A Scottish Jewish leader told a court this week that a clip of a Scottish man training a dog to perform a Nazi salute stirred up online anti-Semitic sentiment against the local Jewish community.
Ephraim Borowski, head of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, testified to the Airdrie Sheriff Court that the video posted by Mark Meechan was “grossly offensive.”
“It stuns me that anyone should think it is a joke,” the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
In the clip, which received over 3 million views on YouTube, Meechan said he had decided to train his girlfriend’s pug Buddha to be a Nazi as a practical joke.
“My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is, and so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing that I could think of, which is a Nazi,” he told his viewers.
He then filmed multiple instances in which his dog perks up to the sound of the phrase “gas the Jews” as well as simply the word “Jews.” In the second part of the video the dog is seen watching a Hitler speech and raising its right paw in response to the phrase “Sieg heil.”
Borowski told the court this was clearly more than a practical joke.
“My immediate reaction is that there is a clear distinction to be made between an off-hand remark and the amount of effort that is required to train a dog like that,” he said. “I actually feel sorry for the dog.”
Borowski, who was shown the video in court, argued it was meant to offend.
“The other thing that struck me was the explicit statement that this was intended to give offense and intended to be the most offensive thing he could think of,” Borowski said. “I’m no historian but it is the marching signal of the Nazi storm troopers who contributed and supported the murder of six million Jews including members of my own family and I take this all slightly personally.”
He added that the Scottish Jewish community felt threatened by the anti-Semitic sentiment stirred up by the video.
“The threat is against the Jewish community and there is an echo chamber effect with people trying to be more offensive,” he told the court. “160 pages of messages about this were collected by us in a day, they supported it and it was extremely anti-Semitic.”
In a subsequent clip Meechan apologized for the posting the video, saying he had never intended to offend anyone and simply wanted “to annoy my girlfriend.” He said he never imagined the video would go viral and had thought it would only be viewed his close friends “who know me and know my sense of humor and know my comedy, which is quite dark.”
He stressed that he hated “racism in any way shape or form…I don’t have any ill will towards the Jewish community or anything like that at all.”
His girlfriend Suzanne Kelly defended him as well, telling The Mirror “that’s just Markus’s sense of humor. He would never set out to insult anybody or cause offense.”
Both the original clip and the apology were deleted from YouTube.