Posted Friday, May 11, 2001

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Holocaust denier is denied a chance to debate at Oxford

By Richard Allen Greene

LONDON, May 10 (JTA) - A student group at Oxford has canceled a debate on freedom of speech that was to feature Holocaust denier David Irving.

The Oxford Union, a debating society, decided to call off the event at the last minute after intense pressure from a range of groups including the Union of Jewish Students, the Anti-Nazi League, the Association of University Teachers and Oxford's own Student Union.

The Anti-Nazi League, which had planned protests at the debate, originally scheduled for Thursday, hailed the cancellation as "great news."

"It would have been horrendous for David Irving to get to speak in Britain," league spokeswoman Debbie Jack said.

The debate was to address the question of whether there should be restrictions on the freedom of speech of extremists.

Irving was scheduled to argue against restrictions, while Richard Rampton, one of the lawyers who successfully defended Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt from Irving's libel lawsuit last year, was to argue in favor.

David Mitchell, a Jewish student at Oxford, coordinated campus opposition to the event.

After distributing leaflets and pressuring other members of the panel to pull out of the debate, he put motions to the Oxford Union condemning the Irving invitation and demanding that it be canceled.

At a four-hour meeting on Tuesday, students voted 95 to 15 in favor canceling the debate, union spokesman Daniel Johnson said.

Under union rules, the votes were not binding on President Amy Harland.

She said she would announce her decision on Wednesday morning, the day before the event was to take place. At 1 p.m., a notice went up saying that the event had been canceled.

"To see it happen at the 11th hour was spectacular," Mitchell told JTA. "It's not easy to cancel something like this at the last minute," he added.

This is the third time in recent years that Oxford has canceled a planned Irving appearance.

But Johnson said that having him participate in a free speech debate was different.

"He was not coming to discuss his beliefs, but to participate in a debate with vigorous opposition," he said.

The Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization that represents most British Jews, does not accept the distinction.

"By giving him a platform, whatever the topic, you are giving him a legitimacy that he did not have after the libel trial," a Board spokesman said.

In a highly publicized London case last year, Irving lost his lawsuit against Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier. In his ruling, the judge found that Irving "is a Holocaust denier, anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism."

Related items on this website:

  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

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