Friday, November 30, 2007

Oxford Union; London Jewish Chronicle on debacle

Here is the London Jewish Chronicle's report. While there is not much new in it, the report stresses that the event has lead to closer relations between the Jewish and Muslim students at Oxford.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oxford Union: Media coverage and winners and losers

Here is a good description of and news report on the rally which preceded the debacle at the Oxford Union. Some other coverage includes Independent and the Guardian.

So who were the winners and losers in Monday night's debacle?

In fact, I don't think there were any winners, except possibly for Griffin who can now say that the invitation, in the words of the Independent, "breached an unwritten agreement observed for years by the mainstream political parties – not to give the far right a public platform."

I don't think Irving was a winner. He apparently looked pretty pathetic and will now be linked not just with the term Holocaust denier but also fascist. Hollywood likes to say, "I don't care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right." In this case, I don't think this was good PR for David Irving. He is, as I describe him in History on Trial, the Court Jester.

I don't think the Oxford Union was a winner. It engaged in a big publicity stunt. It displayed really muddled thinking [inviting the two not to discuss their views but then saying their views have to be exposed to be defeated] and it caused tremendous pain and anger.

I don't think the students who stormed the Union looked very good or were winners. They engaged in the kind of strong arm tactics which people should eschew. [I differentiate them from the thousands of students who quietly protested before the event, but then dispersed.]

This did not have to be. One student, Luke Tyrl, the man of the open mind, created a maelstrom, left a lot of people feeling vulnerable and hurt, and showed that you can be smart enough to win entry into Oxford and dumb enough to engage in some terribly stupid behavior.

I will be in the UK next week and hope to meet with some of the Oxford students involved in this matter. More on that next week... Until then I hope we have heard the end of this affair.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oxford Union: David Irving a champion of free speech? Hardly.

According to the BBC, the Independent has described David Irving as an The Independent describes him as "An inconvenient champion of free speech".

Nothing could be further from the truth. He sued me for libel to silence me. He threatened to do the same to Gitta Sereny and to John Lukacs. In fact, Lukacs had to eliminate some of most severe criticism of Irving from his book in order to get it published in the UK.

But, as I have repeatedly predicted in this blog and in other places, laws outlawing Holocaust denial turn the person against whom they are directed into martyrs.

David Irving is neither a martyr -- he chose to go to Austria even though he knew there was a warrant for his arrest -- nor a champion of free speech. To describe as such is to engage in self-delusion of the first order.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oxford Union: An eyewitness account

For those anxious for a blow by blow account, click here

Oxford Union: My statement to pre-"debate" rally

At the request of the organizers , I wrote the following statement which was read to the pre-debate rally:
Why should the Oxford Union give one of its coveted places to a man such as this or a man such as Nick Griffin, who spews hatred and racial prejudice? I am firm believer in free speech. In my country the much maligned First Amendment gives everyone a chance to make a complete “arse” of themselves. However, the right to free speech does not mean that everyone is deserving of a platform at the Oxford Union. If the Union wanted to debate the issue of free speech and laws against expressions of Holocaust denial and racism, there are many good people with severely opposing views who could have been invited to do so. Inviting these two men smacks of a stunt which gives them what they most need to survive: publicity.

The President of the Union has claimed that they are not being invited to spout their views. What then is there for them to say? That they have been denied the right to speak? Griffin has a platform anytime he wants it and David Irving used and abused your courts as a platform to spew his distortions of history.

Some of those who have defended the Oxford Union have called for open minds. The problem with people with open minds is that sometimes their minds are so open their brains fall out. And that is the best that can be said of the organizers of this evening’s debate

Oxford Union: Mini-debates in place of one large show

Instead of one main debate, the Oxford Union conducted two mini-debates. Irving was in one room and Nick Griffin in the other. According to one student who was in the room with Irving, "it was a very balanced argument and both sides did really well. I'm pleased it went ahead."

Balanced??? My deepest fears have materialized.
Count that as a win for Irving....

Oxford Union: Debate delayed 1.5 hours but eventually takes place

The protestors who forced thier way into the Oxford Union managed to delay the "debate" until 10 p.m. when it finally began. No additional details are available right now.

Oxford Union: Lipstadt interview on BBC World Newshour

I did a BBC interview BBC World Service Newshour programme. Here's the link they provided. ( Go the box Watch/Listen and click on the Newshour/GMT 20:00

Oxford Union: INterview with students who dissent from Union's decision

Excellent interview with four students who are members of the OU but who oppose their appearance. Click on the upper right hand side of this page.

Oxford Union: Protestors force way into hall

According to the BBC about 30 protestors forced their way into the hall and are conducting a sit down strike at the debating table.

As I said in an earlier post, what a circus.

Oxford Union: Irving and Griffin to appear shortly

For my posts on the Oxford Union circus click here.

For my posts on the debate about making Holocaust denial illegal, click here.

Rwanda: A new form of genocide denial

REMINDER: Tomorrow night is the program on Rwanda genocide denial at Emory University:

"Beyond Hollywood's Rwanda: Truth and Justice, Security and Development"

Glenn Memorial Auditorium
1652 North Decatur Road
Emory University

Tuesday, Nov.27 6-8PM
Seating begins at 5:30.

Andrew Young
Former Ambassador to the UN and Mayor of Atlanta Chairman, GoodWorks International

James Kimonyo
Rwandan Ambassador to the U.S.

Deborah E. Lipstadt
Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies

Egide Karuranga
Virginia State University Professor
Genocide survivor at the Hotel des Miles Collines

Gregory S. Gordon
University of North Dakota Law Professor, Former legal officer for
International Criminal Court Tribunal for Rwanda

Jeffrey Richter
Senior Historian, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations

Sponsored by:
Rollins School of Public Health, Center for Health, Culture and Society GoodWorks International Young Democrats of Emory

Tickets available at the DUC and RSPH info desk.

Oxford Union: BBC debate

There was a debate on the BBC's Radio 4 about tonight's Oxford Union event. [Scroll down to the 7:30 slot.]

The MP speaking against the invitation kept stressing, correctly to my mind, this is not a matter of "right" to speak at the Oxford Union but of "privilege."

Oxford Union: More muddled thinking

I have been reading the British blogs on today's "debate" at the Oxford Union. Some people have argued that everything should be open to debate, i.e. that there are two sides -- however abhorrent -- to every issue.

This may be true if both sides are telling the truth. If one side makes things up, falsifies their facts, invents claims, and the like then you are not debating an "other" side, you are debating people who are engaging in fiction. [NOTE: I originally wrote non-fiction (it was too short a night) and have corrected it. My thanks to the readers who noticed.]

The only thing this entire matter proves is that some Oxford students do not know how to think logically.

Oxford Union: Controversy Growing

According to the Guardian the controversy over the appearance at the Oxford Union by David Irving and Nick Griffin is growing.

There probably will be an ugly scene there tonight when it takes place. Irving is blaming the Jews, whom he dubs the "traditional enemies" for the opposition. Truth be told, my guess is that he is LOVING every minute of it. The bigger the crowd through which he will have to push his way tonight, the happier he will be.

The shame should be directed at the Oxford Union. If they wanted a debate on Free Speech there are many acredited experts with various views on the topic they could have invited.....

They may be smart but they have trouble reasoning... or. as some folks would say. they are missing a measure of sechel [wisdom]

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oxford Union: Muddled reasoning

The statement issued by Luke Tyrl, the president of the Oxford Union, is a clear example of really muddled thinking. He begins by arguing that Griffin and Irving are:
not being given a platform to extol their views, but are coming to talk about the limits of free speech.
If they are not being given a chance to expound on their views then why does Tyrl go on to say:
What is more, they will be speaking in the context of a forum in which there will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views in a head to head manner.

Obviously he expects them to use the opportunity to expound on their views. He then contends that "that pushing the views of these people underground achieves nothing." Mr. Tyrl seems not to understand that there is a vast difference between pushing views "underground" and simply not giving them a platform at the Oxford Union. Would he say that anyone with a controversial view who has not been privileged to speak at the Union has been driven "underground"? Clearly not.

Moreover he argues that the best way to deal with these people is "to crush these people in debate ." How does he propose "debating" someone such as David Irving who is a proven liar and falsifier of history?

He contends that "it's patronising to suggest that Oxford students aren't intelligent enough to debate with these people."

Challenging someone such as David Irving has little to do with intelligence, it has to do with knowing how he is lying and distorting the facts. And as smart as Oxford students may think they are, just because they are at Oxford does not mean they have the knowledge -- Mr. Tyrl does not seem to recognize the difference between intelligence and knowledge -- to catch a liar who distorts and falsifies.

It is simply hubris to assume that just because you are an Oxford student you automatically have the expertise to pinpoint his lies.

More distressing than the invitation itself is the confused reasoning -- if one can call it that -- of the president of the Union.

Oxford Union: Irving and Griffin to appear

Well it looks like it is official. The members of the Oxford Union, one of the most prestigious debating societies in the world, have voted to invite these two men to appear at the Union on Monday night.

The vote was 2-1 in favor.

The Union's president keeps justifying the invitation in that they were not invited to share their views but to speak about free speech. The president of the Union told the BBC that
"They will be speaking in the context of a forum in which there will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views in a head to head manner."
The fallacy is that on issues of free speech I doubt whether there will be any difference of opinion.

In some perverse fashion I would rather they had been invited to express their views and then, rather than to debate them, to have them properly demolished by the students.

Truth be told, neither of these men deserve this platform. Maybe the students who invited them will go study with the professors at Columbia who thought a coveted platform at that university should be extended to Holocaust and homosexuality denier Ahmadinejad....

Oxford Union: A perceptive observation by The Half-Blood Welshman

See The Half Blood Welshman's comments on the absurd invitation to David Irving, whom a BBC official has stupidly called a "controversial historian."

Someone should remind this BBC dolt that three different judicial entities in England called him or affirmed his being called a liar and a falsifier of history who misrepresents, misconstrues, omits, and perverts the available evidence. According to the judgment, he "treated the historical evidence in a manner which fell far short of the standard to be expected of a conscientious historian."

The Judge had many other less than complimentary things to say about him all of which would essentially disqualify him from being considered an historian.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hate crime statistics in the US

According to the FBI there were the following bias motivation crimes in the US during 2006:

Anti-Black 3,136
Anti-Jewish 1,027
Anti-White 1,008
Anti-Male Homosexual 881
Anti-Hispanic 770
Anti-Female Homosexual 192
Anti-Islamic 191

Oxford Union: Vote today on whether David Irving should appear

The Oxford Union members will be voting on whether David Irving should be allowed to speak.

The outcry against his appearing has been pretty widespread including 2000 people who apparently signed a petition. In addition, Defence Secretary Des Browne and Television presenter June Sarpong withdrew from participating at other events at the Union to express their opposition to the invitation to Irving and Griffin.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams condemned the invites in an exclusive Jewish News interview. The President of the Union, Luke Tyrl, told the online paper, the Jewish News:
“I decided to invite Griffin and Irving to take part in a free speech forum to show that we are not afraid of taking on their views. I find both individuals to be odious, their ideas awful and abhorrent."
Regarding the students who support Irving and Griffin coming he said: These are not people who are sympathetic to the far-right but students who believe in tackling extremism head on."

This is an example of really muddled thinking. No one at the Union seems to support either Irving's or Griffin's views.

By inviting them to a forum on free speech the students tied their own hands. They were presenting them as victims who have been silenced. More importantly, the students at the Union essentially support Irving and Griffin's right to express their opinions. Therefore the end result of the meeting would be a vote for them.

In the end probably neither will appear but they will have gotten more column inches in the press than many more newsworthy topics.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CORRECTION: Rwanda Genocide Denial Panel

The panel at Emory on Rwanda genocide denial will be on NOVEMBER 27th, not January 27 as I mistakingly said in an earlier post

Dropping the Holocaust from textbooks: A Crazy Rumor Persists with a change of continent

[Blogging on the M60 bus in NYC]
edited November 21

A couple of months ago there was a rumor floating around about the UK [as in United Kingdom... you will see shortly why I mention the obvious] dropping the teaching of the Holocaust from its curriculum

It was completely false and was scotched by many people, including then Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Well, proving that nothing absurd ever disappears [hence the persistence of antisemitism], the rumor is back, except now it is about the University of Kentucky [UK, get it??].

And it comes with a completely absurd call for action. The newly added paragraph reads:
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated while the German and Russian peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets. This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!

Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world. How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center 'never happened' because it offends some Muslim in the U.S.??????
These numbers make no sense and historically inaccurate. ["German and Russian peoples"? What's this about Russians looking the other way? Last time I checked Russian/Soviet citizens were among the largest number of victims of World War II, not the Holocaust.]

Then to make matters worse some person has added the following addendum:
Let's not forget the Demoncrat's in the House Defunding of the South Vietnamese in the 1970's leading to the slaughter of unknown millions (estimates 1.8 to 3.2 million) Vietnamese and Cambodians by Pol Pot's Camere [sic.] Rouge and Ho Chi Min's invasion of the South in a short 18 months to two years. That is more than the USA killed in over ten years while in country.
Even if Univ of Kentucky had dropped teaching of the Holocaust - WHICH IT HAS NOT -- what does the Democrats' action in 1970s have to do with it.

Some people have way too much time on their hands.

Review of HISTORY ON TRIAL in Journal of Genocide Research

Journal of Genocide Research, 9:3, pp. 485-87

History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving

Deborah Lipstadt
New York: Harper Collins, 2005
346 pp, $25.95 (hbk)

Reviewed by John Zimmerman

History on Trial is a personal memoir by the defendant in the London trial that garnered worldwide media attention and ended in disgrace for the plaintiff, David Irving. Lipstadt combines the best elements of personal narrative and history writing. Her book is a riveting human drama, as well as an excellent analysis of the historical issues raised at the trial.

The central figure at the trial was David Irving, who had written many books on World War II. Irving argued in Hitler’s War, published in 1977, that the Holocaust was carried out behind Hitler’s back by unruly subordinates. Eventually, he ended up denying the Holocaust altogether. In her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust, Lipstadt identified Irving as a Holocaust denier who had distorted evidence for ideological reasons. This was obvious to anyone who had followed Irving over the years. Indeed, he would regularly appear at gatherings of Holocaust deniers.

At one of these gatherings, he announced that Hitler was “probably the biggest friend the Jews had in the Third Reich. He was the one doing everything he could to prevent nasty things happening to them” (p xviii). This would prove typical of Irving’s antics when addressing Holocaust issues.

Irving sued Lipstadt’s British publisher, Penguin, over the assertions she made about him in Denying the Holocaust (2004). He would have been unable to sue in a US court, but British libel laws are far looser, and more weighted toward the plaintiff, than those in the United States. The suit promised to be very expensive for Lipstadt’s publisher. She feared the publisher might settle on terms favourable to Irving. Her lawyer, Richard Rampton, one of Britain’s foremost barristers and perhaps the major hero of the trial, agreed to take the case pro bono if the publisher chose not to pursue a litigation defence. Nevertheless, Penguin did not back out, and the trial went forward.

It is important to emphasize that it was Lipstadt’s right to free speech that Irving was challenging. His lawsuit could have led to the publisher withdrawing the book in Britain. Characteristically, Irving portrayed himself as the victim. Moreover, as Lipstadt learned, Irving was threatening similar lawsuits against journalist Gitta Sereny and the publisher of historian John Lukacs, both of whom had exposed his flagrant misuse of sources.

The centrepiece of the book is the trial itself. Irving had always craved attention, and now he was at the heart of a major drama unfolding in a London courtroom. Indeed, he decided to represent himself. The end result is that he used a world stage to make a fool of himself.

Lipstadt recounts in detail the massive evidence presented at the trial, which showed quite conclusively that not only was Irving a Holocaust denier, but that he intentionally misused historical sources to present Hitler in a favourable light. In Hitler’s War, he claimed that a memo by SS chief Heinrich Himmler, which instructed that Jews were not to be liquidated, showed that Hitler was against killings. As it turned out, the actual memo referred only to a particular transport, and was issued before Himmler met with Hitler that day. But Irving failed to draw the logical conclusion: that Hitler must have known of the Holocaust, if he was aware that this one transport was not to be liquidated.

Irving was also asked about a document that showed 363,000 Jews murdered over a four-month period—a document marked “shown to the Fu¨hrer.” Irving’s response was typical: that if Hitler saw the document, he probably paid no attention to it, because he was busy with the war.

For Irving, no absurdity was too great. When asked to explain how residues of poison gas ended up in morgues that had been identified in Auschwitz as homicidal gas chambers, Irving answered that the room was used “for fumigating objects or cadavers” (p 131). The presiding judge asked him why a corpse would be gassed. Irving replied that it was necessary to kill the vermin that inhabited the corpse. Yet, these bodies would be incinerated in the crematoria ovens located in the same buildings as the morgue. Why fumigate a body about to be incinerated?

Misrepresentations are common when Irving writes about Nazis and Jews. He claimed that the German authorities attempted to stop the anti-Jewish riots known as Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) in November 1938. Yet, when reviewing Irving’s own sources, the exact opposite proved to be the case. The actual orders stated that the anti-Jewish demonstrations should not be hindered.

Irving was also adept at fabricating figures. He multiplied by a factor of ten the number of German deaths that resulted from the Allied bombings of Dresden to show that Allied crimes equalled, if not exceeded, those of the Germans. One of his most egregious examples was the claim in his biography of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that in 1932 German Jews were responsible for 31,000 cases of fraud, mainly from insurance. His source for this was an article in a Nazi propaganda publication. In fact, the real figure was 74 cases for all insurance fraud in 1932.

Irving claimed that his errors were not intentional. However, the presiding judge noted that all of his errors were in favour of Hitler, while none ran in the opposite direction. This suggested that the mistakes were hardly innocent.

The court’s verdict was that Irving was a Holocaust denier who had deliberately falsified the historical record to promote his ideological beliefs. Lipstadt concludes that “David Irving had been far less formidable than any of us imagined. His fanciful claims had crumpled under the simple weight of facts” (pp 298–299).

Yet, in a strange way, it was Irving, not Lipstadt, who made the best case for the Holocaust. Ironically, by revealing himself as a fraud in the global media spotlight, Irving has done more to discredit Holocaust denial than all the critical books written on the topic combined. In fact, in the conspiratorial world Irving inhabits, he could even be classified as an agent of the “traditional enemy” (i.e. Jews). For Irving, who so craves attention, this point is probably irrelevant. For at least some period, much world attention was focused on him.

His recent arrest and incarceration in Austria, for Holocaust denial, suggests that the verdict I passed on him in 2000 remains valid: “What can be said about Irving is that he knows a great deal but has learned nothing.”1

John C. Zimmerman
University of Nevada Las Vegas

Lipstadt, D. E. (2004). Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (London: Penguin).

1 John C. Zimmerman, Holocaust Denial: Demographics, Testimonies and Ideologies (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000), p 172.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oxford Union: David Irving's invitation hanging by a thread

Today's Independent suggests that it is quite doubtful whether, when all the protests are said and done, Irving will still be welcome at the Oxford Union.

Oxford Union: David Irving invited to speak

Well, in a classic example of having minds so open your brains fall out, the Oxford Union, one of the most prestigious debating sites in the world, has invited David Irving to speak there.

Coupled with with Irving is the far-right British National Party Leader Nick Griffin had been invited to a forum on free speech. In response Britain's defense secretary and at least three lawmakers have cancelled appearances at the debating group.

Irving has the right to speak there. The question is why would the students invite someone who has tried to silence anyone who criticizes him, who has been shown to be a liar and falsifier of history, and who consistently plays with the facts, bending them until they fit his needs.

Given that the topic is free speech, I hope someone asks Irving about his attempt to curtail my free speech with his lawsuit against me. Remember, he offered to settle if I agreed that all copies of my book should be pulped.

While over a 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for Prime Minister Gordon Brown to condemn the invitations to Irving and Griffin, I hope Gordon Brown does not do this. David Irving is simply not important enough -- or at all -- to warrant a statement by the Prime Minister of England.

In fact, a statement by the PM will make Irving's day.

Egyptian cleric preaches antisemitism to children

If this is what Egyptian children are watching on television than those who look forward to a day of peace are really "dreamers."

Watch the whole 2+ minutes of it. The last lines are the real shockers.

I get lots of "Islam is despicable" emails which I discard in disgust. I have always hated and continue to hate condemnation of an entire people or faith. However, watching enough of this kind of stuff truly tries one's spirit.

Rwanda: A new form of genocide denial

Corrected on November 20th:

On November 27th there will be a panel at Emory University regarding Rwanda genocide denial. These deniers cannot, of course, deny that the killings took place but they try to depict them as the "normal" course of business in Rwanda.

The mantra of these deniers is: Tutsis have been killing Hutus for years. This was an example of the Hutus striking back.

Other than simply being incorrect, this mantra essentially blames the victims for their own brutal deaths. What will surprise most readers of this blog -- it certainly surprised me -- is that one of the people who has been most active in spreading this form of denial is Paul Rusesabagina.

If his name does not ring a bell, think Hotel Rwanda. He is the central character. He is speaking on college campuses, including Emory and serious scholars in many fields are deeply worried. At Emory these scholars include people who worked in Rwanda for years prior to the genocide and who witnessed the horrors up close.

This is not simply a matter of historical revisionism but also an attempt to destabilize the current government of Rwanda which has, apparently, made tremendous strides in creating stability and reinvigorating the economy.

On November 27th there will be a high powered panel to address this issue:
Beyond Hollywood’s Rwanda: Truth and Justice, Security and Development

Location: Glenn Memorial Auditorium, Emory University
Time: Tuesday, Nov. 27 6-8 PM

Andrew Young Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and Mayor of Atlanta, Chairman, Goodworks Intl

James Kimonyo Rwandan Ambassador to the U.S.

Deborah E. Lipstadt Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies

Egide Karuranga Virginia State University Professor, Genocide survivor at the Hotel des
Miles Collines

Gregory S. Gordon University of North Dakota Law Professor, Former legal Officer for International Criminal Court Tribunal for Rwanda

Jeffrey Richter Senior Historian, US Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations

Limited Seating. Free Tickets available at DUC information desk, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory School of Law, and other Atlanta locations.

Details at

Ticketing Information: