Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism
No. 47 1 August 2006 / 7 Av 5766
Michael Whine : Cyberhate, Antisemitism, and Counterlegislation
• The growth of websites and chat rooms that promote racism and antisemitism has become a matter of concern for states and international organizations.
• Such sites enable extremists and terrorist groups to advertise their hate messages, organize their activities, and facilitate attacks against their enemies.
• Despite the original intentions of the Internet's designers that it be a medium free of state control and subject to no sanction, it is becoming necessary to impose legal parameters and contractual obligations to protect potential victims, whose rights are now recognized as being at least equal to free speech obligations.
• European and Commonwealth states have now criminalized incitement to hatred via the Internet, and have overcome legal barriers to prosecute and convict offenders; international organizations have issued declarations and enacted conventions that call on states to outlaw incitement online, while carefully protecting free speech rights.
Political extremism, including terrorism, relies on information and communication technologies (ICTs) to advertise its message; exert command and control; enable players to act more powerfully than they otherwise would; promote hatred of others, particularly Jews; evade state control and sanction; and target the youthful and impressionable audiences that increasingly rely on these technologies.
The use of ICTs to promote hatred, or cyberhate, became a matter of international concern from the mid-1990s. Since then there has been a concerted effort to debate the issues and establish norms and sanctions to ensure that the Internet ensures free speech while protecting potential victims.
In 2005, the German security service reported that:
The Internet is the key medium for right-wing extremists, who use it to present themselves, make verbal attacks, carry on internal debates and to mobilise attendance at their rallies and demonstrations.... In addition to websites, right-wing extremists increasingly use interactive Internet services for purposes of information or discussion. Along with mailing lists and newsletters, discussion forums are becoming increasingly important for the scene. Rightwing extremists use spam to send more of their anti-constitutional propaganda to a larger audience.1
This article addresses some of the issues raised by Rabbi Abraham Cooper in this publication series.2 It goes further, however, in examining the specific threats posed by cyberhate, and discusses the legal and other remedies being introduced by states and international organizations.
How Cyberhate Functions
Racist and antisemitic groups use ICTs in four ways: promoting ideology; promoting hatred, particularly antisemitism and Holocaust denial; command and control; and targeting opponents.3
Apart from advertising their ideas on their own websites, extremists increasingly seek to merchandise the books, CDs, and tapes that propagate their ideas via mainstream online outlets. The American-owned multinationals Yahoo, Ebay, and Amazon are all market places for such material, which is illegal in several European countries, and have fallen foul of the courts in France and Germany as a consequence.
A French court's decision in May, 2000 instructed California-based Yahoo to delete access to sites offering Nazi memorabilia for sale, and was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This has caused some U.S. Web-based commercial organizations to think carefully about the issue of transnational jurisdiction and compliance. Although the court declared that Yahoo is unlikely to ever have to pay the daily fine imposed by France, U.S. commercial organizations are already compromising their free speech beliefs to secure markets abroad and where governments, such as China and Saudi Arabia, insist on the sort of controls that contravene the U.S. First Amendment rights and obligations.4
Google gets many complaints because a search for "Jew" turns up the Jewwatch.com site with its many antisemitic texts at the top of the list. This results from the mathematical algorithm that determines the popularity of a site - as opposed to, say, its authority. It also results from the system of "Google bombing" by extremists, which ensures that many sites have the same links, and then those links refer back to one Web page.
Freedom of Speech, Racial Hatred
At issue has been the conflict between the American First Amendment commitment to free speech and European (and others') fears of allowing the publication of material that incites racial hatred and violence. Bridging this divide, however, is not impossible.
A second issue undermining a consistent approach is that sellers like Amazon aim to have as complete a coverage of their markets as possible. If they do not have an item in their warehouse, they will contact sellers who might. Late in 2005, major British retailers were embarrassed when it turned out they were selling The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other antisemitic material supplied by extremist groups. They had not made a conscious effort to do so, but were either unaware of the items' nature or of the suppliers' views and sought to provide as wide a range of items as possible.
Holocaust denial remains a core offer by extremists. Despite attempts to shut down both the Swedish antisemitic and Holocaust-denial Radio Islam site managed by Moroccan emigré Ahmed Rami and the Australian Holocaust-denial Adelaide Institute site, they remain available and have been mirrored by sympathizers to ensure their continuance. Many other such sites also exist, and denial material is common in the Arab world.
The recent Iranian initiative to host an international Holocaust-denial conference did not succeed (sic). However, the Adelaide Institute's Frederick Töben and Richard Krege went to Iran for a series of university lectures in which they declared the Holocaust a fiction.5
In a nonmilitary context, command and control refers to the organization and financing of events, and the management of the organizations themselves. It is more commonly conducted via bulletin boards than websites, and some sites are password protected or carry encrypted messages. Extremist groups use this medium increasingly, and it is believed that British and German neo-Nazis now rely on the Internet to organize and manage themselves to the exclusion of any other medium except face-to-face meetings.
The Internet also facilitates international contacts. For example, the American extremist David Duke's attempts to build an international coalition of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and the Eurofest and European National Front meetings in 2005, which were planned online, indicate how effective the medium has become.6
Internet organization is, however, observable by law enforcement and security agencies and therefore holds potential dangers for the users.
For example, in March 2002 a joint American-Spanish investigation into football hooliganism centered on neo- Nazi Real Madrid supporters communicating via U.S.-based servers and led to arrests and convictions.7
In April 2005, Spanish police arrested twenty-one members of the local branch of the neo-Nazi Blood and Honour group who were accused of organizing concerts to include British and American members, via the Internet, where they would incite racist and antisemitic violence.8
Command and control by terrorist groups, particularly Salafi jihadi ones, is now targeted by all security and intelligence agencies and by specialized NGOs and publications.
Targeting antiracist and other opponents of the extremists online has also become worrisome but so far appears to have led to few prosecutions. The failure to bring to account the known organizers of the British Redwatch and German Anti-Antifa sites, which list anti-Nazi campaigners and journalists, is an ongoing concern of local antifascists and has drawn media attention.
The first prominent case of targeting to come to court was that of Alpha HQ, Ryan Wilson, and Stormfront, the first U.S.-based neo-Nazi site, who jointly conspired to encourage harassment of Bonnie Jouhari of the Reading- Berks Human Relations Council by showing pictures of her office engulfed by flames. A civil case brought by the Pennsylvania attorney-general led to a judgment in February 1999 that they desist and that failure to do so would be a criminal offense treated as such.9
Numerous reports have been disseminated among member organizations of the International Network against Cyberhate (INACH) about harassment campaigns against antifascist and antiracist activists. In early 2006, Spanish neo-Nazis posted a photo of the chairman of the Spanish antiracist organization Movimiento Contra la Intolerancia as well as home addresses of human rights campaigners, and Polish groups have published Polish anti-Nazis' home addresses. This is done with the intention of encouraging physical assaults.10
According to Polish reports in February 2006, Blood and Honour is creating a database of neo-Nazi opponents in various countries that includes photos, addresses, car registration numbers, and other information, possibly to plan coordinated attacks in the future. A spokesman for the Warsaw district prosecutor noted that the Polish authorities were coordinating counteraction with U.S. law enforcement agencies.11
Regulation and Self-Regulation
Should governments impose and enforce legal parameters on content, however offensive or dangerous, or should the industry be allowed to govern itself? This question is a major concern both for the Internet industry and governments. Although the initial philosophy of the Internet's creators was that absolute free speech was paramount, opinions have changed.
Robert Caillou, codesigner of the World Wide Web with Tim Berners Lee, has said: "The Internet and the Web are completely outside geographical state boundaries. This is not dissimilar to air. If you make pollution in one place it travels across the frontiers. For very similar reasons I think we need some regulation of Net behaviour which is internationally agreed, globally agreed."12
Despite European criticism of the United States, self-regulation is effective. American Jewish organizations report that requests to service providers to negotiate terms of service that preclude hate material, and to insist on their enforcement, do work. The Vanguard News Network was removed from the Internet after complaints, as was Jewwatch, both in early 2006 - although they subsequently reappeared after they found new providers.
"We operate an honorable business. As soon as we were legally able to do so we advised the site owner [Weltner] to take his business elsewhere," said the president of the former provider Hostgator Brent Oxley, after complaints about Frank Weltner's Jewwatch site."13
The British government helpfully published the terms of service of leading service providers, as well as the current legislation, to enable the public to complain when they saw racist material online.14 Other forms of pressure can be used. For example, in Britain the clearing banks agreed in 2004 not to do business with sites that merchandise content that incites racism, terrorism, and violence, though they were unable to act against sites operating from abroad.15
Some European countries, however, have tightened their regulation, partly and understandably in fear of a resurgence of Nazism, and because of international criticism of racist violence. In Germany, a North Rhine-Westphalia court in December 2004 upheld the right of the German authorities to block Web pages containing extremist content. A court spokesman stated that "the cross-border character of the Internet must not be allowed to undermine the powers vested to the federal authorities."16
Enforcement of universal legislation and strict terms of service, coupled with universal blocking mechanisms, would ensure an Internet free of hate but would also destroy freedom of speech and contradict human rights norms. There has to be acceptance of some material that is disagreeable, or even offensive, provided it does not incite racial hatred or violence. Absolute self-regulation also provides no solution, since Internet service providers will always pursue commercial interest.
Hence, a judicious mix of regulation and self-regulation, which allows for monitoring mechanisms, appears to be a reasonable and practical solution, although some countries will need to emphasize regulation. This debate was played out at the 2004 Paris OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) meeting on the Relationship between Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Propaganda on the Internet and Hate Crimes. The final agreement called for continued research and cooperation between governments to find a mixture of responses that would satisfy the conflicting needs of all.17
Countries that do have relevant legislation are now prosecuting online criminal activity. Two obstacles, however, are catching the perpetrators, along with securing an admission of liability when the Internet so easily offers anonymity, and jurisdiction, or which country is responsible for prosecuting - the one where the material is uploaded or the one where it is downloaded.
Canada has gone further than other countries in adapting and using its hate crime legislation to prosecute cyberhate. In August 2002, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (which sits as a court) upheld a complaint against Machiavelli and Associates that they used their website to promote hatred against homosexuals. This followed the landmark decision against neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel, who was found guilty of using his site to promote antisemitism. After that case Canada's Human Rights Commission (which has executive powers) asserted jurisdiction over the Internet by analogy to other forms of telephonic communication, and amended its criminal code accordingly.18
Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act and Section 319 of the Criminal Code are both used to shut down hate sites. In March 2006 the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that ISPs can be found liable for hate content where they know of its presence and fail to take action to remove it.19
Of the cases that have come to court, several are particularly noteworthy:
In June 2003, the Commission ruled that the patriotsonguard.org site operated by Alberta white supremacist Fred Kyburz promoted hatred of Jews, ordered that it be removed from the Internet, and fined him $7,500. He was also ordered to pay $3,000 compensation to the complainant, lawyer Richard Warman.20
In January 2005, Glenn Bahr, founder of the white supremacist Western Canada for Us site, was arrested and charged under Section 319 for publishing downloadable material such as The Turner Diaries. His case will come to court in October 2006.21
In March 2006, Warman and the Commission jointly brought a case against Alexan Kulbashian and James Richardson, who managed the Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team, Tri-City Skins.com, and Affordable Space.com sites. The Tribunal ordered the two neo-Nazis to cease their campaigns against Jews and other minorities and fined them $31,000, as well as awarding Warman $5,000 for having been identified in a hate message.22
In May 2005, Warman sought and obtained an injunction in the Federal Court in Ottawa to prevent Tomasz Winnicki, a far-Right activist, from publishing hate messages on his Thexder_3D and VNN Internet forums pending the outcome of a case brought against him by the Tribunal. On 13 April 2006, the Tribunal issued a permanent cease-and-desist order and fined Winnicki $6,000, also awarding damages of $5,500 to Warman.23
In December 2005, Reinhard Gustav Mueller was convicted by an Edmonton court under Section 319 for willfully promoting hatred over the Internet between 1999 and 2003. At the time of writing, he has not been sentenced.24
The Netherlands has also used its legislation creatively. Four cases have been successfully prosecuted since 2000, and a further seventeen await hearings.
In July 1999, two members of the neo-Nazi Volksnationalisten Nederland were convicted and imprisoned for promoting hatred against nonwhite immigrants. In November 2000, the Arnhem district court fined "Theo van B." for publishing antisemitic messages to a Usenet group in 1998 and 1999. In June 2002, three members of the neo- Nazi New National Party were fined and briefly imprisoned for purveying racial incitement on their site.
In April 2003, two young users of the stormfront.org site were sentenced to a suspended two weeks' detention and placed on probation for two years. All four cases were referred by the Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet, and prosecuted under Section 137 of the Penal Code.25
In Australia, Frederick Töben lost his appeal case before the Federal Court in June 2003 following a 2002 decision ordering him not to publish antisemitic and Holocaust-denial material on his Adelaide Institute site. The original case had been brought to Australia's Human Rights Commission by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, but he had failed to comply with the Commission's ruling, which constitutes a criminal offence.26
A criminal case against Perth white supremacist Jack van Tongeren and his whiteprideco.com site was dropped in August 2004 when it was found that the site was hosted in the United States and therefore was beyond Australian jurisdiction. However, the decision in the Dow Jones and Company v. Gutnick libel case could potentially influence other countries' approach to the Internet. Here the Australian High Court found that the place of publication of an Internet article is the country in which it is read and not the country where the publisher's server is based or where the material is uploaded.27
In the UK it has long been held that the medium through which hatred is promoted is immaterial. However, only one case of cyberhate has come to court. In August 2005, Jeremy and Jacqueline Oakley were convicted at Leeds Crown Court for publishing hate material on the White Nationalist Party website, and imprisoned for eighteen months and nine months, respectively.28
In April 2006, the High Court in London ruled that service providers could not be held liable as publishers of defamatory material when their only involvement was as the provider of a service through which defamatory postings were transmitted.29
In France, in addition to several publicized cases against Holocaust deniers and the sale of Nazi memorabilia, the criminal case against Jewish campaigner Alexandre Attali is worth noting. In November 2003, he was sentenced to four months' imprisonment and fined 13,000 Euros for inciting hatred by calling for attacks against French Jewish celebrities he branded "anti-Israel" on his website.30
In Germany, again in addition to well-publicized cases, the police in March 2004 raided the homes of more than three hundred people they suspected of posting neo-Nazi music files on the Internet for others to download. The action followed a two-year clampdown on Internet trading of music that incited racist violence. This took place against a background of more than one hundred racist murders since unification in 1990.31
In Sweden, Ahmed Rami was arrested in September 2002 in connection to material published on his Radio Islam site, though not charged at the time. He had previously been imprisoned in 1990 for broadcasting similar anti-Semitic material on his radio station, but at that time Sweden lacked the relevant legislation to bring a prosecution against illegal material published on the Internet. In the 2002 case, the legal obstacle was that Rami was using an offshore server located in the United States. Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom commented, however, that he was "extremely annoyed because of his anti-semitic propaganda which must be stopped. The government is viewing this campaign seriously."32
They were unable to proceed because the offense was not a crime in the United States and hence the American authorities were unable to assist. However, the Swedish Aftonbladet tabloid was fined in March 2002 for allowing racist remarks on its Internet chat site, which was based locally.33
In Norway, Tore W. Tvedt was convicted and imprisoned for posting racist and antisemitic material on the site of the Vigrid far-Right group in April 2002. The Asker and Baerum District Court noted that the case set a precedent in that, while the server was located in the United States and therefore beyond Norwegian jurisdiction, the defendant, who admitted liability, was responsible for the site's content nevertheless.34
Russian prosecutors have also now become active. They instigated criminal proceedings after the violent attack by Alexander Koptsev on Moscow synagogue members on 11 January 2006. The Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev said in an interview with the RIA-Novosti agency that he planned to investigate the sources and extent of extremist literature on the Internet so as to prevent its spread.35
In March, a criminal case against Brankfax.ru commenced in the Siberian region of Altai, after it had published violently anti-Muslim postings on a discussion forum. The anonymous poster known as Bratka faces a four-year sentence for inciting religious hatred if convicted.36 The Danish-cartoons issue also surfaced after Gazeta.ru was warned by the Federal Service on Law Maintenance Control in Media that it, too, faced criminal sanctions for reprinting the images at the beginning of March. That same month, a Moscow service provider blocked the Al-Fateh site alleging it had glorified suicide bombings.37
In April, criminal prosecutors in St. Petersburg launched an investigation into the Street Terror Manual posted at www.whitepride.ns-portal.com. This site is registered in California but the material is reposted by Russian nationalist sites including Yuri Belyayev's Freedom Party, frequently referred to by commentators as neo-Nazi which is concurrently under investigation for inciting interracial hatred.38
Russian criminal prosecutions have often been discontinued before they reach the courts. It is hoped, however, that a new spirit of seriousness is pervading the criminal justice system and that these and other cases will end in prosecutions and convictions in due course.
The Progress of Legislation
Since the turn of the millennium, international organizations have been persuaded to pay attention to the cyberhate issue.
Through its agencies and committees, the United Nations has examined the problems and issued guidelines, such as the General Recommendation on Descent-Based Discrimination of August 2002. It called on states: "To take strict measures against any incitement to discrimination or violence against the communities, including through the internet."39
The Intergovernmental Working Group on the Durban Declaration held a two-day conference in January 2006 to consider complementary international standards in combating racism on the Internet. The outcome, however, is unlikely to be more than the publication of vague guidelines.40
A more concerted and focused effort is being made by European institutions.
Although it came comparatively late, the European Parliament resolution of 27 January 2005 well summarized the problem: "Jews in Europe are experiencing a heightened sense of insecurity as a result of anti-Semitism disseminated on the internet, manifested in the desecration of synagogues, cemeteries and other religious sites, attacks on Jewish schools and cultural centres, and attacks on Jewish people in Europe, causing numerous injuries."41
Since 2004, the OSCE has been pushing for effective action. Permanent Council Decision No. 607 called on participating states to:
- Combat hate crimes, which can be fuelled by racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda in the media and on the Internet;
- Encourage and support international organisations and NGO efforts in these areas.42
- Permanent Council Decision No. 633 called on participating states to:
Investigate and, where applicable, fully prosecute violence and criminal threats of violence, motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti- Semitic or other related bias on the Internet;
...train law enforcement agents and prosecutors on how to address crimes motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or other related bias on the Internet and…share information on successful training programmes as part of the exchange of best practices;
...encourage and support analytically rigorous studies on the possible relationship between racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and the commission of crimes motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti- Semitic or other related bias;
...welcome continued and increased efforts by NGO's to monitor the Internet for racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic content, as well as NGO's efforts to share and publicise their findings.43
Permanent Council decisions have been endorsed by the Ministerial Council, notably in Decision No. 3/04, which deals with "Combating the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes," and in Decision No. 12/04, which concerns "Tolerance and Non-Discrimination." The latter notes the outcomes of the 2004 Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism and the 2004 Paris meeting. It also gave the go-ahead for the Cordoba conference and commissioned the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to begin work on combating discrimination and promoting tolerance.44
On 15 December 2000, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its General Policy Recommendation No. 6 on Combating the Dissemination of Racist, Xenophobic and Antisemitic material via the Internet. It recommended that Council of Europe member states' governments:
• include the issue of combating racism, xenophobia and antisemitism in all current and future work at international level aimed at the suppression of illegal content on the Internet;
• reflect in this context on the preparation of a specific protocol to the future Convention on cyber-crime to combat racist, xenophobic and antisemitic offences via the Internet;
• take the necessary measures for strengthening international co-operation and mutual assistance between law enforcement authorities across the world, so as to take more efficient action against the dissemination of racist, xenophobic and antisemitic material via the Internet;
• ensure that relevant national legislation applies also to racist, xenophobic and antisemitic offences committed via the Internet and prosecute those responsible for this kind of offence;
• undertake sustained efforts for the training of law enforcement authorities in relation to the problem of dissemination of racist, xenophobic and antisemitic material via the Internet;
• reflect, in this context, on the setting up of a national consultation body which might act as a permanent monitoring centre, mediating body and partner in the preparation of codes of conduct;
• support existing anti-racist initiatives on the Internet as well as the development of new sites devoted to the fight against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance;
• clarify, on the basis of their respective technical functions, the responsibility of content host and content provider and site publishers as a result of the dissemination of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic messages;
• support the self-regulatory measures taken by the Internet industry to combat racism, xenophobia and antisemitism on the net, such as anti-racist hotlines, codes of conduct and filtering software, and encourage further research in this area;
• increase public awareness of the problem of the dissemination of racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic material via the Internet while paying special attention to awareness-raising among young Internet users - particularly children - as to the possibility of coming upon racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic sites and the potential risk of such sites."45
The Fight against Antisemitism
In June 2004 the ECRI also adopted General Policy Recommendation No. 9 on the Fight against Antisemitism, which called on states to "ensure that criminal legislation covers anti-Semitic crimes committed via the internet, satellite television and other modern means of information and communication."46
Designed as advisories, the policy recommendations have had direct and far-reaching consequences, most significantly the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. This was agreed on 28 January 2003 and came into force on 1 March 2006 in five states (listed below).
As with other Council of Europe conventions, it does not have the force of law but ratifying states are expected to legislate it. In this case they could ratify the Convention but not the Additional Protocol.
The Protocol states, inter alia, the following:
Dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems.
1. Each party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, the following conduct:
Distributing, or otherwise making available, racist and xenophobic material to the public through a computer system.
2. A Party may reserve the right not to attach criminal liability to conduct as defined by paragraph 1 of this article, where the material, as defined in Article 2, paragraph 1, advocates, promotes or incites discrimination that is not associated with hatred or violence, provided that other effective remedies are available.
3. Notwithstanding paragraph 2 of this article, a Party may reserve the right not to apply paragraph 1 to those cases of discrimination for which, due to established principles in its national legal system concerning freedom of expression, it cannot provide for effective remedies as referred to in the said paragraph 2.
Racist and xenophobic motivated threat.
1. Each party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, the following conduct:
Threatening, through a computer system, with the commission of a serious criminal offence as defined under its domestic law, (i) persons for the reason that they belong to a group, distinguished by race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion, if used as a pretext for any of these facts, or (ii) a group of persons which is distinguished by any of these characteristics.
Racist and xenophobic motivated insult.
1. Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, the following conduct:
Insulting publicly, through a computer system,
(i) persons for the same reason that they belong to a group distinguished by race, colour, descent or national ethnic origin, as well as religion, if used as a pretext for any of these factors; or
(ii) a group of persons which is distinguished by any of these characteristics.
2. A Party may either:
a. require that the offence referred to in paragraph 1 of this article has the effect that the person or group of persons referred to in paragraph 1 is exposed to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
b. reserve the right not to apply, in whole or in part, paragraph 1 of this article.
Denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity.
1. Each Party shall adopt such legislative measures as may be necessary to establish the following conduct as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right:
2. Distributing or otherwise making available, through a computer system to the public, material which denies, grossly minimises, approves or justifies acts constituting genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined by international law and recognised as such by final and binding decisions of the International Military Tribunal, established by the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, or of any other international court established by relevant international instruments and whose jurisdiction is recognised by that Party.
A Party may either:
a. Require that the denial or the gross minimisation referred to in paragraph 1 of this article is committed with the intent to incite hatred, discrimination or violence against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as a pretext for any of these factors, or otherwise.
b. Reserve the right not to apply, in whole or in part, paragraph 1 of this article.47
Ratifying the Protocol
The states that initially ratified the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime were Albania, Cyprus, Denmark, Slovenia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It came into force in France on 1 May 2006.
Countries that have signed but not yet ratified include: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Non-European countries were also invited to sign, and Canada signed and ratified in July 2005. South Africa, Japan, and the United States signed only the Convention itself. sup>48
How Effective Will This Be?
Cyberhate is a global phenomenon and cannot be tackled via a local strategy. It requires an international effort to establish legal norms that respect national conventions but ensure cooperation between agencies and governments.
On ratifying the Additional Protocol, Canada's then justice minister Irwin Cotler noted that: "No one country alone can combat racist hate, particularly cyberhate…. This is an anonymous, borderless, faceless crime. We've gone from 5 hate sites on the Internet in 1995 to 5000 in 2005. These are horrific sites. They're used for purposes of recruitment. They particularly target the young. It is predatory hate of the worst kind."49
The dynamic nature of the medium, and the burden placed on law enforcement agencies, means that they cannot be expected to spot every problem. Therefore, the role of monitoring NGOs such as INACH and its members is vital, as ECRI and the OSCE have both noted.
During the ten years since the problem of cyberhate was first discussed, the international community has moved comparatively quickly to confront and combat the problem, particularly given national differences in approach.
However, future success depends on the determination of governments themselves.
Some have shown themselves reluctant to act, either because they have free speech concerns or because they are unwilling to enact legislation. Others have failed to see the dangers, perhaps believing that the gap between incitement to violence and the violence that almost always ensues is unproved.
However, fears of Salafi jihadi terrorism in the wake of 9/11 are forcing governments to examine the communications used by terrorists, and they are now taking action to monitor and block where necessary. The growth of far-Right extremism is also a problem, albeit less publicized, and governments should now address the far Right's means of communication as well.
Legislation, and its enforcement, is but one of a range of options open to governments. They should consider all others, and in particular heed the concerns of the specialized NGOs that raised these concerns ten years ago, and that continue to focus governments' attention on the dangers.
* * *
1. "Internet as a Key Medium," Annual Report of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) (Bonn, 2004), 26.
2. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, "Anti-Semitism and Terrorism on the Internet: New Threats," Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 20A, 16 May 2004.
3. See also Michael Whine, "The Use of the Internet by Far Right Extremists," in Brian Loader and Douglas Thomas, eds., Cybercrime: Law, Security and Privacy in the Information Age (London: Routledge, 2000); also available at www.ict.org.il/articles/articledet.cfm?articleid=413; Michael Whine, "Cyberspace: A New Medium for Communication, Command and Control by Extremists," Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 22, No. 3 (1999), RAND/ Taylor & Francis; also available at
4. "French Court Wins Anti-Hate Case against Yahoo," AFP, 12 January 2006.
5. "Iran in March 2006," Adelaide Institute, www.adelaideinstitute .org/Iran/2006.
6. Advertisement, 2005 International European American Conference, 20-22 May 2005, www.davidduke.com; see also "David Duke's European American Conference: Racists Gather in New Orleans," ADL Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network, 25 May 2005.
7. "Internet Nazis," The Times, 11 March 2002.
8. Statewatch Bulletin, Vol. 15 No. 2 (March-April 2005),
9. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Acting by Attorney General D. Michael Fisher, Plaintiff vs. Alpha HQ and others, Defendants, Final Decree, No. 98-11436, Court of Common Pleas, Berks County, Pennsylvania, 17 February 1999.
10. Movimento Contra Intolerancia posting to INACH, 6 February 2006.
11. Polish Fascists Creating Database on Adversaries, Newspaper Reports," Axis Information and Analysis, 2 February 2006, www.axisglobe.com/print_news.asp?news=6205.
12. Stephanie Nebehay, "Web Co-Inventor Backs Licensing," Reuters, 27 November 1999.
13. "Company Boots White Supremacist Group Offline," Kansas City Channel, 9 February 2006,
www.theckansascitychannel.com/news/ 6879290/detail.html; John Johnson, "Boca Anti-Semitic Website Host Tells Site Owner to 'Take His Business Elsewhere,'" Boca Raton News, 5 January 2006, www.bocaratonnews.com/index.php?src= news&prid=13745&category=Main%20H.
14. "Racially Inflammatory Material on the Internet," Home Office, February 2002, www.iwf.org.uk/about/policies/hogde3-2.htm.
15. "Banks in New War on Porn Websites," This Is London, 5 July 2004, www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/business/articles/ timid80059?version=1.
16. "German Court Upholds Web Ban on Nazi Content," ComputerWeekly.com, 22 December 2004,
17. OSCE Meeting on the Relationship between Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Propaganda on the Internet and Hate Crimes, OSCE, Paris, June 2004, www.osce.org/documents/cio/2004/09/ 3642_end.pdf.
18. Machiavelli Decision, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, 20 August 2002. For a useful summary of Canadian legislation and cases, see "2005 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, Part 11 Analysis and Discussion," League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada,
19. Richard Blackwell, "Web Message Hate, Tribunal Rules," Globe and Mail, 11 March 2006,
20. Richard Warman and Canadian Human Rights Commission and Fred Kyburz, Ruling on Amendment of Complaint, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, 2003 CHRT 6, 13 February 2003. See also Paul Lungen, "Jury Convicts Edmonton Man in Internet Hate Case," Canadian Jewish News, 12 April 2006, available at
www.cjnews.com/viewarticle.asp?id=810921. "Hate Crimes Suspect Arrested and Charged," Press Release, Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society (CAERS) , 12 January 2005; Criminal case against Glenn David Bahr, Tribunal case WCFU T1087/6805, www.chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/cases/schedule_e.asp.
22. Richard Blackwell, "Web Message Hate"; Richard Warman and Canadian Human Rights Commission and Alexan Kulbashian, James Scott Richardson, etc., Decision, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Athanasios D. Hadjis, 2006 CHRT 11, 2006/03/10.
23. Richard Warman and Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tomasz Winnicki, Reason for Decision, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, 2006 CHRT 20, 13 April 2006, www.chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/ search/files/t10210205_er_13april106.pdf24. Larry Johnsrude, "Holocaust Denier Claims Right to Anti-Jewish Website," Edmonton Journal, 13 December 2005.
25. Internet Verdicts, Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI), Netherlands, report to INACH, 11 June 2004.
26. Harry Benjamin, "Clean Up Your Website in a Week, Australian Court Orders Shoah Denier," JTA, 20 September 2002, available at
27. Byron Kaye, "Supremacist Website Untouchable," Australian News, 19 August 2004, www.theaustralian.news.com.an/common/story_page10,5744,10498806%255E1702,00.html. See also
www.aijac.org.an/review/2002/2711/jack-jim.html. On the Gutnick case, see, e.g., Roger Maynard and Frances Gibb, "Web Libel Actions Can Be Brought Worldwide," The Times, 11 December 2002; "How Diamond Joe's Libel Case Could Change the Future of the Internet," The Guardian, 11 December 2002.
28. "Internet Racists Jailed," Searchlight, September 2005.
29. "UK Court Rating on ISP Liability for Defamatory Web Postings," press release, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, 21 April 2006.
30. "Paris Court Convicts Jewish Man over Web Hate Call," Reuters, 4 November 2003, www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=to pNews&storyID=3753014.
31. "Neo-Nazi Music Sharers Raided," Reuters, 24 March 2004,
32. "Swedish Police Arrest Moroccan on Charges of Incitement against Jews," Al-Hayat, 10 September 2002 (BBC Monitoring). [in Arabic]
33. "Rare Case Has Norwegian Man Convicted of Racism on the Web," Associated Press, 24 April 2002.
35. "Moscow Prosecutors to Search for Extremism in Internet," MosNews, 2 February 2006, available at www.mosnews.com/ news/2006/02/02/internetextremism.shtml. See also "13 Years for Synagogue Knife Attacker," Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2006.
36. "Government Seeks to Close Website for Anti-Islamist Comment," MosNews, 10 March 2006, available at www.mosnews.com/news/ 2006/03/10/bankfax.shtml.
37. "Russian News Website Warned over Publishing Mohammed Cartoon," MosNews, 9 March 2006, available at www.mosnews.com/ new/2006/03/09/gazetaru.shtml; "Russian Provider Shuts Down Palestinian Site Promoting Suicide Bombings among Children," MosNews, 9 March 2006, available at www.mosnews.com/news/ 2006/03/09/hamassite.shtml.
38. Elizabeth Swanson, "Street Terror Manual under Investigation," Moscow News, 3 April 2006, available at www.english.mn.ru/ english/issue.php?2006-11-5.
39. General Recommendation on Descent-Based Discrimination, General Recommendation XXIX, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 22 August 2002, United Nations, CERD/ C/61/Misc.29/rev.1
40. Issues of Racism and the Internet and Globalisation and Racism to be examined by Working Group on Durban Declaration, UN Office at Geneva, 13 January 2006, available at www.unog.ch/ 80256edd006b9c2e/(httpnewsbyyear-en) 2ee1c3a8f82815.
41. The Holocaust, anti-semitism and racism, European Parliament Resolution P6_TA-PROV(2005)0018, adopted 27 January 2005.
42. Combating Anti-semitism, Decision No. 607, Permanent Council, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, MC. DEC/ 12/04, 7 December 2004.
43. Promoting tolerance and media freedom on the Internet, Decision No. 633, Permanent Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, MC.DEC/12/04, 7 December 2004.
44. Combating the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, Decision No. 3/04, Ministerial Council, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, MC/DEC/3/04, 7 December 2004.
45. ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 6, Combating the Dissemination of Racist, Xenophobic and Antisemitic Material via the Internet, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 15 December 2000.
46. ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 9, on the fight against Antisemitism, Strasbourg, 25 June 2004.
47. Additional Protocol to the Convention on cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 28 January 2003, www.conventions.coe.int/Treaty/ en/Treaties/Html/189.htm.
48. Correspondence between ECRI director and author, 7 March 2006.
49. "Canada Signs Protocol to Fight Online Hate," ONT.CAN News, 12 July 2005, www.ont-law.com/page-5901.
* * *
Michael Whine is Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust, the defense agency of the UK Jewish community, and Defence and Group Relations Director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative body of the community. He is a consultant on antisemitism to the European Jewish Congress, which he represents at the OSCE. He has been engaged in researching antisemitism and extremism for twenty years.
Dore Gold and Manfred Gerstenfeld, Co-Publishers. Joel Fishman, Editor. Chaya Herskovic, Associate Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1616 Walnut St., Suite 1005, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5313; Tel. (215) 772-0564, Fax. (215) 772-0566. © Copyright. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1565-3676.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Deciphering Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Revisionism
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went beyond previous rhetorical attacks on the United States and Israel when, on December 14, 2005, he suggested that the Holocaust was a myth. Many European officials, among Iran's most lucrative trading partners, were outraged. The German government, for example, condemned his remarks and defended Israel's right to exist. Then, on December 11 and 12, 2006, the Iranian foreign ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies convened a conference promoting Holocaust denial, attended by sixty-seven participants from thirty countries. The fact that a head of state would endorse such a contrarian movement may seem remarkable but, for the Islamic Republic's leadership, it is a deliberate, strategic decision. Not only does the Iranian regime believe that Holocaust denial can propel it into a position of leadership among Islamic countries, but the Iranian regime and Holocaust revisionists have found their relationship to be symbiotic. Each believes a Jewish cabal controls Washington decision-making. Holocaust denial further binds disparate groups who share a critique of Jews and Zionism.
The Roots of Holocaust Denial
Holocaust denial at its roots is a Western phenomenon. In much of the United States and Europe, the Holocaust is viewed as a singularity without comparison and a story whose lessons are of vital importance to both Jews and gentiles alike. While more people perished in Stalin's gulags or Mao's Great Cultural Revolution, the methodical way in which the Holocaust was prosecuted exemplified what Hanna Arendt referred to as the "banality of evil."
The legacy of the Holocaust stigmatized both anti-Semitism and far right political figures and parties. However, in the 1960s, an intellectual atmosphere emerged in which nearly every truth could be challenged. Holocaust revisionism became the extreme right's answer to deconstructionism. For this fringe, Holocaust denial is a necessary step to bring about the revival of the ideologies that led to the extreme nationalism and xenophobia that enabled the Nazi party to set the Holocaust in motion. These early revisionists sought to exculpate the Germans for World War II. They argued that "World Jewry" had declared war on Germany and that Western powers, fearful of Germany's growing military and industrial power, conspired to support Poland, triggering the war. Subsequent Holocaust revisionists suggested the number of Holocaust victims was exaggerated; several argued many Jews had survived and were living either in Europe, Israel, or the United States. Eventually three themes developed among many revisionists: First, they argued there were no gas chambers. Second, they denied six million deaths, and third, they said no Nazi master plan existed. Despite their best efforts, neo-Nazis and revisionists hit a brick wall in the West. Few people outside their own circles were willing to discount history, fact, evidence, and logic. While the impact of Holocaust revisionism in the West has been limited, in recent years, it has found fertile ground in the Middle East.
Historically, anti-Semitism was not as intense in the Middle East as it was in the West. As historian Bernard Lewis observed, Jews under Islam were never free from discrimination but rarely subject to persecution. Their situation was never as bad as in Christendom at its worst and never as good as in Christendom at its best. However, Israel's establishment augmented the vehemence of contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism.
Holocaust denial in the Middle East emerged soon after World War II. In 1955, Lebanese foreign minister Charles Malik dismissed the Jewish Holocaust as Zionist propaganda. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser once said, "[N]o person, not even the most simple one takes seriously the lie of the six million Jews who were killed." In 1983, Mahmoud Abbas, who would later lead the Palestinian Authority, published a book titled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which claimed that far fewer that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust. More recently, Hamas has dabbled in Holocaust denial. In Saudi Arabia, anti-Semitic themes—including the blood libel accusation, the putative Jewish control of the U.S. media and government, and Holocaust denial—are popular staples in the media and educational system.
However, the Middle East produced no real scholarly exegeses. Revisionist historians associated with extreme right-wing groups in the West developed a far larger corpus of literature. More often than not, Arabic presses simply translated Western works. Of the various right-wing groups that have reached out to the Arabs, Turks, and Iranians, revisionist historians have been best received. One of the first efforts was in 1980 when Ernst Zündel, a German expatriate in Canada, wrote a pamphlet titled, "The West, War, and Islam," in which he suggested the existence of a conspiracy between Zionists and international bankers to rule the world. He recommended Muslims could better undercut the Jewish state by funding Holocaust revisionism rather than purchasing weapons. Zündel sent the pamphlet to the heads of state of several Middle Eastern states.
Holocaust revisionism has also become increasingly popular in Arab print media. Writing in the Jordanian newspaper, Al-Arab al-Yawm, Mahmoud al-Khatib averred that the "entire Jewish state [was] built on the great Holocaust lie" and that Hitler had killed not six million but only 300,000 Jews because "they betrayed Germany." An editorial in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar said that Jews fabricated the Holocaust in order to "blackmail the Germans for money as well as to achieve world support." More recently, a narrator on Lebanon's popular New TV announced that "never has there been an issue subject to as many contradictions, lies, and exaggerations regarding the number of victims as the issue of the Jewish Holocaust."
As European countries enacted hate laws limiting Holocaust denial, many Holocaust deniers sought safe haven in the Middle East. Few Arab states have hate speech or liable laws, except where they bear on interpretations of the Qur'an. In November 2000, Jürgen Graf, director of the Swiss revisionist organization Verité et Justice (Truth and justice), fled to Iran to escape a Swiss hate speech conviction.
The Middle East has become a venue of choice to present revisionist theories. In March 2001, the Newport Beach, California-based Institute for Historical Review and Verité et Justice planned a conference in Beirut featuring long-time revisionists Roger Garaudy and Robert Faurisson. Only intense pressure from the U.S. State Department caused the Lebanese government to reconsider its role as host. The organizers simply moved the conference to Amman, Jordan. The Jordanian Writers' Association was happy to sponsor it. While Graf's motives may have been purely anti-Semitic, his Jordanian hosts may have appreciated the geopolitical implications. As Graf explained, "Those countries which are authentically anti-Zionist … should make the breakthrough of Holocaust revisionism their foremost priority. A tank costs millions of dollars, yet one soldier can destroy it with a single missile. The revisionists can provide anti-Zionist freedom fighters with a weapon not even a thousand missiles can destroy."
David Duke, the white supremacist from Louisiana, has been at the forefront of right-wing extremist outreach to the Islamic world. In the fall of 2002, he presented two lectures in Bahrain on "The Global Struggle against Zionism" and the "Israeli Involvement in September 11." That same year, he appeared on an Al-Jazeera satellite network talk show and, in November 2005, he held a news conference in Damascus, Syria, pledging to do his best to convey to the world the "real peace-loving Syrian" positions. According to Duke, during his visit to Syria, he met with a high-profile Syrian journalist, Nidal Kabalan, who gave a copy of Duke's book, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question, to Ahmadinejad, suggesting this may have been the genesis for Ahmadinejad's subsequent Holocaust denial.
Iran: New Center of Holocaust Denial
Anti-Semitism has long been a problem in Iran. European merchants brought blood libel to Iran in the sixteenth century. During the nineteenth century, the Iranian clergy instigated several pogroms. In the early twentieth century, Reza Shah (r. 1925-41) embraced racist theories. After all, the name Iran literally means "land of the Aryans." His sympathy for Nazi Germany led British and Soviet officials to force his abdication during World War II. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who in 1979 would lead the Islamic Revolution, long tinged his writings with anti-Semitism.
Holocaust denial was an outgrowth of Iranian anti-Semitism, propelled by the Islamic Republic's antipathy toward Israel. Long before Ahmadinejad shocked the West with his blunt rhetoric, Supreme Leader ‘Ali Khamenei suggested the Holocaust to be an exaggeration. ‘Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an Iranian figure often labeled a pragmatist by Western journalists, voiced morale support for Holocaust revisionists in the West, suggesting the West persecuted one prominent denier for "the doubt he cast on Zionist propaganda." However, it was during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, whose rhetorical calls for a dialogue of civilizations won European and U.N. plaudits, that the Islamic Republic became a sanctuary for revisionists. Tehran granted asylum not only to Graf but also to Wolfgang Fröhlick, an Austrian engineer who argued in court under oath that Zyklon-B could not be used to kill humans. Indeed, it was under Khatami that Iranian policy shifted from anti-Zionism to unabashed anti-Semitism.
In August 2003, the Iranian government invited Frederick Töben, a retired German school teacher living in Australia, to speak before the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada held in Tehran in which he impugned the Holocaust by contending that Auschwitz concentration camp was physically too small for the mass killing of Jews. Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a myth in December 2005, a move applauded by Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
In March 2006, Töben returned to Iran to participate in the "Holocaust: Myth and Reality" conference at Isfahan University where he again argued that Auschwitz was too small to enable mass killings of Jews. According to the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting radio, the supreme leader's representatives in Isfahan organized the conference. Alireza Soltanshahi, representing Ahmadinejad, addressed the assembled students and faculty. Ahmadinejad, himself, sponsored and opened an August 2006 exhibition of cartoons denigrating the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad has become a hero to the extreme right. Kevin Alfred Strom, founder of the white supremacist National Vanguard, expressed solidarity with the Iranian president, especially in his fight against common Jewish and Zionist enemies. He urged Ahmadinejad to use alternative media and advocated for cooperation between the Iranian government and neo-Nazis to reach out to antiwar Americans and break the grip of the "mainstream media monopoly." Right-wing extremists often cast themselves as "alternative media voices." When addressing audiences in Muslim countries, they downplay racist themes and emphasize anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. This was apparent in interviews the official Mehr News Agency conducted with visiting Holocaust revisionists.
Ahmadinejad appears to have listened. He has made Holocaust denial a central tenet of his administration. Following his September 19, 2006 U.N. General Assembly speech, he granted press availability to representatives of the alternative media, including Michael Collins Piper, a journalist for the extreme right newspaper American Free Press and author of Final Judgment, a book postulating that the Mossad killed President John F. Kennedy. After the conference, a personal friend of Piper, Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, introduced him to Ahmadinejad, who actually invited Piper to be his personal guest in Iran. Following his press conference, Ahmadinejad spent half of a 90-minute meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations trying to debunk the Holocaust.
The Tehran Holocaust Conference
Foreign Ministry sponsorship of the "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision" conference in Tehran was therefore a culmination of a longer process. Leading officials including Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended. The conference provided a venue for the who's who of Holocaust denial and revisionism. Duke gave the keynote address. Other prominent participants included Jan Bernhoff, a computer science professor in Sweden; Mattias Chang, a lawyer and an author of conspiracy books from Malaysia; Robert Faurisson, a former literature professor in France and a long-time Holocaust denier; Wolfgang Fröhlich, a Holocaust denier from Austria; Jürgen Graf, a Holocaust denier from Switzerland; Mohammed Hegazi, a pro-Palestinian activist who resides in Australia; George Kadar, originally from Hungary, who now resides in the United States and writes for the far right newspaper, American Free Press; Richard Krege, a Holocaust denier from Australia; Patrick McNally, a Holocaust denier and conspiracy theorist who currently resides in Japan; Michael Collins Piper, a writer for American Free Press; Michele Renouf, an Australian socialite and supporter of Holocaust revisionism; Bradley Smith, an American Holocaust denier who currently resides in Mexico; Georges Thiel, a Holocaust denier from France; Serge Thion, a French sociologist and critic of the politicization of the Holocaust; and Frederick Töben. At the conference, participants agreed to establish a world foundation for Holocaust studies and unanimously appointed Mohammad ‘Ali Ramin as its secretary general. An advisor to President Ahmadinejad, Ramin once lived in Germany and is an ardent defender of Holocaust denial.
As with the Jordanian conference before, anti-Zionism combined with Holocaust revisionism. Former Iranian interior minister ‘Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour conceded that the Nazis "committed horrendous crimes during World War II" but added that "the Zionists' narration of the massacre of the six million Jews at Nazi death camps is far from reality."
Right-wing extremists who participated in the conference expressed satisfaction. By working with Muslims, they hope to dilute the stigma of racism. Rather than characterize themselves as "white supremacist," they now speak of "white separatism," placing themselves within the third-world vocabulary of self-determination and liberation. While associating with a Middle Eastern despot, especially in the aftermath of 9-11, might not seem expedient, neo-Nazi groups may consider that they have little to lose since they are already marginal. That any head of state would embrace them enhances their stature. So, too, did media attention. CNN's Wolf Blitzer granted Duke a platform to discuss his participation in the conference.
The Tehran conference may have provided a boost of adrenalin to neo-Nazis. Erich Gliebe, chairman of the National Alliance, the most prominent U.S. neo-Nazi organization, lauded Ahmadinejad and lamented that Western leaders did not have his "guts." Days after the Tehran conference concluded, he announced that his organization would hold a similar conference at its Hillsboro, West Virginia headquarters. Several revisionists who attended the Tehran conference participated.
In an effort to further isolate Iran, nearly forty European and North American research institutes announced that they had suspended contacts with the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies—a leading Iranian think-tank that helped organize the conference. Francois Heisbourg, head of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, organized the boycott.
Strategic Implications of Holocaust Denial
Although other Middle East figures have dismissed the Nazi Holocaust, Ahmadinejad has changed the discourse with his stridency. His gambit may serve him well amid the increasing polarization between Islamic countries and the United States. His confrontation has elevated him to a central player on the international scene. By championing Holocaust revisionism, Ahmadinejad has demonstrated his bona fides to the Islamic world and tapped into the reservoir of resentment against Israel that transcends sectarian differences. By radicalizing the Middle East, Ahmadinejad seeks to prevent a rapprochement between Israel and conservative Arab states that have a security interest in containing an ascendant Iran. In doing so, Ahmadinejad could conceivably draw support from Sunni radicals that have been traditionally hostile to the Shi‘a.
Domestically, some Iranians fear that Ahmadinejad's provocative rhetoric is isolating their country. However, Khamenei stands by the Iranian president. On March 22, 2007, for example, the supreme leader railed against the "global Zionist conspiracy," rhetoric borrowed directly from The National Vanguard. Some moderates and reformers have urged the Islamic cleric-led regime to rein in the president for fear that his controversial comments may lead to a propaganda campaign against Iran. However, whether for ideological or practical reasons, the Iranian leadership has decided that its natural allies are not liberal Western democracies but rather the right-wing fringe of Western extremism.
George Michael is assistant professor of political science and administration of justice at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. He is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right (University Press of Kansas, 2006) and Willis Carto and the American Far Right (University Press of Florida, forthcoming, 2008).
 The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2005.
 Islamic Republic News Agency (Tehran, IRNA), Dec. 5, 2006.
 See, for example, Bernard Wasserstein, "Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism," Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 28, 2001; Juan Cole, "Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on Iran," Informed Comment, Aug. 29, 2004; David Duke, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question (Mandeville, La.: Free Speech Press, 2003).
 Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: The Viking Press, 1963), p. 231.
 Leonard Weinberg, "The American Radical Right in Comparative Perspective," in Peter H. Merkl and Leonard Weinberg, eds., The Revival of Right-Wing Extremism in the Nineties (London: Frank Cass, 1997), p. 237.
 Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 40.
 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: The Free Press, 1993), pp. 51-2; Jerry Bornstein, The Neo-Nazis: The Threat of the Hitler Cult (New York: Julian Messner, 1986), p. 45.
 Shermer and Grobman, Denying History, p. 40.
 Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York: WW. Norton, 1986), p. 121.
 Quoted in Walter Laqueur, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 140-1.
 Michelle L. Picheny, "A Fertile Ground: The Expansion of Holocaust Denial into the Arab World," Boston College Third World Law Journal, 1 (2003): 331-58.
 Reuven Paz, "Palestinian Holocaust Denial," Peace Watch, no. 255, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Apr. 21, 2000.
 "Demonizing Jews: Anti-Semitism in the Saudi Media," Anti-Defamation League (ADL), New York, accessed Mar. 12, 2007.
 Ernst Zündel, "The West, War, and Islam," Radio Islam, accessed Mar. 23, 2007.
 Holocaust Denial in the Middle East: The Latest Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Propaganda Theme (New York: Anti-Defamation League, 2001), p. 5.
 Ibid., p. 13.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 "Lebanon's New TV: ‘Contradictions, Lies, and Exaggerations in Number Killed in ‘Jewish Holocaust,'" Special Dispatch Series, no. 1194, Middle East Research Institute, June 29, 2006.
 "ADL Comments on Holocaust Denial Conference Held in Jordan," ADL news release, May 15, 2001.
 Jürgen Graf, "Holocaust Revisionism and Its Political Consequences," Jan. 2001, accessed Mar. 23, 2007.
 "David Duke in Damascus to Express Solidarity with Syria," ArabicNews.com, Nov. 22, 2005.
 "Duke on Irving and Holocaust Conference," audio link on David Duke's website, Dec. 20, 2006, accessed Mar. 23, 2007; David Duke, "Iranian Leader Breaks New Ground in Spiegel Interview," David Duke's website, June 1, 2006, accessed Mar. 23, 2007.
 Ali Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921 (London: Longman, 2003), p. 72.
 Patrick Clawson and Michael Rubin, Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (New York: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 26, 63, 72, 130.
 The Jerusalem Post, Apr. 25, 2001.
 Holocaust Denial in the Middle East, p. 8; Abraham Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), pp. 223-4.
 Foxman, Never Again?, pp. 222-3.
 Babak Ganji, Iran and Israel: Asymmetric Warfare and Regional Strategy (London: Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, 2006), p. 3.
 "Revisionist Fredrick Töben Speaks at Iran's Intifada Conference," National Vanguard (Sacramento), Sept. 9, 2003.
 The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2005.
 Al-Jazeera television (Doha), Dec. 15, 2005; Agence France-Presse, Dec. 22, 2005.
 See "The Iranian Holocaust Conference: Toben Explains the Fairy Tale of Auschwitz," accessed Mar. 30, 2007.
 Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting News (IRIB), Mar. 7, 2006.
 Al-Jazeera, Sept. 3, 2006.
 "American Dissident Voices: Kevin Alfred Strom, ‘In the Cause of Peace and Freedom,'" National Vanguard, June 25, 2006.
 The Asia Times, Nov. 30, 2004.
 "Iran Promotes Holocaust Denial," ADL news release, Feb. 14, 2006.
 Michael Collins Piper, Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy (Washington: Center for Historical Review, 2000).
 American Free Press (Washington, D.C.), Oct. 2, 9, 2006.
 "How Jew-Friendly Persia Became Anti-Semitic Iran," Moment Magazine, Dec. 14, 2006.
 CBS News, Jan. 15, 2006.
 "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision 10-12 December 2006" program, Adelaide Institute website, accessed Mar. 23, 2007; Fars News Agency (Tehran), Dec. 11, 2006.
 IRIB News, Dec. 15, 2006.
 IRNA, Dec. 12, 2006. Mohtashamipour now serves as the secretary-general of the International Congress to Support the Palestinian Intifada.
 See for example, Michael Collins Piper, "What Really Happened in Iran," American Free Press, Jan. 1, 8, 2007.
 David Duke interview with Wolf Blitzer, The Situation Room, CNN, Dec. 13, 2006.
 "American Dissident Voices: Erich Gliebe, "Leadership of Tomorrow," The National Alliance, July 1, 2006.
 Willis Carto, "Holocaust Hoopla," American Free Press, Dec. 25, 2006.
 Times Colonist (Victoria, B.C.), Dec. 16, 2006; The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2006.
 Ganji, Iran and Israel, pp. 23-5.
 Fars News Agency, Mar. 22, 2007.
 Associated Press, Dec. 14, 2005; Ganji, Iran and Israel, p. 8.
This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at http://www.meforum.org/article/1704
How to make '07 Ahmadinejad's last year in power
In Iran, demonstrations are an art form. First, the government buses in state workers. Next, officials distribute banners with revolutionary slogans. Finally, state television reports a spontaneous rally in support of the Islamic Republic.
Stage-managed demonstrations, though, mask weakness. On Dec. 11, a group of students interrupted a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with chants of "Death to the Dictator." On Jan. 2, a demonstrator in Ahvaz waved a placard condemning inflation, unemployment and crime. Recent elections rebuked hardliners.
And unfortunately, rather than find a way to capitalize on such weakness, up to now, a desire for diplomacy has blinded the West. Between 2000 and 2005, European diplomats preaching engagement tripled trade with Iran. Tehran pumped 70% of the resulting hard currency windfall into its nuclear and military programs. After Secretary of State Rice offered dialogue with Iran, the regime announced it would redouble its nuclear efforts. Ahmadinejad said yesterday he would "humiliate" the United States.
European diplomats declare their strategy to be working, but privately say a nuclear Iran is inevitable. Last month's partial UN sanctions are only symbolic. Effectiveness requires comprehensive sanctions - which diplomats could lift in response to compliance.
But the UN is feckless. If President Bush is sincere when he says the U.S. "will not tolerate" a nuclear-armed Iran, Washington may have to act alone. This need not mean military action, but rather willingness to exploit Iranian weakness.
The Islamic Republic is under tremendous pressure. A recent Johns Hopkins University report predicts Iran's oil industry could collapse within a decade because of poor management and disintegrating infrastructure. Already, the Islamic Republic must import 40% of its fuel needs. The Iranian economy is unable to provide jobs for 700,000 young people entering the market annually. The World Bank estimates that Iran's GDP is 30% below its 1970s levels. Experts estimate 5 million Iranians are addicted to drugs. Prostitution has skyrocketed as poverty spreads.
The White House should exploit the growing cracks in Iranian society. Just as Ronald Reagan championed striking shipyard workers in Poland in 1981, so too should Bush support independent Iranian trade unions. Forcing the regime to be accountable to its people both betters the lives of ordinary Iranians and undercuts Ahmadinejad's Dr. Strangelove fantasies. In Iran, wildcat strikes helped launch the Islamic Revolution; so too might they end it.
It is wrongheaded to criticize Bush's Axis of Evil rhetoric. Not only does straight talk dampen European willingness to invest in Iranian industry, but the willingness of Iranian democrats to speak out has grown in proportion to all the White House talk about freedom. Peace activists should applaud such effective, nonmilitary action.
Finally, U.S. public diplomacy should prioritize information over pop music. The Iranian regime would be hard-pressed to dismiss as propaganda stories of unrest and corruption originating in local Iranian papers and amplified by the Voice of America into national news.
Military action against Iran would be a tragedy, but need only occur if U.S. policy remains a muddle. Here the White House and new Congress are fortunate. If they play their cards well, this year could be Ahmadinejad's last.
This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at http://www.meforum.org/article/1071
War museum faces a second offensive
Japanese Canadians seek fixes to installation about contribution
The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, still reeling from an assault by Royal Air Force veterans who object to its depiction of their role in the 1945 firebombing of Dresden, has quietly been enduring a barrage from another quarter.
Ever since the museum opened two years ago, the National Association of Japanese Canadians has pressed it to change the way it depicts their community's suffering - and their volunteering, despite that suffering, for active combat.
Frank Moritsugu, now 84, is among those leading the charge. The retired journalist says that the war museum's version of what happened to his family and others - confiscation of property and internment in isolated labour camps - is disturbing because "the emphasis is weird."
The museum dates anti-Japanese sentiment in Canada from Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor; in fact, he says, Japanese Canadians were ostracized for decades, because they worked for lower pay (not by choice) and therefore took jobs from white folk.
"That's the kind of crap that was going on," Moritsugu says. "It was racist and economic."
But more important to Moritsugu and the NAJC lobbyists is what the museum does not say: that 150 or so Japanese Canadians volunteered to don uniforms and fight for Canada.
"I joined up at 22," Moritsugu says. "We were rushed overseas to Southeast Asia in the spring of 1945 with minimal training, because the British were in urgent need of Japanese-language interpreter-translators to deal with Japanese PoWs and captured-enemy documents. We served in Malaya and Indochina during 1945-46. I came home a sergeant. Despite all the restrictions, we joined up the minute we were given a chance. And that's important."
For two years, the NAJC's lobbying has gone nowhere; for the museum, the issue is one of curatorial integrity - just as with the vets of Royal Air Force Bomber Command. As historian Jack Granatstein, long-time adviser to the war museum, has observed, "You shouldn't have political interference in a reputable museum, one where every exhibit is weighed in a scholarly way."
The Bomber Command vets were also chagrined with the museum's interpretation of history - specifically with 60 words on a text panel dealing with the strategic value of the 1945 firebombing of Dresden. The vets argued that the word "contested" to modify "strategic value" made those who flew those missions look like "war criminals."
Museum curators and executives stood by the text panel, but the Bomber Command vets refused to give up. They took their quarrel to MPs and the Senate. On June 8, the Harper government appointed Fredrik Eaton to chair the museum board. He declared his job was to "break the logjam" between the vets and the museum.
At this point, the Japanese Canadians were still under the radar. But with the election in October, 2006, of a new NAJC president, the energetic Grace Eiko Thomson, their lobbying efforts increased. On June 1, Eiko Thomson, Moritsugu and others met with museum chief executive officer Joe Guerts and Dean Oliver, director of research and exhibitions. "What was so surprising was how obliging Guerts was, considering what we'd heard," Moritsugu says. "We figured Bomber Command had changed them from thinking 'We know best, to hell with you guys.'"
Just four weeks after that amicable meeting, director Guerts suddenly departed, leaving only rumours in his wake. "I'd thought we had a very good meeting," Eiko Thomson says. "But then he departed!" Three weeks ago she wrote to the museum's acting director, Mark O'Neill. She has not heard back, but O'Neill told The Globe and Mail that the museum would respond to the group's concerns by summer's end.
The NAJC is unlikely to get all it wants. What's at stake in this dispute, as in that of the Bomber vets, are complex issues about curatorial independence: influence over how stories are told and which stories are told.
For example, the group would like the museum to change its installation about a Japanese-Canadian First World War vet whose property was confiscated in 1942. Oliver says the vet's story was chosen because it "poignantly illustrated injustice on the home front." The NAJC wants the emphasis to shift to show the vet in uniform with medals, and explain that all his life, he worked for the enfranchisement of his people (Japanese Canadians did not get full voting rights until 1949). Still, the NAJC may convince the museum to show the Japanese-Canadian volunteers. Yesterday, Oliver said he had a staffer hunting for archival material.
In any case, the war museum can take real pride that its contents are hotly contested. Says Sergeant Moritsugu (retired): "The Canadian War Museum is the official version of our military history."
Adds Oliver: "Museums aren't just physical space, they're emotional space. This museum's spaces will be contested long after I'm in the grave."
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