Anti-Irving groups unite in Oxford
STUDENTS, INTERFAITH groups, trades unions and political organisations have united in a bid to scupper this month’s Oxford Union debate featuring Holocaust denier David Irving and British National Party leader Nick Griffin.
Opponents of the November 26 event met on Monday evening to draw up a plan of action, including a mass demonstration if the meeting goes ahead.
Oxford University Jewish Society co-chair Steven Altmann-Richer explained: “At the start of all this, there was the J-Soc and the Islamic Society. Now there are many organisations involved, some of whom are national and have the funds and experience to fight fascism properly.”
Jewish Oxford West Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris is also taking part in the debate. He defended his involvement on free-speech grounds.
“I understand that many people find the views of Nick Griffin and David Irving offensive,” he told the JC. “But the response must be to argue against them, or to ignore them, but not to play into their hands by trying to ban them.”
Liberal Democrat leadership candidates Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne are supporting Dr Harris’s participa- tion. Mr Clegg said: “I know Evan has the brain-power and communication skills to take on and discredit the vicious ideology of this unholy duo.”
Mr Huhne commented: “While I condemn the appalling views of individuals like Irving and Griffin, I strongly believe that Evan Harris has the skills and the judgment to pull apart their rhetoric and reveal them for what they are.”
Oxford Union president Luke Tryl maintained that the invitations to David Irving and Nick Griffin would not be withdrawn. “I stand by my point that the most important thing is to defeat people in debate. Forcing views underground is much more dangerous. I hope people will come to challenge them.”
Irving was last invited to the Oxford Union six years ago, when David Mitchell was co-chair of the J-Soc. Then, opponents managed to get the invitation withdrawn through a private business motion, tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the Union president. Mr Mitchell said that if the current president was mandated to withdraw the invitation, it would be an affront to members not to do so. However, Mr Tryl disputes this interpretation.
Meanwhile, Irving has not made good on his threat last month to sue the JC if it continued to claim that he is a Holocaust-denier.