Nicolas Anelka has lost the backing of French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman after his quenelle goal celebration.
Nicolas Anelka has lost the backing of French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman after his quenelle goal celebration.
Mike Egerton/Press Association/AP

LONDON (AP) - West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka has lost the support of the French Jewish community leader he was citing to defend his use of a gesture deemed anti-Semitic.

The former France international is facing a minimum five-game ban if an English Football Association panel rules that his goal-celebration gesture was a racially aggravated breach of its rules. Anelka has until 1800 GMT Thursday to formally respond.

Anelka insists his use of the gesture, which is known in France as a ''quenelle'' and has been described as an ''inverted Nazi salute,'' was not anti-Semitic.

The player responded to this week's FA charge by highlighting through his Facebook and Twitter accounts how the president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions said the gesture was not offensive because it was performed on a football field rather than in front of a Jewish site or Holocaust memorial.

But Roger Cukierman has backpedalled on his earlier comments, now stressing that the gesture is ''an inversed Hitler salute'' and saying he is ''troubled'' Anelka dedicated his quenelle to French performer Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, ''whose own motives are incontestably anti-Semitic.''

''It must be noted that the quenelle gesture has spread dangerously among our fellow citizens and especially among young people,'' Cukierman said on his organization's website. ''I was disappointed by Anelka's attitude, whose behavior is the opposite of that which should be shown by a top-class athlete to the youths of our country.''

Cukierman's CRIF was formed during World War II and represents France's estimated 500,000 Jews.

This month, Dieudonne, who popularized the quenelle, agreed to abandon a controversial show banned in several French cities after angering the government.

Dieudonne has been held by French police for questioning twice in the last two days. A bailiff who delivered documents demanding that Dieudonne pay back taxes said he was shot at with flashballs from Dieudonne's house west of Paris, according to the regional prosecutor's office. Dieudonne, who has denied wrongdoing, was released both times without charge.

Anelka performed the gesture as he celebrated scoring in West Brom's 3-3 draw with West Ham in the Premier League on Dec. 28.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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