Comedian not in EU vote for laughs
Paris — A black comedian has allied himself with France’s far-right in a bid to exploit the European elections to get his Anti-Zionist Party’s message across to a public increasingly frustrated with established politicians.
Dieudonne M’bala M’bala sees Zionist influence in everything from the leadership of President Nicolas Sarkozy to the selling of Coca Cola.
A small crowd gathered when Dieudonne’s outspoken EU election campaign descended on the working class suburb of Bobigny this week. Some youths cheered their hero. Others called out "Racist!"
Known in France simply as Dieudonne, the bearded comedian is instantly recognisable after years of television and stage appearances.
In recent years his outspoken views have alienated mainstream audiences, promoters and his first partner in comedy, who was a Jew, but he retains a large cult following and operates his own successful theatre.
Now he wants to translate his notoriety into political success, having made a career out of provocation which has led to a number of court cases over his comments on Jews and the Shoah.
The 43-year-old’s party is standing the June 4-7 election with the sole declared aim of "wiping out Zionism" in the world.
He did not react to the passers-by who shouted out "shame" but his entourage passed out leaflets condemning "The pro-Israeli lobby and the Tyranny of neo-Liberalism".
One shopkeeper complained to police that a Dieudonne campaigner had called him, in Arabic, a "dirty Jew" after he refused to accept a leaflet. The campaign denied the allegation.
Despite fierce criticism from rights groups and mainstream political leaders, Dieudonne’s group insists they are not Jew baiting, but fighting "Zionism" — the movement that established the Jewish state — and defending free speech.
The manifesto they handed out reflected the same anti-Jewish conspiracy theories regularly used by the extreme right and Islamist groups around the world.
The leaflet is illustrated by a map of France covered with a crossed-out Israeli flag. It decries the activities of a "pro-Israeli lobby" and calls President Sarkozy the "Zionist governor".
It lists dozens of French media stars and executives it accuses of being "Zionist Jewish ideologues and neo-Zionist non-Jews" who should be boycotted.
It also calls for a boycott of Israeli products and international brands that supposedly support a Zionist lobby: Coca Cola, Danone, Nestle, Intel, L’Oreal, Timberland, Nokia and others.
"Jews don’t have a monopoly on evil-mindedness," says the manifesto.
Such views have aligned Dieudonne, whose father was from Cameroon and mother from France, with the far-right National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen who is the godfather of his daughter. When he first launched into politics, Dieudonne condemned the Front, but now runs his Anti-Zionist Party list with Le Pen ally Alain Soral.
The supporters who lobbied with him in Bobigny were from diverse backgrounds, united mainly by the feeling that they were victims of hidden forces.
Unemployed mother-of-two Pascale Le Coarer said she joined the campaign recently after coming across conspiracy theories while surfing the Internet.
"I found out that the September 11 attacks weren’t what they told us they were. I found out about Free Masonry … I’m against the New World Order," she explained.
Francis, who described himself as a "Christian student", joined Dieudonne out of a hatred for "multiculturalism" after deciding he "could no longer identify with the values of French society."
Observers fear the participation of Dieudonne’s list in the European poll could increase tensions in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish minorities and has seen anti-Semitic violence.
President Sarkozy’s chief of staff, Claude Gueant, condemned the anti-Zionist campaign this month. "Dieudonne is anti-Semitic all the time, it’s absolutely odious," he told French radio.
Gueant said the government had asked its lawyers to find a way for the list to be banned from the European poll, but Dieudonne’s fans seized gleefully on the free publicity from the comments.
In any case, they admit that they have little hope of winning one of the 736 seats in the European parliament and are simply using the election to reach new supporters turned off by mainstream politics.
In September 2007, Dieudonne was fined after he accused Jews of exploiting "memorial pornography" and attacked "the Zionist lobby which cultivates the idea of their unique suffering … and has declared war on the black world."
Earlier this year, Dieudonne courted controversy at one of his performances by inviting onstage Robert Faurisson, a 79-year-old academic who has been convicted of Holocaust denial.