Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

SCoJeC welcomes verdict in "Nazi dog" case

21 March 2018
 

SCoJeC has welcomed the conviction of Mark Meechan at Airdrie Sheriff Court for making and publishing a grossly offensive video of himself training his dog to give a Nazi salute in response to the prompts "Gas the Jews" and "Sieg Heil". The video has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube, and Meechan has since made a number of other videos attempting to justify himself, seeking to represent the prosecution as an attack on his freedom of speech, and denying the video is antisemitic.

Each time the case appeared in court, SCoJeC received a large number of abusive messages by e-mail, telephone, Facebook, and Twitter, many of which were frankly antisemitic. In the hours since the verdict, we have received well over a hundred such messages.

SCoJeC has now issued the following statement:

We are grateful to the court for recognising that shouting "Gas the Jews" over and over again is not a joke, and that claiming that something is a joke does not make it any less offensive. This case was not about whether the video was a "joke" but about whether it was intended to give offence; Meechan himself made clear both in the video and in court that that was his intention, and far from apologising or expressing regret, is now presenting himself as a martyr and has been embraced by the extreme right.

We note in particular that Meechan has said in the video itself and subsequently that his intention was to give offence, and that he has not apologised or expressed regret for doing so, but instead has repeatedly asserted his "freedom of speech" to do so.

We wish to make it clear that the video was not reported to the police by us; it was prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal, not by us; the decision to prosecute was taken by Crown Office, not by us, after consideration of information supplied to them by the police, and we have not made any attempt to "send the guy to prison".

The Director of SCoJeC, Ephraim Borowski, was called to give evidence in court, and therefore did so as required by law. He answered the questions he was asked both in a personal capacity as the child of holocaust survivors, and based on his long experience of working for the community, of the effect on the community, many of whom are are holocaust survivors, their children, or grandchildren, and of 'jokes' that minimise and mock the holocaust.

However, what we find in many ways even more concerning is the torrent of abusive comments that appear under the original video on YouTube, many of which praise or deny the Holocaust, call for antisemitic genocide, and repeat other standard antisemitic themes. As Ephraim said in his evidence, one of our concerns is that material such as this video normalise the use of antisemitic language and other hate speech, and the large number of such messages that SCoJeC has itself received by direct e-mail and on social media since the verdict was announced bears this out.

Freedom of speech does not encompass shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre, nor does it encompass making and disseminating grossly offensive material. This is not just offensive in the abstract, but the constant repetition of antisemitic slogans adds to the anxiety and vulnerability of Jewish people living in Scotland who already feel anxious and alienated. The people who are flooding us with abusive messages from around the world have no knowledge of being Jewish in Scotland; we do. We have twice recently conducted empirical research, which was undertaken with the support of the Scottish Government. It is Jewish people in Scotland who are threatened by someone in Scotland saying and doing what Meechan said and did. His posting it on YouTube then gives Jews throughout the world a false picture of what it is like to be Jewish in Scotland, which is, and remains, by and large a positive experience.

 

   
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