Pretoria, South Africa -- Muslim radio station
victorious in latest round of Shoah-denial
By Michael Belling
CAPE TOWN, Nov. 18 (JTA) - Jewish
leaders here are reacting with dismay
after their complaint charging a Muslim
radio station with trivializing the
Holocaust was rejected.
In an acrimonious case, the South
African Jewish Board of Deputies had
filed the complaint with the nation's
Broadcasting Complaints Commission
about a 1998 broadcast on Radio 786,
a Muslim station in Cape Town.
Appearing on the program was Yacoub
Zaki, a historian at the Muslim Institute
During the broadcast, Zaki said,
"I accept that 1 million-plus Jews
died during the Second World War,
but I dispute the fact that they were
murdered, that they were killed by
"These people died, like other people
in the camps, from infectious diseases,
particularly typhus," he said.
The interview prompted a series of
legal actions, including one brought
before the Constitutional Court, the
nation's highest court. In that case,
the radio station sought to overturn
a section of the broadcasters' code
of conduct that prohibits hate speech.
Radio 786 brought the case after
the Board of Deputies had lodged a
complaint against the station for
airing the program, which dealt with
the ideology of Zionism and how it
resulted in the creation of the Jewish
state. Earlier this year, the Constitutional
Court sided with the radio station
and struck down several provisions
of the Broadcasting Code of Conduct
as unconstitutional infringements
on the right of free speech.
After that ruling, the Jewish Board
of Deputies (right: logo) turned to
the Broadcasting Complaints Commission,
as it had done previously, in hopes
of obtaining a ruling against the
Now those hopes have been dashed.
In his ruling dismissing the complaint,
commission official Roland Sutherland
wrote that "the trivializing of the
extent of the suffering" of Jews during
World War II is "doubtless perceived
by many who accept the accuracy of
Holocaust evidence as churlish and
"Nevertheless, in my view, it is
not the stuff of which reasonable
people take offence to the degree
it warrants the proscription of the
expression of such views."
Hate speech is not protected under
the free speech provisions of the
South African constitution, but Sutherland
ruled that the broadcast did not fall
under the category of hate speech.
Sutherland found there was "no attack
in the broadcast on the Jewish religion
or Jews as such."
He also ruled that the broadcast
had included "no exhortation to hatred
of any particular religious group
or group of individuals."
The Board of Deputies subsequently
issued a statement saying the ruling
evoked "a deep sense of shock."
Denying or trivializing the Holocaust
is "an attack on the dignity of the
Jewish people and not just 'churlish'
behavior," the statement said.
Jewish leaders are vowing to keep
the case alive.