VIDEO - The right hand and its fingers are stretched downwards along the body, while the left hand performs a "salute" movement on the opposite arm. Sound like an aerobic exercise for beginners? According to anti-Semitism researchers, it is actually a clear anti-Semitic symbol, a modern Nazi salute, spreading among Jew haters across Europe.
In recent months, the researchers warn, anti-Semites have been taking advantage of the lack of public awareness of the new "salute" and taking pictures of themselves performing the salute in particularly symbolic and sensitive places around the world like the Treblinka extermination camp, the Western Wall plaza and next to IDF soldiers, as well as alongside Jews who are unaware of the "trick." They then post the photos on the Internet.
The phenomenon was revealed in a conference held earlier this week in New York by the World Zionist Organization's Department for Countering Anti-Semitism, in the presence of senior officials involved in researching and countering anti-Semitism in Israel and the United States.
'It's reaching Israel and must be stopped'
In order to expose the public to the new movement, which many have encountered but were unaware of its meaning, the conference organizers presented pictures and videos of neo-Nazis documenting themselves performing it in different places around the world.
As part of a more concrete effort, the Defense Ministry has been asked to warn IDF soldiers against the phenomenon in a bid to prevent them from unknowingly participating in further embarrassing photographs.
The new salute, based on a reverse Nazi symbol, was created by a French comedian called Dieudonné, who is known for his anti-Semitic acts and statements and has even been convicted by courts in France several times in the past. The physical gesture, which he dubbed "quenelle," has spread in the country, but the government has yet to define it as illegal.
Under a sign that says JewDifferent sources have been arguing whether it is seen as anti-Semitic gesture in all cases. There are those who say that some of those photographed doing the "quenelle" gesture are doing it for "anti-establishment" motives which are not necessarily anti-Semitic. Among anti-Semites, however, as the WZO indicates, it is a common anti-Semitic gesture, and media outlets have even been apologizing for mistakenly exposing it.
Neo-Nazis do 'quenelle'
Yaakov Haguel, head of the WZO's Department for Countering Anti-Semitism and the conference's organizer, told Ynet that the department's Red Email received initial pictures of the new salute several months ago, but "we didn't understand what it was about."
They later realized the meaning of the gesture and were then exposed to cases in which neo-Nazis performed it in Jewish holy sites in Israel and around the world."It's gaining more and more momentum, spreading on the Internet and social networks and turning into a clear Nazi symbol, and it doesn't appear to be a passing phenomenon," says Haguel. "It's spreading to Israel too these days, and we must acknowledge that and stop it."
Eitan Behar, director of the Center for Diaspora Communications and Countering Anti-Semitism at the WZO, told Ynet that the phenomenon he defined as "extremely troubling was gaining momentum in recent weeks.
"Saluting with raised hands is banned in the European Union, and people even get arrested for it, so the neo-Nazi activists perform the same gesture in a different angle," he noted.
Popular Facebook page
A special Facebook page is updated very frequently, particularly with photos from around the world documenting the new salute in places with religious and national significance to Jews. It has accumulated tens of thousands of regular followers, and almost 100% of them are active – through "likes," shares and comments. A special website has also been launched for the same purpose. In the center led by Behar, volunteers from all over the world monitor anti-Semitic incidents in the media, Internet and social networks. As an expert on the issue, he asserts that the new phenomenon is significant and linked to hatred of Jews.
"It has some general anti-establishment aspects, and the person who invented it is a comedian, but one cannot escape its main message as a new, unhumorous Nazi symbol," he said.