at TV Festival
2:44 PM PDT -- Belzer has issued a statement to TMZ ... saying, "My grandfather represented Israel in the UN before it was made a nation. I'm a Jewish comedian, and there's this new thing out, it's called satire, irony and historical reference."
He adds, "To say that a Jew can't do that gesture as homage to Chaplin's masterpiece, 'The Great Dictator' is like Muslim extremists killing a cartoonist for disparaging Mohammed in his art."
2:32 PM PDT -- A rep for Belzer tells TMZ ... Richard was involved in a conversation with a reporter about the Charlie Chaplin movie, "The Great Dictator" ... when Richard decided to re-enact a scene from the movie when Charlie's character gave a mock Nazi salute.
The rep says Belzer is a "Jewish comedian" and is upset and insulted that anyone would assume he would deliver the Nazi salute in a "negative" way.
"Law & Order" star Richard Belzer threw up the Nazi salute on the red carpet at a TV festival in Monte Carlo earlier today ... because he's an idiot.
67-year-old Belzer -- who reportedly grew up in a Jewish family -- also stuck two fingers on his upper lip, in what appears to be an attempt to simulate the infamous Hitler mustache.
Belzer also bent over and stuck his ass out at the paparazzi ... for some unknown reason.
It's not the first time Belzer has thrown the Nazi salute in public -- he pulled the "Heil Hitler" schtick during an appearance on Hannity back in 2009.