Holocaust denial is hateful, immoral and factually wrong

Zackie Achmat
Opinion
Holocaust denialism is hateful, immoral and factually wrong. It legitimises the taking of measures by individuals, organisations and governments that lead to the destruction of human dignity and life. This destruction of dignity and life is based on ideologies of hate and profit.

Denialism takes many forms, such as AIDS denialism that destroyed the lives of too many people in our country. The enslavement of Black people similarly (and on a greater scale) cruelly destroyed human life on the basis of racist ideology and profit. Denial of human dignity and life can never be tolerated. Churches defended and profited from slavery and the Dutch Reformed Church provided a scriptural justification for apartheid as well as the earlier banning of Islam in the Cape. This is unbecoming of faith-based bodies.

To provide a Holocaust denier with a platform under the guise of free speech is to legitimise war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Today, we have Radio 786, a Cape Town-based Muslim radio station defending the immorality of Holocaust denialism. In fairness, Radio 786 has after many years conceded that Holocaust denialism is wrong but claims the right to allow deniers the right to freedom of expression. Whether by omission or deliberation, Radio 786 is legitimising war crimes and crimes against humanity through free speech claims.

Many people argue for a ban on hate speech. I am conflicted about banning expression based on hate. I fear that allowing the state the right to restrict freedom of expression by banning hate speech will lead to other serious infringements of the right to criticise governments, corporations and individuals. I have no problem with prohibiting incitement to violence based on hate because this is a different matter. This must be legally prohibited.

However, as an individual I never debate with an AIDS denialist nor do I allow anyone to express Holocaust denialism through my Facebook page or any other medium because I believe it is wrong.

Every person in South Africa has a duty to resist any denialism based on hate. The struggle against Holocaust denial is a struggle for decency, dignity, accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is not a struggle between Judaism and Islam. We must therefore demand that Radio 786 unconditionally apologises for legitimising war crimes, in particular to victims of the Holocaust and their descendants. The apology must be made in memory of Nazi Holocaust victims, in particular to Jewish victims who disproportionally suffered a destruction of their human dignity, lives and property.