In Europe there are laws against Holocaust denial, with the laws in Germany and Austria being the harshest, and surely we can understand why.
But these very laws against Holocaust denial has brought into focus Europe’s hypocrisy in arguing recently that the publishing by the media of caricatures of a sacred Islamic personality, though insulting the feelings of Muslims, must still be permitted and protected under the most sacred value of ‘freedom of expression’.
People would of course ask why the hallowed European institution immediately collapses like a house of cards when it comes to the feelings of the Jewish people?
As an example, 66-year old Ernst Zundel, wrote a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why. Like Briton David Irving, he is a Holocaust denier. He has also distributed neo-Nazi materials. For these activities he has been deported from Canada. He is now on trial in Germany for Holocaust denial, technically termed as anti-semitic activities. His supporters said he is a peaceful man being denied his 'right to free speech', while his lawyer claimed the verdict has already been decided.
Talking about David Irving, a British academician, in 1989 Irving made 2 speeches in Austria questioning the veracity of the Holocaust. He challenged particularly the alleged gas chamber complex, claiming that those were used to delouse corpses and other objects.
Deborah Lipstadt, an American Jew who is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and Director of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, was so incensed by Irving’s historical revisionism that in 1994 she wrote a book titled Denying the Holocaust in which she called David Irving, apart from a Holocaust denier, a rightwing extremist.
David Irving sued her for libel but lost the case, where the judge described him as anti-semitic. But observers of the trial noted that Irving was more interested in the publicity of his self-defence in court than winning the case, and is a man who would welcome such opportunities to grandstand and expound his Holocaust-denying arguments.
That could be one of the reasons why a number of countries, especially those who have been championing the importance of ‘freedom of expression’ in the wake of the insulting caricatures, which includes Australia, have banned him from entering their countries. He’s considered far too dangerous. The other reason would be the powerful Jewish community in the host countries giving their governments a hard time.
Irving is about to go on trial in Austria for the 2 speeches he made more than 17 years ago, where if found guilty (as he probably will be, given the precedence of the verdict in the libel case against Lipstadt in London in 2000), he will face a 10-years' jail sentence.
But some Europeans are now worried of the coming trial. If Irving is found guilty, then it shows glaringly and embarrassingly that the Europeans have been utterly hypocritical in the case of the Jylland Posten unpalatable irresponsibility - I employ the same underlined adjective that had been used to describe David Irving's revisionist ideas. But, on the other hand, if Irving is found innocent (though unlikely), then the Europeans would be accused of anti-Semitism.
Christian Fleck, a sociologist at the Austrian University of Graz, is for ‘freedom of speech’, arguing against the trial of David Irving. Fleck said that with people like Irving, one should use argument and not the law against them. He challenged:
"Are we really afraid of someone whose views on the past are palpable nonsense, at a time when every schoolchild knows of the horrors of the Holocaust? Are we saying his ideas are so powerful we can't argue with him?""Irving is a fool. And the best way of dealing with fools is to ignore them. By outlawing such opinions, inevitably we give them the frisson of the banned. We run the risk of turning them into an attractive proposition."
But Professor Hajo Funke, a German historian, disagreed, saying that Irving must be trialled.
He explained: "In Germany and in Austria there is a moral obligation to fight the kind of propaganda peddled by Irving. We can't afford the luxury of the Anglo-Saxon freedom of speech argument in this regard."
"It's not that I don't understand it, it's just not for us. Not yet. Not for a long time."
Fair enough Professor I accept your hesitation about Anglo-Saxon freedom of speech, but then, what about the deliberate publishing of the Prophet Mohamad's caricatures by European media?