Hearing into Shoah ‘denial’ on radio

By Moira Schneider, December 20, 2012
Cohen: broadcast was “regrettable” (Photo: AP)

Cohen: broadcast was “regrettable” (Photo: AP)

After years of legal wrangling, a hearing into a complaint of hate speech by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) against a Cape Town-based Muslim radio station, Radio 786, took place before the Complaints and Compliance Committee of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa last week.

The case — which dates back to a 1998 broadcast in which UK academic Dr Yakub Zaki was accused of voicing classic antisemitic tropes and appears to have denied the truth of the Holocaust — is to determine the dividing line between freedom of expression and prohibited hate speech.

UK sociologist and Engage founder David Hirsh, who gave evidence on the first day of the public hearing, said in his witness statement that the broadcast constituted “a clear and conscious attempt to advocate for an antisemitic worldview” and that Zaki’s discourse about the Holocaust was “fully characteristic of Holocaust denial”.

“Holocaust denial is not only an offence after the fact; it is also a part of the crime of genocide itself,” Mr Hirsh said. In addition, the radio programme in question constituted “the kind of hostility to Israel and Zionism which is uncontroversially antisemitic.”

In an affidavit filed in support of Radio 786, Manchester-based “Rabbi” Ahron Cohen, who is a leading member of the anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta, described Zaki’s Holocaust revisionism as “regrettable”. He stated, however, that “its threat as incitement against Jews is negligible” and SAJBD was incorrect in identifying revisionism as being antisemitic in every instance.

London-based survivor and stepsister to Anne Frank, Eva Schloss, who testified for SAJBD, described the apparent Holocaust denial as “a great insult and a horrific lie”.

Last updated: 11:45pm, December 20 2012