(photo credit: AP [file])
When Israeli lawyer Ervin Shahar filed a suit this week in Germany accusing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of violating that country's Holocaust denial laws, he asked international Jewish organizations to join in supporting his effort.
While no groups have signed on to his case yet, some voiced support for his efforts Wednesday. Shahar said he has plans to meet with Jewish officials over the coming week.
Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised Shahar's initiative and said the center would consider joining the legal action.
He said the move "would certainly bar him from entering Germany, for starters," though he added, "it would certainly increase his [Ahmadinejad's] popularity in Berlin."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has in the past brought many cases to the attention of the German authorities.
B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider also supported the suit, saying, "Jewish organizations should make more effective use of the legal proceedings that are permissible under various jurisdictions, particularly in Europe where there are specific laws in many of the countries against hate speech, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial."
Schneider, who noted that he wasn't familiar with the specifics of Shahar's charges, added that Israeli officials have in several instances been threatened by prosecution in Europe for alleged war crimes. The Jewish community, he said, "shouldn't be left only to play catch up when our prime minister or other officials are hauled before the courts."
Indeed, Shahar is using the same strategy by which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was threatened with prosecution by Belgium for his alleged role in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres during the Lebanon War. Shahar said that he chose to open his case in Germany, however, because Ahmadinejad referred to Germany, home of Nazism, specifically in his call to have Europe create a Jewish state.
Also, he said, "the German public is very positive toward our actions, so it is much easier to bring our case."