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There are widespread calls for the West Bromwich Albion striker to be hit with a lengthy ban for the allegedly anti-Semitic fashion in which he celebrated a goal against West Ham.

European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor said the gesture Nicolas Anelka made at Upton Park on Saturday was "merely a lesser-known Nazi salute."

The former France international caused controversy when he performed what is known in his homeland as "la quenelle," after scoring the first of two goals in West Bromwich Albion's 3-3 draw with West Ham United.

Anelka later claimed on Twitter that he was simply paying tribute to his friend, comedian Dieudonne (real name M'Bala M'Bala), who has long maintained that the gesture is not anti-Semitic, but anti-establishment instead.

However, Kantor is adamant that the "quenelle" cannot be construed as anything but racist.

"This salute is merely a lesser-known Nazi salute and we expect the same kind of punishment to be handed down by the authorities as if Anelka had made the infamous outstretched arm salute," he stated.

France's former minister of sport, Chantal Jouanno, also insisted that Anelka's actions were indefensible.

"The quenelle is a Nazi gesture, clearly anti-Semitic and known as such," she told Europe 1. "It's not worth arguing about interpretation. [Anelka] must be punished."

The quenelle is a controversial gesture in France, and the country's interior minister, Manuel Valls, claimed Friday that he was exploring the possibility of banning Dieudonne, who has been charged six times with making allegedly anti-Semitic remarks, from performing in public.

"Dieudonne has been repeatedly condemned for defamation, insult and incitement to racial hatred," he told Le Parisien. "He is a repeat offender and I intend to act with the greatest firmness, under the law."

The Football Association has already confirmed that an investigation into Anelka's celebration is underway, even though West Brom boss Keith Downing dismissed the controversy as "rubbish."

"I'm aware of it but it has got nothing to do what is being said," he told reporters after the game at Upton Park. "It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well. He uses it in his act and I think speculation can be stopped now. It is absolute rubbish really."

Anelka has since tweeted a picture of Barack Obama seemingly performing the quenelle alongside rapper Jay-Z and singer Beyonce Knowles.

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