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MEP Bastiaan Belder : ‘The European Parliament is much too silent on anti-Semitism’

Written by Yossi Lempkowicz
Sunday, 16 February 2014 15:23
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Dutch MEP Bastiaan Belder, who hosted a seminar on 'freedom of speech and anti-Semitism', said the European Parliament 'is much too silent on anti-Semitism’.

BRUSSELS/PARIS (EJP)---Dutch Member of the European Parliament Bastiaan Belder hosted this week in the parliament a seminar on the topic of ‘’Freedom of speech and anti-Semitism. What are the limits’’ in the wake of the case of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a French controversial comedian who has been prevented by the government from touring his latest show around the country because of of concern about anti-Semitism.

The comedian already owes 65,000 euros in fines for six convictions of hate speech against Jews and Holocust denial.

Koen Lemmens, Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Critical Studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium, said the Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe protects freedom of speech in its article 10 but its article 17 prohibits the abuse of the right. ‘’Holocaust denial is not protected by freedom of speech,’’ he added.

But Rabbi Avi Tawil, Director of the European Jewish Community Center (EJCC), who organized the seminar at the EU parliament together with the European Jewish Association (EJA), believes that banning anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial speech should go hand in hand with education. ''Children aren't born racist,'' he stresses.

On Wednesday, a French court ordered Dieudonne to remove two sections of a video he has posted on YouTube which has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic. A judge ruled that one of the passages breached French law on Holocaust denial and another one amounted to incitement to racial hatred.

Dieudonne M'bala M'bala was given five days to remove the passages or face a penalty of 500 euros per day for each of them left online.

Stephane Lilti, a lawyer representing France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) which brought the legal action, said they would now ask public prosecutors to ensure that the court's ruling is enforced.

The UEJF said it would be approaching YouTube for talks over the steps the site should take to ensure that "they respect their legal obligations in future."

In the passage deemed to constitute Holocaust denial, Dieudonne claims to "know nothing about the gas chambers" but says he can organise a meeting for anyone interested with "Robert" -- which the court accepted was a reference to Robert Faurisson, a notorious former academic who claims the systematic massacres of Jews in World War II never happened.

"In the context of previous statements by Dieudonne, some of which have earned him convictions for hate speech, defamation and incitement to anti-Semitism, it seems clear that this reference amounts to disputing a crime against humanity," the judge, Marc Bailly, said in his ruling.

In the second contested section, Dieudonne insists he is not anti-Semitic then goes on to say he shouldn't be required to judge between "the Jews and the Nazis".

"I don't know what happened, who provoked whom, who stole from whom," he adds before delivering the punchline: "I've got my little idea, but... you know."

Dieudonne's lawyers said these comments were clearly humorous but their argument was rejected by the judge who said any humour involved was being put at the service of Dieudonne's beliefs and desire to test the limits of free speech.

Dieudonne, who was banned from entering Britain last week, has long enjoyed cult popularity in France but he has been catapulted to another level of fame in recent months by the popularity of his "quenelle" -- a stiff-armed pose that he defends as an anti-establishment gesture but critics see as a disguised Nazi salute.

MEP Bastiaan Belder, who chairs the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Israel, said that the European Parliament ‘’is much too silent on anti-Semitism’’.

‘’We should clearly state issues of anti-Semitism in reports to the Foreign Affairs Committee.’’

‘’For example when we have in the parliament delegations for relations with Turkey or Iran, it is justified to speak on the issue of anti-Semitism. We should not be silent on the contrary and this should be a priority because of the danger of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in our old continent.,’’ he told European Jewish Press.

‘’Unfortunately we are not raising our voices against anti-Semitism inside and outside the EU. It is for me a priority and an urgent case,’’ he said.


Last Updated on Monday, 17 February 2014 22:25


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