to the controversy surrounding Anelka’s action to BBC audiences, instead opting to amplify assorted excuses and downplay the antisemitism of Anelka’s racist friend.

But it is not just writers at the BBC’s Sport department who is apparently afflicted with the inability to recognise antisemitism when it stares them in the face. On December 30th the Tweet below was sent from the BBC News Magazine account. 

Tweet BBC News magazine Anelka

The Tweet promotes an article appearing on the BBC News website under the title “Who, What, Why: What is the quenelle gesture?” which describes the gesture’s inventor as having run an “anti-Zionist” campaign in the 2009 European elections and apparently seeks to perpetuate the myth that antisemitism is only to be found on the far-Right of the political map. 

“I think it’s likely to be more complex than just being associated with the far right,” says Jim Shields of Aston University, an expert on the French far right, because Dieudonne has been involved with anti-racist left-wing activists as well as far-right activists. “At the moment, the use of this gesture seems too diffuse to fit any simple right-left interpretation.”

As Tim Marshall of Sky News correctly points out:

“Dieudonne instead inverts this to argue, as we heard in the 1930’s, and again more recently, that a powerful Jewish lobby is now “controlling” the system.

He is on record as having said this several times, most recently to Iranian television.

He appeals to “anti-racists” who can point to a Jewish influence in the slave trade, and to Muslims, by celebrating the Palestinian cause.

Thus you can support him, pretend you believe the nonsense he spouts about the quenelle not being anti-Semitic and move on to bask in the warm glow of the self-righteously prejudiced.”

It is distinctly disturbing that – once again – the BBC cannot find similar clarity of perspective on the subject of antisemitism.

Related articles:

The Guardian whitewashes antisemitism of Nicolas Anelka pal, Dieudonné

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