Posted Friday, May11, 2001

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What us, an international conspiracy?

The bad news is that, if Ms Harland's angrily worded announcement of the cancellation is any indication, she appears utterly to have failed to understand why there was anything wrong with the Irving invitation in the first place. . .

-- Editorial, The Jewish Chronicle, London


London, Friday, May 11, 2001

[See Oxford bar on Irving applauded]

Jewish ChronicleSpeakers Corner : Leader Columns

Missing the point

First, the good news: the venerable Oxford Union, in a last-minute change of heart, cancelled this week's misconceived "freedom of speech" debate featuring David Irving as a star guest.

The union's president acted after protests from a number of quarters, but most importantly from students. The turning point came on Tuesday evening, after opponents of the planned debate had gathered enough support to ensure an emergency meeting to reconsider the issue. It lasted until the early hours of Wednesday and produced two votes, both decided by large majorities of the roughly 115 union members in attendance.

The first condemned the decision to invite Mr Irving, the second urged union president Amy Harland to rescind the invitation -- and both clearly reflected not only the views of Jewish students but of other minority communities, and of the National Union of Students.

The bad news is that, if Ms Harland's angrily worded announcement of the cancellation is any indication, she appears utterly to have failed to understand why there was anything wrong with the Irving invitation in the first place. "Deeply saddened" by having to rescind it, she suggested that the decision -- forced upon her, she said, by a cynical minority out to make a political point -- was a blow to the "well-being of students at this university" and to the all-important principle of freedom of speech.

It was neither. David Irving is a man described by the judge in his failed High Court libel action against Deborah Lipstadt as a racist and anti-Semite who has manipulated historical evidence. He remains, nonetheless, free to say and write what he wants, as long as it does not constitute incitement.

That liberty is, and should be, part and parcel of any democracy. But those who planned and promoted the Oxford Union event did so in such a way that could only be construed as an effort -- inevitably and gratuitously offensive to a considerable number of students -- to launder Mr Irving's recently tattered reputation as a Holocaust historian and to promote him as a victim of the enemies of freedom of speech.

Indeed, the union's Internet announcement of the debate presented Mr Irving as a target of recent "legal challenges over his denial of the Holocaust," neglecting to point out that it was he who launched -- and lost -- a legal challenge, against Ms Lipstadt's contention that he had twisted the facts of the Nazis' campaign of genocide.

The issue which ostensibly prompted the invitation to Irving in the first place -- how a free society reconciles "extremism and freedom of speech" -- is indeed an important one. But to contrive to make David Irving, whose most recent experience of the conundrum was to seek and fail to punish Ms Lipstadt for writing the truth about him and his "Holocaust history," a defender of a core democratic freedom is surely a perverse way to go about framing a serious debate, if that is indeed her aim.

Related items on this website:

 Oxford bar on Irving applauded
 Oxford Union debate update
 [Jewish] Academics threaten boycott over Irving

Attempts by the Board of Deputies of British Jews to silence and smear Mr Irving:

 On July 17, 1991 Neville Nagler of the Board of Deputies asks the German secret service to silence David Irving's Lectures in Germany. The Verfassungsschutz replies confidentially to him on August 9, 1991: German and English texts.
  Eye-witness account of a secret meeting at the Board's London headquarters on December 12, 1991 organises Pressure on Macmillan Ltd., David Irving's London Publisher, to violate their Contracts with him
 "Confidential: David Irving Biographical Information" Libellous smear reports, compiled in 1991 and 1992, supplied anonymously by Michael Whinge of the London Board of Deputies of British Jews to Canadian Jews to plant in Ottawa files, June 1992.
  On June 22, 1992, the Austrian Ambassador in London assures Neville Nagler of the Board that a Warrant is out for the Writer's Arrest
Unnamed Oxford professor of politics put secret pressure on Macmillan Publishers Ltd (1992) to violate their publishing contracts with Mr Irving
  Jewish agitators put pressure on St Martins Press (1996) to violate their publishing contract with Mr Irving
 Index to the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech

Never Again: WE comment only on the outrageous cheek of these folks, who deny that they have anything against free speech, and claim indeed to be champions of human rights, even as they abrogate my right to write, to publish, and even to speak in public in my own country.

They hold me down and gag me with one hand, while pouring buckets of slime over me with the other.

The ordinary public, looking on, draws its own conclusions and says nothing -- except in private messages of support to me.

Fifty years from now when, God forbid, the Holocaust of 2050 may well come down the road, it will not be these intellectual whizz-kids, the Marvin Hiers and Marc Riches of the media world, who are lined up on the edge of the tankditches facing the machine guns of Nazis probably still unborn today -- because the guilty men will have long fled to the safe haven of whichever is the next country willing to put up with them. It will once again be the ordinary and baffled Jews who suffer, and ask the eternal words of suffering: "Why us?"

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