Rapper acquitted of insulting Jews, gays with controversial song
Update, 3:20 p.m., 8 December 2015: Quotes added from the ruling as published by the court.
Dutch rap recording artist Ismael Houllich, better known as “Ismo,” was acquitted of a charge brought against him regarding lyrics that may have maligned Jewish people and gay people. The Breda court ruled that two specific lines from the song, “Eenmans,” were not proven as insulting according to a framework provided by the country's Supreme Court, according to the Breda court's ruling.
In the song, Ismo states “flikkers beef ik been hand,” meaning he “won’t shake hands with fags.” He also sang, “ik hat die joden nog meer dan de nazis,” or “I hate those Jews even more than the Nazis.”
By using the word, “flikkers," Ismo said he was not referring to gay people. “I meant people who screw you over behind your back,” he told the court. “Flicker has two meanings: homosexuals, and people who scam you. Here, the client meant the latter,” his attorney stated.
The court agreed with Ismo, saying the lyric when heard in context he seemingly does not reference homosexuals.
The rapper also said that, although he sang about “Jews,” what he really meant were Zionists. While the court said the lyric was "in itself offensive in nature" against Jewish people, it also stated that a criminal accusation can only be made if remarks are "unnecessarily hurtful."
That is not the situation with "Eenmans," the court said, noting that the rapper is expressing his own anger and has a right to freedom of expression. The court also considered that the rap songs often involve "cruder" and more exaggerated language than Ismo used.
— #TRANSFORMATIE (@Ismo_Music) December 8, 2015
The prosecutor had demanded a 1,500 euro fine against Ismo, of which 500 would be suspended. Authorities also called on the court to force the removal of the music video from Youtube, which has garnered over 4.7 million views.
Ismo was accused of violating Article 137c of Dutch law, which says that anyone deliberately insulting towards a group of people based on race, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation, physical disability or mental disability may be imprisoned up to one year or subject to fines. Habitual violation of this law, or when a group of people violate the law, the punishment may be doubled.
In order to convict someone of this crime, the Supreme Court dictates that prosecutors must prove that statements are offensive to an entire group of people, if the statement is only offensive when taken out of context, and if it is unnecessarily offensive, the court said in its ruling.
The court found the lyric about "flikkers" to be offensive to homosexuals only when taken out of context, and thus did not violate Dutch law. The lyric about "Jews" was deemed offensive to Jewish people, particularly as it relates to the Holocaust. However, the rapper's artistic expression allows him to express his anger, especially when taking into account precedent set by the European Court of Human Rights. As it was not an "unnecessarily hurtful statement," the Breda court ruled in favor of the defense.
In an interview with Vice, he said he plans in the future to rap less about Jews and more specifically about Zionists. He added he never meant to offend Jews or gay people. The rapper also said he found it frightening that he could be arrested and taken to court over the lyrics when only four out of millions of listeners filed a complaint.