Ahmadinejad remarks on Friday about the Holocaust brought swift reaction from European neighbours: “With his intolerable tirades he is a disgrace to his country. This sheer anti-Semitism demands our collective condemnation. We will continue to confront it decisively in the future,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Denying the Holocaust – carried out by Nazi Germany in World War Two – is a crime in Germany, punishable by up to five years in prison.
“Attempts to rewrite history, especially as the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II is being marked this year, are an offence to the memory of all victims and all those who fought fascism.” said a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson.
“Denying the Holocaust is baseless, ignorant and hateful,” said Barack Obama in an earlier address.
In South Africa Holocaust denial can be construed as hate speech. There is also a common law which protects citizens from “assault by threats’ or “intimidation”. The Iranian president’s remarks fit the bill, and are surely incitement to violence with all the power of injury alluded to by the statute book?
Another case to be made is one of defamation. Essentially Holocaust denial is an attempt to defame the Jewish people, and others, by claiming the well-organised genocide which occurred in Nazi Germany, was somehow a fabrication. Whatever the distortion of the truth, and the problematic Middle East issue, not formulating charges would be counter-productive.
Allowing the Iranian to escape our laws would set the tone that this kind of behaviour is acceptable. Our national discourse would cease to be consistent, having called for human dignity, to condone the idea that the advocacy of genocide or ethnic cleansing is somehow acceptable.