Iran President’s World Cup Trip Put at Risk
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The head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent an open letter to Chancellor Merkel of Germany urging her to bar the Iranian president from attending the World Cup.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the international Jewish organization in 1977 and currently serves as its dean, sent the letter on behalf of the center’s 400,000 members on Monday.
“President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust and called for the obliteration of the state of Israel,” Rabbi Hier wrote. “It is inconceivable that a head of state who advocates those policies would be received at a world sporting event by the same country where the Nuremberg Laws were proclaimed and where Adolf Hitler first enunciated his policies that led to the ‘Final Solution.'”
Mr. Ahmadinejad reportedly told the Iranian soccer team on Saturday that if it advances to the second round of the World Cup, he will try to join it in Germany. The Iranians will play Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11, near the stadium where Hitler hosted Nazi rallies.
Because he is a head of state, Mr. Ahmadinejad does not need a visa to enter Germany. Although Mrs. Merkel has said it is “intolerable for any German government when the Iranian president questions the right of Israel’s existence,” no German official has taken steps to forbid Mr. Ahmadinejad from attending.
The German interior minister, Wolfgang Schauble, said last month that Mr. Ahmadinejad “can certainly come to the World Cup,” adding that Germany wants to be “good hosts.” Mr. Schauble’s deputy, however, said, “Some people are more welcome than others.”
The Iranian president has spoken about “the myth they call the massacre of the Jews,” saying he does not accept the “claim” that “during World War II, Hitler burned millions of Jews and put them in concentration camps.”
A German law prohibiting Holocaust denial may be enough to block Mr. Ahmadinejad’s arrival – an Israeli lawyer in Germany has asked the federal prosecutor there to issue an international arrest warrant – but because the president’s comments were made abroad, Germany may not have jurisdiction to prosecute.
In his letter, Rabbi Hier wrote that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presence at the World Cup “would desecrate the memory of the millions murdered in the gas chambers and contradict the very foundation upon which the post-war Federal Republic of Germany was built.”
“If President Ahmadinejad pays no penalty for his antisemitism, Holocaust denial and genocidal threats against the State of Israel, then we legitimize his message by allowing him to sit in the VIP section of the World Cup before a viewing audience of billions,” Rabbi Hier wrote.