Jewish organizations in Montreal have raised concerns about the upcoming appearance of a French rapper who they accuse of “virulent” antisemitism and Holocaust denial, but so far, the performance hall has deflected their objections.
Freeze Corleone, who is slated to appear Dec. 4 at The Olympia, a 1,300-seat venue, “exploits and abuses his platform to espouse a particularly virulent form of antisemitism,” Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, wrote in a letter to the Olympia management. The singer has also made disparaging comments about Blacks and Asians, Rotrand said. By time of writing, B’nai Brith had not received a response.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) condemns Corleone’s “ignorant and hateful rhetoric” and criticizes Olympia for condoning the “normalization” of antisemitism.
It cites 12 examples of Corleone’s lyrics that it finds “problematic,” among them (in French): “Build an empire like the young Adolf, determined with big ambitions like the young Adolf,” “Every day, don’t give a f—k about the Shoah,” and “Gotta spin money in my community like a Jew.”
In addition to his song content, CIJA denounces other comments Corleone has made which it says amount to Holocaust denial.
Corleone, 30, whose original name is Issa Lorenzo Diakhaté, was investigated in 2020 for incitement to hatred in France, but not convicted. His recording contract with Universal Music was terminated and streaming platforms removed his songs. He is believed to be living in Senegal today.
B’nai Brith wants the show to be cancelled; CIJA is not that explicit, rather asking that the public be “vigilant” and warning Corleone not to make any antisemitic references in his performance here.
To date, the administration of Olympia has declined to speak to the media, with the exception of Le Devoir which quotes an unnamed source at the venue who defends Corleone’s “freedom of expression” and notes he was never found guilty of inciting hatred.
“Rap is a genre all of its own that is characterized by writing that wants to be provocative and denunciatory of the facts of society. The artist is known in the milieu for his shocking formulas on numerous subjects and claims to be neither racist nor antisemitic,” the newspaper quotes an email it received.
The correspondent notes that the owners of the Olympia are Jewish.
Rotrand rejects the argument this is a matter of free speech, and faults Olympia for “hiding behind the fact Corleone has not yet had a criminal conviction.”
He points out that in 2020 French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin publicly repudiated Corleone for his “unspeakable antisemitism.”
Rotrand refers to the outrage over recent controversial remarks about Jews made by American singer Kanye West. “We are surprised that Olympia has learned nothing from the public reaction to Kanye West.”
In a statement, CIJA Quebec vice-president Eta Yudin said:
“The Canadian government, following the example of others around the world, made Holocaust denial illegal with the inclusion of Article 319 (2.1) in Canada’s Criminal Code. If Corleone brings his hateful messages to Canada, and should he condone, deny, or downplay the Holocaust, this action could amount to ‘wilful promotion of antisemitism’ as per the Criminal Code…
“We are counting on our fellow Quebecers to show that his values are not aligned with those we hold dear… Cancelling is one thing but refusing to purchase tickets makes a stronger collective statement against hate. Furthermore, we would encourage the owners of the Olympia to follow the example of others who, when faced with artists who have promoted hatred, have chosen to donate the proceeds of the events to causes that promote education, peace, and co-existence.”
Yudin says donations to the Montreal Holocaust Museum would be “especially appropriate to promote Holocaust education and counter Corleone’s ignorant and hateful rhetoric,” which has included the boast that he has “the propaganda techniques of Goebbels.”