Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday they will charge an Arab cultural group under hate speech laws for publishing a cartoon that suggests the death of 6 million Jews during World War II is a fabrication.
In this image from the AEL website, two apparently Jewish men stand near a pile of skeletons with a sign that says "Auswitch." One pokes a bone with a stick and says "I don't think they're Jews" and the other answers, "We have to get to the six million somehow."
Prosecutors plan to press charges for "insulting a group and distributing an insulting image."
Spokeswoman Mary Hallebeek said the maximum punishment is a year in jail, but a fine of up to €4,700 ($6,700) is more likely, given that the charges are against the group.
The Dutch arm of the Arab European League said it doesn't deny the reality of the Holocaust, but published the cartoon on its Web site as an "act of civil disobedience" to highlight a double standard.
AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda argued that prosecutors had not pressed charges against Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders for his film that included cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Charges against Wilders, who campaigns on an anti-Islam and anti-immigration platform, were dismissed after prosecutors said his insults were aimed at Muhammad, not all Muslims, and were not systematic.
The charges against the AEL "illustrates what Muslims have been saying for decades," Bouzerda said in a response published on the league's Web site. "Freedom of expression is only a pretext to make life bitter for Muslims ... and if (they) try to bring this hypocrisy to light, that right is denied them."
Bouzerda said anyone should be allowed to publish insulting material in the interest of public debate.
The cartoon shows two apparently Jewish men standing near a pile of skeletons with a sign that says "Auswitch," presumably representing the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.
One pokes a bone with a stick and says "I don't think they're Jews" and the other answers, "We have to get to the six million somehow."
Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel, which filed a complaint against the cartoon, said Jews had nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons, so it didn't make sense for the league to retaliate in this way.
"Imagine if Dutch Jews insulted Muslims every time they heard an anti-Semitic remark. What kind of perverse world would we be living in?" he said.
After a strong immigration wave in the 1990s, Muslims make up around 6 percent of the 16.5 million Dutch population.
A popular backlash against immigration has dominated politics here since 2001, and it intensified in 2004, when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical over perceived religious insults.
That further fueled debate over immigrant crime and the need to preserve traditional Dutch values.