Man arrested over photo of quenelle in front of Toulouse Jewish school

(JTA) — French police arrested a man suspected of disseminating a photo of a quasi-Nazi salute being performed in front of a school where four Jews were murdered.

The man, who was identified as Joe le Corbeau, was arrested Tuesday near Marseille in southern France, according to a report by the France3 news network.

Police believe he was involved in inciting hatred against Jews because he spread online a photo of a man performing the quenelle — a gesture that many French Jews believe is anti-Semitic and based on the Nazi salute — in front of the Ohr Hatorah school in Toulouse, where three Jewish children and a rabbi were murdered in 2012.

The photo, which surfaced on social networks last month, showed a young man wearing sunglasses performing the quenelle while standing in front of the school’s entrance. He wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The same man, who is not Joe le Corbeau, according to France3, also posed in front of the apartment of Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist who killed the Jews at the school on March 19, 2012, two days before police killed him in a shootout at his apartment.

The arrest happened more than a month after the photo surfaced because social networks did not immediately agree to cooperate with the police request for information about the suspect, France3 also reported.

The quenelle was invented by Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a French comedian who has seven convictions for inciting hatred against Jews. Advocates of this gesture say it is not anti-Semitic but anti-establishment. But France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, said on Dec. 31 that it was “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate.”

Last week, a Tunisian human rights group condemned a local lawmaker, Rabii Abdi of the secularist Wafa party, who performed the quenelle in parliament.

“We firmly condemn this gesture by a lawmaker of the Wafa party,” Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association for Support of Minorities, or ATSM, said on Jan. 24. She was also quoted by the Mag14 news site as calling the quenelle “offensive to the Tunisian people and especially to Tunisian Jews.”

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