MONCTON, New Brunswick (Aug. 22)
If the attorney general of this Canadian province gives his consent, Malcolm Ross may soon be joining the company of Ernst Zundel and Jim Keegstra.
Once again, Canadian Jews may be put through the same courtroom dramas that surrounded convicted hate-mongers Zundel and Keegstra, as Ross, 39, the author of several books alleging the Holocaust never happened and that an international Jewish conspiracy is afoot, has had a formal complaint filed against him by a private citizen.
Earlier this year, Zundel, a Toronto publisher and landed immigrant from West Germany, was found guilty about publishing lies about the Holocaust after an emotionally-wrenching eight-week trial in which many say the Holocaust itself was on trial. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail. He is appealing both the sentence and the conviction, and is also appealing a deportation order.
Keegstra was recently found guilty of wilfully promoting hatred of Jews through his 12 years of teaching junior high school students in Alberta that there is an international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and that Jews are evil. During testimony, Keegstra said the Talmud encourages Jews to kill Christians.
BASIS FOR THE COMPLAINT
Late last month, Dr. Julius Israeli, a retired chemistry professor and Orthodox Jew living in Newcastle, a town about 180 miles north of here, filed a complaint with the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) against Ross, the East Coast director of the Christian Defense League of Canada, a rightwing fundamentalist group, some of whose members attended both the Keegstra and Zundel trials.
Israeli alleges that Ross is promoting hatred of Jews through the publication of three books written by Ross — “Web of Deceit,” “The Real Holocaust,” and “Christianity and Judeo-Christianity,” which apparently allege that the Holocaust was a Jewish hoax and that there is a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Israeli is also basing his case on letters to the editor of The Moncton Times-Transcript and to a local weekly, letters written by Ross and alleging a Jewish conspiracy.
Israeli filed the complaint asking Ross be charged under section 281 of Canada’s Criminal Code, the same section under which Keegstra was charged and convicted. The section, a rarely used provision, prohibits anyone from making statements, other than in private conversation, that wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group.
Israeli, a 52-year-old Rumanian who escaped the Nazi onslaught by fleeing into southern Transylvania, said he filed the complaint because he was “sick” of seeing Ross get away with questioning the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust and alleging a worldwide Jewish Communist/financial conspiracy.
The majority of Israeli’s family was deported to Auschwitz, and Israeli himself was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945. Israeli said that in 1978, he tried to file charges against Ross for “Web of Deceit,” but he said the attorney general told him the words wilful “and hatred” in the Criminal Code were too nebulous around which to build a strong enough case.
CITES HISTORICAL PRECEDENT
But this time, Israeli is citing the precedent set by the conviction of Keegstra. “It’s not a legal precedent, but it is an historical one,” said Israeli of the Keegstra case. “I’m not afraid of this.” Ross, he added, “is a sick man. He has a phobia about the Jews.”
Israeli said he filed the complaint as a private citizen and not on behalf of any group. He said Keegstra had referred to Ross’ works as “references” and source material several times during his trial. “The law now should have no more problems with the words ‘wilful’ and ‘hatred’,” Israeli said.
The Newcastle RCMP confirmed to a Moncton newspaper last month that it had received the complaint by Israeli and that it would be investigated. The Mounties passed the complaint along to the province’s Justice Department’s policing section and to the director of special prosecutions, officials of which say they are familiar with the case, and who in turn passed the file on to the Moncton police department.
Cpl. Ray Leblanc of the Moncton police force confirmed that the file will eventually find its way to the city’s police. He said the police will be examining Ross’ books. “The basic question is, what’s in the books and whether they’re detrimental in any way,” Leblanc said. “There will have to be a lot of interpretation.”
He said that if the police find the complaint has merit, the file would be passed back to the Justice Department and eventually to New Brunswick’s attorney general, Fernand Dube, the province’s main law enforcement officer, who would make the final decision on whether to charge Ross. Leblanc said the police investigation would take several weeks.
As for Ross, he has been a teacher since 1968 at Moncton’s Magnetic High School, where he now instructs mentally handicapped children. A Moncton school board official said the board has never received a complaint about Ross bringing his views into the classroom and that they have no knowledge of Ross ever teaching his beliefs.
JEWISH RESPONSE HAS BEEN LIKEWARM
Organized Jewish response in Canada to Israeli’s complaint has been lukewarm at best. Irwin Lampert, chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress’ Atlantic Region, said he questions “the wisdom of prosecution at this time. As a private citizen, Mr. Israeli has the right to file a grievance. This is not something supported or not supported by the Congress. We’ve never been asked to support it.” Concerning Ross letters to the editor, Lampert said the best thing to do is simply ignore them.
Prof. Bernard Vigod, head of the Atlantic Region of B’nai B’rith’s League for Human Rights, said he supports “the spirit” of Israeli’s complaint. However, Vigod said he has reservations about whether the case is strong enough to obtain a conviction. “The law itself was touch and go even when the evidence (against Zundel and Keegstra) was overwhelming. With this case, we have our doubts about the ability to obtain a conviction.”
Privately, some Jewish leaders in Canada say the community may not be able to withstand being put through an emotional wringer again and that there are reservations about pressing charges against Ross because of the possibility of his being found not guilty.