The connection between Dieudonné and his Quenelle, and the antizionist academics with their boycott is as clear as it is important.
Both begin in a good place, both begin with solidarity with the Palestinians, both begin with an anger and a dismay at how the Palestinians are being treated. Dieudonné begins as an antiracist anti-imperialist black radical in Paris, the boycott movement begins as a mainly Jewish movement in London for Palestinian solidarity.
So what happens? Two things. These two globalizing movements begin to focus not on human rights abuses in general, not on occupations in general, not on colonialism in general; but they find themselves especially outraged only by Israeli crimes, which for them become symbolic of the crimes of a whole global system. For the Jewish anti-Zionists in London the focus on Israel is understandable because it is a specifically Jewish anti-Zionism – it then gets exported into non-Jewish civil society and it gets adopted there with enthusiasm.
For Dieudonné in Paris, the focus is more and more on the war against terror, the injustices against the Muslims, the anti-imperialist rhetoric which he shares with parts of the French left and parts of the French Islamist movement. And then the next step, which is coming up against Jewish Power.
Focus shifts away from the bad Israelis and onto the Jews who support them here in London or here in Paris. The Jews are constructed as hugely powerful – in France they are powerful enough to dictate which jokes a radical comedian are allowed to tell, in England they are powerful enough to dictate that “criticism of Israel” should be forbidden. And so both movements end up as movements which position themselves as anti-establishment and courageous opponents of Jewish power.
Dieudonné is iconoclastic, he takes the piss out of the Shoah as a pineapple, the boycotters are iconoclastic, they say that there is no free pass for the Jews after the Holocaust, and they say that the” use” of the “holocaust” in discourse is a disgrace; they say that universities are particularly dear to Jews.
For both movements the Holocaust becomes a discourse and a signification of Jewish cunning rather than the thing itself. And it all ends up in Jew-baiting. How do academics bring the powerful Jews down? they boycott them, they campaign against their power to invoke antisemitism. How does Dieudonné bring the powerful Jews down? he makes the Jews look pompous and humourless. And then both Dieudonné and the boycotters have to show how this is really, fundamentally, a struggle for freedom and free-speech against the Jewish ability to dictate. Academics assert their right to boycott Jews; radical French people assert their right to make the hitler salute as a symbol of their rebellion against Jewish power.
What begins as a radical anti-imperialist impulse to side with the Palestinians ends up in a more and more open fight with “The Jews”. Dieudonné ends up in bed with Jean Marie Le Pen, the boycotters end up with a global campaign against the Jewish “lobby”.