BERLIN (Jun. 8)
Jewish leaders expressed outrage that an Iranian official would attend the World Cup opening ceremonies in Munich. Given repeated Holocaust denial by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the participation of his vice president, Mohammed Aliabadi, “is a provocation and evidence of the political bankruptcy of German policy vis-a-vis Iran’s mullah regime,” Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement.
The reaction comes as Jewish leaders — including newly elected council president, Charlotte Knobloch — are suggesting that the Iranian president should not enjoy traditional diplomatic immunity should he decide to come to Germany during the World Cup, which begins June 9.
Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany. Several Jewish, pro-Israeli and Iranian opposition groups are planning to demonstrate against the Iranian regime during the Iran-Mexico game in Nuremberg on Sunday.
Though Ahmadinejad has been cagey about his own plans, his vice president is definitely coming, said a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry, who reported Wednesday that the Iranian Embassy had confirmed Aliabadi’s plans.
Conservative politician Gunther Beckstein, interior minister for the State of Bavaria, told the New Osnabruck Times on Thursday that he anticipated no problem in welcoming Aliabadi to the games “as long as he behaves like a civilized person.”
But for Kramer, it is untenable that anyone representing Ahmadinejad would be welcome in Germany. The idea that the representative of “Ahmadinejad, a known Holocaust denier who has called for the destruction of Israel, would sit in the stadium for the opening of the soccer tournament together with German President Horst Koehler and Chancellor Angela Merkel is simply unbearable,” he said.
Meanwhile, the prospect that Ahmadinejad himself might show up has Jewish leaders fuming.
Council member attorney Michael Furst, head of the Jewish community in the state of Lower Saxony, said complaints would be lodged with the state prosecutor.
Knobloch told the Bild Zeitung that the idea of diplomatic immunity for Ahmadinejad, whom she likened to “a second Hitler,” was intolerable.
And her new deputy, the council’s vice president, Dieter Graumann, wanted to know why Germany could not “say loud and clear that this preacher of hatred is not welcome in Germany for the soccer World Cup.”
Beckstein, head of the German Conference of Interior Ministers, said he could understand protest aimed at Ahmadinedjad “because he denies both Israel’s right to exist as well as the Holocaust, and because he said that Israelis should be thrown into the sea. Only the craziest neo-Nazis say such things here.”
Nevertheless, if Ahmadinedjad comes to Germany, he would receive full diplomatic protection, Beckstein added.
Repeating earlier statements, he said the Iranian would receive special protection from the German police, so that “not a single hair would be out of place.”