An Irving Trial in Israel?

splaut@econ.haifa.edu.il

27 December 2003

Dear Professor Plaut

 Your defence fund

 

It is with interest I note you are facing a libel suit because you dared use the usual shut-up words against an alleged left-wing academic whose politics you do not share.
 
I do not share your politics but I still defend your right to use, among others, these stupid words to describe your foe - antisemite, 'Holocaust' denier.
 
From personal experience I, too, have been labelled as such and find that those who engage in such labelling are stuck in a rut of World War Two propaganda - and that's just on 60 years old. I think it is time you liberate yourself from such stifling conceptual framework and look upon our world with renewed vigour and clarity. There is nothing like getting out of a conceptual prison in which both you and professor Gordon find yourself.
 
Perhaps it is also now time for you to open yourself to an analysis of the concepts 'denialism' and 'antisemitism', so that the substance of the debate emerges free of too much ideological German hatred baggage, that being the essence of any material that promotes the 'Holocaust' as an ideology.
 
Sincerely
 
Dr Fredrick Töben
Adelaide Institute
 
=============


The David Irving Trial In Israel

American Daily
| Steven Plaut, 12/26/03
 
In the now world-famous libel suit between Holocaust Denier David Irving
and Dr. Deoborah Lipstadt, Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher. Lipstadt
had written that Irving was a Nazi apologist and admirer of Hitler.

She had asserted that Irving was a Holocaust Denier who had distorted facts
and manipulated documents to prove that there had been no genocide of Jews
during World War II. Irving sued for libel. He claimed that Lipstadt
damaged his reputation and credentials as a serious historian and writer.

Lipstadt's claims against Irving were in part based on Irving's own efforts
as apologist for and promoter of the writings and views of the Neonazi and
Holocaust Denier, Ernst Zundel, who was on trial at the time in Canada.

Dr. Lipstadt's defense was that her depiction of Irving as a Nazi and
Holocaust Denier was entirely true and backed up by numerous writings by
Irving himself. She presented evidence in court that Irving is a racist, an
extremist anti-Semite, and associated with anti-Semitic Right-wing
extremists.

The judgment in the case was handed down in April, 2000. The court found
for the defendant's (meaning Lipstadt). The British court found that her
assertions were simply statements of fact. The judge confirmed that Irving
had served as an apologist for Neonazis and anti-Semites, and rejected his
denials that he is an extremist, racist and anti-Semite. (It continues to
be a fact that he regularly appears before and writes for anti-Semitic
audiences.) The court ordered Irving to pay 150,000 pounds sterling in
damages for his baseless suit against Lipstadt. The judgment and the legal
costs are estimated by the Guardian to have cost Irving between one and two
million pounds and to have forced him into bankruptcy.

The British court said effectively that it is not libelous to tell the
truth about a fanatic extremist. It is not libelous to denounce him in
strong terms. Extremists may not use the court as a club to stifle
denunciations of their behavior and writings by those who are vehemently
critical of their views.

It is one of the bizarre twists of the political scene in Israel that a
David Irving Trial of sorts is taking place there at the moment. It is a
trial that bears many similarities to the actual David Irving Trial in
Britain. To begin with, it involves a political extremist suing for libel a
courageous critic who labeled him an anti-Semite and fanatic because of his
writings and political behavior.

The Israeli plaintiff is himself a writer, who has often been cited and
featured on the personal web site of the British David Irving. His writings
have been published on Neonazi and Holocaust Denier web sites, as well as
in other anti-Semitic and Islamist fundamentalist journals and web sites.

The defendant argues that the plaintiff is attempting to use the court as a
club to suppress free speech in an anti-democratic manner: the plaintiff
has filed a frivolous nuisance suit to bully his critics so that they will
be afraid to denounce the plaintiff's political views and behavior.

There are other significant similarities between the two trials. In both,
the plaintiff has a record of praising and promoting the views of people
commonly seen as Holocaust Deniers. In both, the plaintiff's associates
with extremist anti-Semitic organizations and with individuals widely
considered to be anti-Semites, and collaborate with them in publishing
their views. Both plaintiffs are venomously critical of Israel and its
leaders and have expressed "understanding" for anti-Israel terrorism. In
both cases the extremist plaintiffs claim that their good names as
researchers were damaged by those who attack their behavior and denounce
their writings and opinions. In both cases, no attempt was made to prove
that actual material damages were suffered by the plaintiff.

In short, both plaintiffs in the two David Irving Trials used the framework
of a libel suit to try to force their critics into silence. There is one
important difference though. The Israeli 'David Irving' is himself an
Israeli and a Jew.

Moreover, while David Irving was never on the faculty of a bona fide
academic institution, the plaintiff in the Israeli David Irving Trial is.
He is Dr. Neve Gordon, from the Department of Political Science at
Ben-Gurion University. The defendant in Gordon's libel suit is the
professor, columnist and writer, Prof. Steven Plaut. He is on the faculty
of the University of Haifa.

Neve Gordon teaches political science at Ben Gurion University; he is a
member of a department that is nearly wall-to-wall leftist. He holds a
Ph.D. from Notre Dame University, a Catholic school in Indiana. Most of the
articles he has published are politicalized and/or devoted to attacking
Israeli policies and/or denounce Israel as a terrorist country The Middle
East Quarterly has declared him to be one of Israel's academic extremists.

Gordon goes beyond the chic support for the PLO and its positions so common
today among Israeli academic leftists. Gordon has allied himself and
collaborated with a wide variety of anti-Semites and anti-Semitic
organizations. He used to lead the Physicians for Human Rights in Israel
(despite not being a MD himself), a pro-Arab organization so extreme that
it has been publicly denounced by the Israel Medical Association. It was
condemned as an openly anti-Semitic organization by Prof. Gerald Steinberg
of Bar Ilan University, who, together with 200 other people, signed a
petition to that effect.

Gordon also maintains a long-term ongoing collaboration with Alexander
Cockburn, the anti-Israel Far Leftist American columnist and publisher of
Counterpunch magazine. Cockburn has been repeatedly denounced as an
anti-Semite by The New Republic and by a variety of other journals and
columnists, including the Seattle Times, Declaration Foundation, Prof.
Edward Alexander, LewRockwell.Com, LeftWatch, and Christian Action for
Israel. Cockburn has openly given credence to reports that Jews spread
anthrax in the US and that Israel was part of a conspiracy to topple the
World Trade Center. Cockburn insists Jews conspire to control the media.
Gordon has published a large number of articles attacking Israel in
Counterpunch.

Gordon is active in a Far-Left Israeli organization with the Arabic name
Taayush, which in Gordon's own words (cited in an interview) is a seditious
organization that "opposes Arab-Jewish coexistence". But Gordon's screeds
appeal to an audience that goes beyond the mere vocal critics of Israel.
Gordon's articles have been published and cited on a wide variety of
neonazi, Holocaust Denial, and Islamist fundamentalist newspapers and web
sites. On several neonazi web sites, a work by Gordon is cited right after
a citation from Hitler himself, making for curious footnote bedfellows.

Gordon has published articles attacking Israel in the Egyptian anti-Semitic
daily Al-Ahram, which routinely spreads anti-Jewish blood libels. Gordon's
articles have been published by al-Jazeera, the same Iraqi-subsidized Arab
news agency that airs the speeches of Bin Laden and broadcast the shots of
the Allied troops being murdered by Saddam's Republic Guards during the
recent war. The Holocaust-denying Radio Islam internet web site carries the
writings of Gordon alongside its reprinting of The Protocols of the Elders
of Zion. Radio Islam also indulges in traditional medieval anti-Jewish
blood libels, and Der Sturmer-like cartoons showing Jews drinking blood.

Gordon's articles have been published on the Electronic Intifada, a
pro-terror web site, and on the web site of the anti-Jewish Islamist
pro-Hamas CAIR organization in the US. While Gordon claims that he himself
did not place his articles on some of these more anti-Semitic web sites,
the fact that the articles appealed to the operators of those sites
sufficiently for them to carry them speaks volumes about their contents.
Gordon is one of the few Israelis whose writings are cited with honor on
the web site of David Irving himself, the convicted British Holocaust
Denier.

In his writings, Gordon repeatedly insists Israel is a fascist state and a
terrorist state, engaging in state terrorism that is no different morally
from the mass atrocities of Palestinian and other terrorists. He has
denounced Israeli fascism not only in English but also on web sites in
German and Italian. Not only has he denounced Ariel Sharon and Benjamin
Netanyahu as war criminals, he has attacked leftist Labor-Party
Ultra-Oslo-Dove Ehud Barak. Gordon has written that Bibi Netanyahu is the
continuation of Yigal Amir, the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin, and is a spy,
criminal or terrorist. He insists Sharon delights in the deaths of Arabs
and Jews. He was one of the signers of the petitions before the recent Iraq
war declaring that Israel was planning to perpetrate atrocities and massive
crimes against humanity once the war broke out. Ben-Dror Yemini, a
columnist at Maariv, has denounced all such signatories as being the
Israeli equivalents of Lord Haw-Haw, the British traitor and lackey of
Hitler during World War II. Gordon repeatedly endorses insubordination and
mutiny by Israelis refusing to serve in the military and is active in
political groups supporting the mutineers. He has compared Israel to
apartheid South Africa and has called the Zionist Organization of America
in the United States racist.

Gordon has repeatedly endorsed general boycotts against Israel and his
articles are carried by pro-boycott web sites, magazines and organizations.
He has expressed sympathy for the bi-national state solution, in which
Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish state. He has expressed
understanding for terrorism because it is caused by injustice. He has
repeatedly insisted that Israel - and specifically Prime Minister Ehud
Barak - only understands violence, implying that Arabs should engage in
more of it. He considers Israel the main culprit responsible for Middle
East violence, and insists this was so even when Barak was Prime Minister.
Gordon's politics are so extremist that one of the professors at Notre
Dame, where Gordon got his Ph.D. has denounced him venomously in writing
and wished him to be blown up by terrorists in an Israeli mall.

Gordon has been active among those Israeli and international Leftists
seeking to interfere with Israeli military operations against Palestinian
terrorists in the territories. He has worked with Taayush and the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in trying to prevent Israeli
actions against terrorism there, and - according to his own admission - he
was arrested for this at least once.

After the Netanya Passover Massacre of 2002, Israel launched Operation
Defensive Wall against the terrorists. During that operation, Gordon was
one of the group of Far Leftists who illegally infiltrated Israeli army
lines and entered Arafat's besieged headquarters in Ramallah to prevent
Israel from arresting the wanted terrorists holed up there, and trying to
block IDF attempts to attack Arafat's offices. On February 2, 2002,
Israel's Haaretz daily carried a large photo of Gordon in a warm embrace
with Arafat in his besieged Ramallah headquarters, clasping hands together
in a heart-warming show of solidarity. These hands of Arafat being clasped
with affection by Gordon were the very same that signed the orders for the
murders of hundreds of Israelis. No photo of Gordon showing solidarity with
the victims of Arafat's terror was ever printed in the paper.

The most dramatic manifestation of Gordon's political extremism is his
promotion and praise of the scribblings of Norman Finkelstein.

Finkelstein is by now fairly well know for his book The Holocaust Industry
and other writings in which he trivializes and mocks the Holocaust and
claims that virtually all Holocaust survivors are liars, thieves, and
cheats. Finkelstein has been denounced as a Holocaust Denier, neonazi,
Holocaust trivializer, anti-Semite, fraud, pseudo-researcher, and worse, by
nearly every reviewer in every legitimate medium that has discussed him and
his book. He was fired from jobs at two New York area academic institutions
and now is employed by a Catholic college in Chicago. The NY Times has
compared Finkelstein's book to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The
British Guardian claims Finkelstein is an anti-Semite and a Holocaust
Denier. The Washington Post declares Finkelstein an anti-Semite with ties
to Nazis. Moment magazine, the ADL, the World Jewish Congress, Elie Wiesel,
Prof. Edward Alexander, Alan Dershowitz, the Canadian Jewish News, the web
site on Anti-Semitism at the University of Tel Aviv, Dennis Prager, the
Jerusalem Report, Jonah Daniel Goldhagen, and many others have denounced
Finkelstein as a nazi, Holocaust Denier, fraud, and/or anti-Semite.
Finkelstein is also on record endorsing Arab terror and the destruction of
Israel.

Finkelstein has become the featured hero of virtually every Holocaust
Denial and Neonazi web site on earth. He is the Nazi's pet Jewish
historian, whose research proves there was never any Holocaust of Jews by
the Germans at all. The Neonazis insist his writings prove that talk about
a Holocaust is all a Zionist hoax.

As it turns out, Neve Gordon from Ben-Gurion University has published
articles in the leftist magazine The Nation, in Israel's Haaretz, and on
several web sites that not only sing Finkelstein's praises and endorse many
of the themes in Finkelstein's books, but has actually compared Finkelstein
favorably to the Prophets of the Bible. Finkelstein himself is so proud of
Gordon's praise that he features one of Gordon's articles on his own
personal web site. Gordon may in fact be the only academic at a bona fide
university in the world who acknowledges Finkelstein as a serious
researcher.

All of which brings us to Gordon's libel suit against Professor Plaut. On
various occasions Plaut has criticized Gordon's political opinions and
political behavior on the internet. Gordon regards such criticism of
himself as libel. In rather typical leftist manner, Gordon seems to believe
that the most extremist, fanatic and outrageous behavior and opinions of
leftists must be protected as free speech, but criticism by non-leftists
must be suppressed, using the courts and lawyers as an anti-democratic
bully club.

Leftists in many countries use the filing of frivolous nuisance libel suits
as a guerilla tactic to suppress the free speech of their critics. Gordon's
libel suit against Prof. Plaut is based mainly on two short sets of
comments that Plaut wrote on the internet about Gordon and his friends. In
one, Plaut described Gordon as a groupie of Holocaust Denier Norman
Finkelstein. In Gordon's suit he intentionally mistranslates this into
Hebrew as if Plaut were saying that Gordon is walking in the furrow of
Holocaust Deniers. The fact that Gordon describes Norman Finkelstein as the
moral equivalent of Biblical Prophets would seem to make his describing
Gordon as a groupie of Finkelstein factually unchallengeable.

The other comment of Prof. Plaut's that upset Gordon was in an internet
posting reporting the actions of the human shields entering Arafat's
headquarters to defend wanted Palestinian terrorists during Operation
Defensive Shield. Plaut reported that Gordon himself had entered the
headquarters with these people and was thus to be found among the Judenrat
wannabes. Haaretz had just published Gordon's photo in his solidarity
embrace with Arafat. Describing people who appoint themselves as
representatives and liaisons to mass murderers of Jews might legitimately
be described as Judenrat wannabes. But Gordon and his Arab lawyer from East
Jerusalem insist it is libelous.

Plaut also described Gordon as a fanatic anti-Semite because of his
endorsements of Finkelstein's ideas and writings. In any case, if proof
were needed that this is so, a very large host of anti-Jewish, neonazi and
Holocaust-Denial web sites and newspapers themselves regard Gordon as
sufficiently anti-Semitic to publish his writings. (In one of the more
amusing features of Gordon's suit, he insists that Prof. Plaut also libeled
him in several articles about him that were not published by Plaut at all
but that Gordon believes were inspired by Plaut.) In short, Gordon has
decided that Plaut will play the role of Deborah Lipstadt in Israel's
analogue to the David Irving trial. Plaut is represented by Israeli
Attorney Dr. Haim Misgav.

Everything Plaut has written about Gordon is simply an assessment of
Gordon's own political writings and behavior. Gordon is a public figure -
an Op-Ed columnist, a representative of several radical political
organizations, a very public hand-holder of Yassir Arafat - and criticism
of his political opinions and political actions is a legitimate expression
of free speech. Plaut's criticisms and denunciations of Gordon's behavior
and writings were evoked by Gordon's own political behavior, exactly as
were Deborah Lipstadt's denunciations of David Irving. Actually, Plaut has
never met Gordon and knew nothing about him before the suit, other than
from his political writings and actions.

In recent years, filing frivolous libel suits has become a common form of
harassment in Israel, where free speech on the right is sometimes
weakly-protected and where libel laws allow attempts at suing for all sorts
of things that are regarded as protected speech in most other democratic
systems. In a (in)famous recent case, a leftist professor of philosophy at
Tel Aviv University sued four people, including two other professors, for
libel. He lost and was ordered to pay the defendant's a large sum for court
costs and damages. The David Irving Trial of Israel is likely to have a
similar outcome.

Free speech in Israel is under assault and the defeat of frivolous libel
suits is a crucial part of its protection. Meanwhile, readers who would
like to tell the authorities at Ben Gurion University what they think of
Gordon's writings and behavior should write to Professor Avishay Braverman,
President of Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba 84105 Israel. Letters to the
American Associates of Ben Gurion University (AABGU) should be sent to 1430
Broadway, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Zvi Alon is President of AABGU and
Seth Moskowitz is the Executive Vice-President. (phone: 212-687-7721; fax:
212-302-6443; email: info@aabgu.org)

Anyone interested in defending free speech through helping defray Prof.
Plaut's legal costs is invited to contact him directly. His email address
is splaut@econ.haifa.edu.il

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