Anti-Irv­ing groups unite in Ox­ford

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY RACHEL FLETCHER ANDLEONSYMONS

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.

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