Posted Friday, January 18, 2002

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Our view is that free speech is being stretched too far," he said. -- National Union of Students

Friday 18 January 2002, 5 Shevat 5762 Erev Shabbat


Jewish ChronicleNational News

Jewish students oppose plan for Nottingham meeting

Campus row over Irving invitation

by Bernard Josephs

A CAMPAIGN to scuttle plans by Nottingham University's student union to invite Holocaust revisionist David Irving to speak was under way this week

Officials from the National Union of Students and the Union of Jewish Students urged organisers not to go ahead with the meeting, at which Mr Irving -- branded in the High Court as racist and anti-Semitic after losing a libel action against American historian Deborah Lipstadt -- would speak on "the difficulty of writing the history of the Third Reich."

News that the historian had been asked to address Forum -- the student-union-financed debating society -- was confirmed by a union source. It came in the wake of a vote by Nottingham students not to adopt the NUS's policy of denying platforms to racists.

NUS anti-racism co-ordinator Max Curtis pledged full support for the UJS and the university's Jewish Society, which are spearheading efforts to prevent Mr Irving from appearing. "The people who want him to address the meeting say that they are doing so in the interests of free speech. Our view is that free speech is being stretched too far," he said.

He added that he expected considerable pressure would be exerted on Forum to drop discussions with Mr Irving. "We will stand by the UJS on this. Our policy speaks volumes: in the interests of the safety of students, there must be no platform for racists."

Nottingham Jewish Society co-chair Danny Stone told the JC that the plans "feel like a personal attack on me as a Jew."

If Mr Irving appeared, he said, he would be greeted with demonstrations. There would be continued efforts by Jewish students to "educate those individuals who abuse free speech" on the implications of inviting Mr Irving.

Nottingham Student Union general secretary Jim Vine said its support for freedom of speech meant there could be no objection to Mr Irving's speaking at the university.

"Such a meeting would be for the benefit and education of our members," he said. While the union was affiliated to the NUS, he added, "we don't have to follow its policy lines."

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