|Israel Resource Review
||23rd Febuary, 2006
In the Case Against David Irving, Has Justice Been Served?
Dr. Alex Grobman
British Holocaust denier David Irving has been sentenced to three
years in prison in Austria for denying that the Holocaust occurred. As the
author of a number of books on the military history of World War II, Irving
is the most historically sophisticated of the deniers, yet he is not a
trained professional historian.
The trial raises the question whether Irving has recanted and whether
jail time is justified for this violation. Fabricating history is a threat
to the way all groups pass on their history from one generation to the next.
That is why it is so pernicious. The Jews of Europe went to great lengths to
ensure that what happened would be not be forgotten, not only for the sake
of the Jewish people, but for the world.
At his trial, Irving acknowledged that the Nazis had attempted to
systematically murder the Jews of Europe, and that there were homicidal gas
chambers at Auschwitz. This is an important admission. At the David Irving/
Deborah Lipstadt trial in London in 2000, Irving asserted that the gas
chambers were used to gas "objects and cadavers."
After Irving concluded that there were no homicidal gas chambers at
Auschwitz in 1988, he did not visit the archives or the archeological
remnants at Auschwitz to determine if this was true. He could not go, he
said, because it was under communist rule. Yet this did not stop others from
doing research in Poland during that period. Later Irving argued that
Auschwitz authorities would not allow him access to the camp for fear of
what he might find.
Was his guilty plea to this criminal offense in Austria a ploy to
preclude being imprisoned for the maximum of 10 years as the law allowed or
did it signal a change in Irving's thinking?
According to Ha'aretz, after pronouncing the sentence, Peter Liebetreu,
the presiding judge at the trial, said, "The court did not consider the
defendant to have genuinely changed his mind. The regret he showed was
considered to be mere lip service to the law."
Irving's willingness to concede historical errors he once held when
confronted by a prosecutor in a courtroom is not new. In the Irving/Lipstadt
trial, Justice Charles Grey found that "a striking feature of the case" was
that "Irving made, or appeared to make, concessions about major issues,"
that were different to those he alleged prior to the trial. Previously, he
claimed for example, that the mass shooting of Jews in the former Soviet
Union and elsewhere in the East had not been officially authorized, but were
the actions of small groups of criminals, and that Hitler had limited
information about the killings. At the trial, Irving agreed that conceivably
1.5 million Jews were systematically killed under orders from Reinhard
Robert January van Pelt, a key expert on Auschwitz for the defense, also
notes that Irving was forced to change his claim "on the basis of
probabilities," that Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka were extermination
Justice Grey concluded that he was "unable to accept Irving's
contention that his falsification of the historical record is the product of
innocent error or misinterpretation or incompetence on his part. " It
appeared that "for the most part the falsification of the historical record
was deliberate and that Irving was motivated by a desire to present events.
consistent with his own ideological beliefs even if that involved distortion
and manipulation of historical evidence."
Should Irving be incarcerated for this transgression or should his
views be seen as an act of free speech? In Austria and German the situation
is different than in the U.S. In these countries, Holocaust denial, Nazi
symbols, literature and music are banned.
Hans-Ulrich Wehler, one of Germany's most esteemed historians, is quoted
in Spiegel Magazine as favoring of Irving's incarceration. "The Holocaust,"
he said "is a matter of the industrially organized mass murder of six
million human beings. And to brazenly deny this, in the peculiar manner of
the current Iranian government, is unbearable at least in the German public
sphere." After the initial success of the (neo-Nazi) NPD "in the late
sixties, right-wing radicals began to pose as 'avengers' of a sort,"
prompting a ruling that one could be prosecuted in Germany for denying the
Holocaust. This has been "a gradual process," which did not begin
immediately after 1949.
Those who fear that this will make Irving a martyr should know that after
the trial in London, his followers greeted him as a hero. To the true
believers, he will remain their champion.
At the end of the London trial, Richard Rampton, the British defense
attorney, bemoaned that the victory did not make a difference: "The judgment
doesn't bring the dead back, it doesn't bring them back." That was never the
point as London reporter James Dalrymple observed. "Historical
revisionism," he observed, "has only one subject-the Holocaust. Here "doubt
can be planted like seed in the wind, to grow and fester as the screams of
history grow fainter with the years." The trial exposed Irving as a
falsifier of history. It is imperative that we not allow those who wish to
distort our history be given free reign to do so. Our ancestors urged that
we "know how to respond." That is our task.
Dr. Grobman is co-author of Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never
Happened and Why Do They Say It? University of California Press, 2000.
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A Public Apology to Steven Spielberg:
About two months ago, I published remarks about Steven Spielberg's new movie, Munich:
"The movie Munich, produced by, Steven Spielberg, represents the ultimate of moral equivalency, since it equates the 'human interest' story of PLO murderers with the human interest of the unarmed Israeli athletes whom they murdered."
These comments relied on reviews of Munich from well-meaning friends of Israel abroad. Only now that I've seen the movie myself here in Jerusalem do I realize that their perception of what distorts reality in Israel is far different from the reality that we live here in Israel.
Now, I can say clearly there is no moral equivalency whatsoever in this movie. I owe Mr. Spielberg a public apology.
Munich portrays every PLO members as uncompromising in their zeal to destroy Israel and to justify the murder of anyone who gets in the way of that goal. No moral equivalency here.
Munich represents a breakthrough of sorts, as it portrays the Israeli soldier with battle fatigue.
Avner, the film's main protagonist, is an Israeli war hero who risks his life to save fellow countrymen from the clutches of PLO murderers, yet he succumbs to doubt about the justice of the battle for the Jewish State.
Avner represents so many Israelis I have encountered in my 36 years here as a student, social worker and journalist, people trying to cope with a crisis of confidence in the very Zionism that pioneered the State of Israel
Avner knows his past: the murder of his family at the hands of the Nazis, their rescue and salvation by the creation of Israel, and the price his father paid with a long and painful imprisonment at the hands of the British.
But Avner is plagued about his present , as he wanders European capitals, eating pork sausages at every stop, wondering aloud, together with his fellow combatants about why they are really killing off the PLO.
He and the soldiers serving under him ask questions and, tragically, get no answers. Even worse, none of their commanding officers are prepared to give them real answers.
From Zion to Brooklyn
Avner, at the end of the movie, has no future, not as an Israeli and not as a Jew, as he begins a new life with his wife and little girl in a non Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, detached from his roots in Zion.
A sequel to Munich could be entitled "Brooklyn," with an opening scene of Avner working as a paunchy security guard on a subway platform, playing "shesh besh" (backgammon) at night with other Israelis in exile, watching his children "marry out", his grandson go to church, and continuously mulling over and reliving those two great years when he pursued the killers of the Israeli Olympic athletes.
Avner reminds me of countless Israeli soldiers whom I have encountered who have the physical ability to fight, yet their moral stamina is conflicted. They are confused about what they are fighting for and lack basic knowledge about whom they are fighting against in active combat.
Indeed, it is hard to find any Israeli intelligence officer who has ever seen an official Palestinian Authority newspaper, an official Palestinian Authority textbook or watched even one minute of official PA TV or listened to a PA radio broadcast praising the murder of Jews in the struggle to liberate all of Palestine.
Munich could easily be used by Israeli Intelligence to train a future generation of crack Israeli troops, to recognize that Israeli soldier must know and recognize the nature of Israel's adversaries, so that they will have the mental and moral capacity to fight the next battle in the continuing war forIsraeli independence, which is not yet over.
The time has come for Israeli intelligence to cope with the effect of the implosion of the peace process on a generation of Israeli soldiers who thought Israel and its Arab neighbors were heading for an era of peace and reconciliation, after 13 years of massive "peace preparation" in Israeli society,
It may be troubling for a supporter of Israel abroad to cope with the fact thatIsrael's fighters can turn into mush and ask hard questions in between battles.
My first teacher at Hebrew University, Dr. Michael Rosenak, warned 36 years ago that "Israel's supporters abroad have a tendency to make ideological idealizations out of someone else's reality".
It may have troubled many Israel supporters to witness a troubled Avner in "Munich", 2005, rather than a swggering Kirk Douglas ("Cast a Giant Shadowm," 1965) fighting for Israel.
This piece appeared on YNetNews, the internet edition of Yediot Aharonot, on February 23rd, 2006
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CHRISTIANS UNDER THREAT IN GAZA
Middle East News Line
GAZA CITY [MENL] -- The tiny Christian community in the Gaza Strip has come
Palestinians have threatened to blow up a Christian center in Gaza City. The Palestinian Bible Society was accused of missionary activities and given until February 28 to leave the Gaza Strip.
"We are under serious threat," a Gaza Christian who did not want to be
identified said. "There is nobody here willing to help us."
[On Friday, at least two Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. Two other Palestinians were injured in an Israeli air strike meant to stop a Kassam-class missile launch.]
This was the latest threat against the 1,500 Christians in the Gaza Strip. In early February, the only church in the Gaza Strip was vandalized and clerics were threatened.
Last week, a firebomb was hurled at a church in the West Bank city of Ramallah. PA police have not arrested any suspects.
The threats against the foreign-based Palestinian Bible Society were reported amid the furor in the Arab world over anti-Muslim cartoons published in the European press. Christian clerics in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank have condemned the cartoons.
The Palestinian Bible Society, part of the United Bible Societies, began operations in the Gaza Strip in 1999. The society, with 11 employees, contains computer rooms, multi-purpose halls and a library.
Palestinian anger over the European cartoons was quickly diverted to the Christian center. On February 2, a bomb exploded outside the Bible Society. Nobody was injured.
By February 16, the center was warned in an anonymous letter that it would be blown up unless the building was vacated by February 28. Christian sources said the PA advised the center to lock its doors, but has not provided protection.
Christian sources said they believe the threats have come from elements in the Fatah Party headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The sources said Fatah has sought to block the Hamas takeover of government by sparking violence and seizing official and other facilities in the Gaza Strip.
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