Over the past 5 years, the enigmatic figure of Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, better known as Dieudo, turned from a sympathetic popular actor teamed up with Jewish comic Eli Semoun into an obsessed anti-Zionist militant portraying Jews as soulless gold diggers.
Today (July 17) - he lost a libel suit against Jewish lawmaker Julien Dray. Dieudonné accused Dray of slander after the latter said he was indirectly responsible for the murder of 23-year-old Jewish salesman Ilan Halimi in 2006.
Dieudonné, was one of the local Jewish community’s most preoccupying problems over the past few years. He represented the new anti-Semite who could freely attack Jews using the anti-Zionist arena. The problem was that he had the popularity, stage and screens to spread his message and that because he is a black man no one would suspect him of true hatred.
The big blow occurred in December 2003 with an unexpected sketch in which Dieudonne was disguised as a Nazi orthodox Jew on a TV talk show. Dieudonné executed a Nazi salute while saying “Isra-heil”. The aftershock came the next day, when the Jewish community realised nobody else was moved by his performance.
Dieudonné’s portrait of Jews, accusing them of orchestrating the slave trade and spreading AIDS in Africa, instilled new hatred against the community.
An anti-Semitic black gang called the Tribu Ka met at Dieudonné’s theatre and later threatened Jews in various occasions.
A young black man who came to a meeting for Judeo-Black friendship told me he heard that Jews had been slave traders and he didn’t know whether to believe it or not. “Is Dieudonné right? Nobody tells me otherwise.”
Jewish associations tried to take legal action and put a stop to Dieudonnée’s slander campaign, but lost their case each time.
All that changed two years ago, when Dieudonné made a few major mistakes that revealed his true intentions. The main one was his meeting with extremist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. Their handshake shed a new light on Dieudonné, and cut his bond with the mainstream black community.
And now he is quite alone.
Jews: "slave traders turned into finance sharks"
I saw him in court several weeks ago during his trial against Jewish MP and Socialist party spokesperson Julien Drai who had accused him of being indirectly responsible for the kidnapping and murder of young Jewish phone salesman Ilan Halimi by a gang in February 2006.
The gang said it had kidnapped Halimi “because he was Jewish and Jews have money.”
It went to the center of Paris on a Saturday and checked which stores were closed. The following days the gang sent girls to hit on phone salesmen in these shops, figuring they would be Jewish, and that their kidnapping would generate easy cash.
According to Drai, Dieudonné had indirect responsibility in this tragedy because he spread these old stereotypes on Jews.
Dieudonné said he was shocked and that his life changed the day Drai pronounced his accusations.
“People attacked me in the streets accusing me of Ilan’s abduction. It’s all your fault!” said Dieudonné in court.
“It’s not my fault, it is the result of all of your repeated actions and declarations!” answered Julien Drai.
Dieudonné looked at the judge and said “He doesn’t realize the consequences of his words. I was physically attacked.”
And the judge answered “Oddly enough, this is precisely what Julien Drai is accusing you of : triggering violence with your declarations.”
Today the court discharged Dray.
A thousand Jews marched in Paris days after the Halimi murder, when police and officials kept denying it was a hate crime.
Days later, tens of thousands marched down Voltaire Boulevard, where Ilan Halimi had been approached by his kidnappers.