Posted Friday, January 18, 2002

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[Mr Irving] can, after all, continue to peddle his now-discredited revisionism without fear of legal impediment. -- Editorial

Friday 18 January 2002, 5 Shevat 5762 Erev Shabbat


Jewish ChronicleSpeakers Corner

Irving's 'freedom'

THERE is a depressing sense of déjà-vu about the move by some members of Nottingham University's student union to invite David Irving to speak at its debating society.

It was less than a year ago that the venerable Oxford Union asked Mr Irving to speak, only to withdraw the invitation at the eleventh hour after an all-night meeting of union members overwhelmingly urged its president to reconsider.

Then, as now, those in favour of asking the Holocaust revisionist to speak had contrived to present him as a doughty symbol of freedom of expression -- a victim of forces bent on preventing him from researching and writing about Hitler's Germany.

The Oxford Union's Internet site went so far as to say that he had been the target of recent "legal challenges" over his Holocaust-denial. Nottingham, similarly, now wants him to share his insights into the "difficulty of writing the history of the Third Reich."

This implied portrait of Mr Irving is at best naive; at worst, disingenuous. The "legal challenge" to which the Oxford blurb alluded was mounted not against Mr Irving but by him -- in a High Court libel action against American academic Deborah Lipstadt over a book in which she had accused him of deliberately and dangerously twisting the historical record. Irving lost.

A High Court judge branded him "anti-Semitic and racist," saying he had "persistently and deliberately manipulated historical evidence" and had associated with "right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism."

Mr Irving may well, as his would-be hosts at Nottingham seem to believe, be an expert in the "difficulty of writing the history of the Third Reich." But the nature of that "difficulty" can be in little doubt after his High Court drubbing: it is not because others do not want to hear the truth, but because Irving has deliberately sought to misrepresent it.

And the issue raised by the Oxford and Nottingham invitations is not Mr Irving's freedom of speech. He can, after all, continue to peddle his now-discredited revisionism without fear of legal impediment.

It is why, given his unmasking in the High Court, presumably intelligent and informed union members at major British universities would want to offer Mr Irving a podium -- especially, obscenely, as a symbol of the very freedom of expression which he tried, and signally failed, to deny Deborah Lipstadt.

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