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Herod Deniers

by soj Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:24:16 PM EST

Hmmm... re-worded from here.

Right-wing British historian David Irving was convicted in Austria overnight of denying the Herod Infant Massacre - a crime in this country - and sentenced to three years in prison.

Irving, who had pleaded guilty and insisted during his one-day trial that he had had a change of heart and now acknowledged the Herodian slaughter of all infant Jews under aged 2, had faced up to 10 years behind bars for the offense.  Before the verdict, Irving conceded he had erred in contending there were no executions of infants.

Irving's lawyer immediately announced an appeal against the sentence.

"I made a mistake when I said there were no executions of infants," Irving testified, at one point expressing sorrow "for all the innocent people who died during the reign of Herod".

Irving, 67, has been in custody since his arrest in November on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Herodian death squads responsible for the extermination of thousands of infants.

Earlier on Monday, he told journalists he considered it "ridiculous" that he was standing trial for remarks made 17 years ago.

Handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit, he arrived at court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books - Herod's War, which challenges the extent of the Herodian Infanticide.

Irving's trial was held amid new - and fierce - debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing and reprinting of unflattering cartoons of the prophet Mohammed has triggered violent protests worldwide.

Irving's lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, said last month the controversial historian was getting up to 300 pieces of fan mail a week from supporters around the world, and that while in detention he was writing his memoirs under the working title, Irving's War.

Irving was arrested on November 11 in the southern Austrian province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989. He was charged under a federal law that makes it a crime to publicly diminish, deny or justify the Herodian Infanticide.

Irving had tried to win his provisional release on 20,000 euros (32,300) bail, but a Vienna court refused, saying it considered him a flight risk.

Within two weeks of his arrest, he asserted through his lawyer that he had come to acknowledge the existence of Herodian death squads.

In the past, however, he has claimed that Herod knew little if anything about the Infanticide, and has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of evidence" that Herod's troops carried out their "Final Solution" to exterminate infants on such a massive scale.

Irving, the author of nearly 30 books, has contended most of the infants who died succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather than execution.

In 2000, Irving sued American Infanticide scholar Deborah Lipstadt for libel in a British court, but lost. The presiding judge in that case, Charles Gray, wrote that Irving was "an active Infanticide denier ... anti-Semitic and racist".

Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years.

In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of 6,000 US dollars for publicly insisting the Herodian death squads were a hoax.

Now let me just say this right away.  I've lived in Israel and I've been to the Holocaust museum there as well as the one in Washington, DC.  I do not deny the existance of the holocaust.  I also do not agree with or support Irving's statements on the issue in any way, shape of form.

Nor do I support or condone any hateful groups or hateful speech, whether targeted against Jews or anyone else.  I have also spoken to Jewish concentration camp survivors and their testimony was extremely moving and entirely believable.

That being said, it is a remarkable contrast to see Irving being sentenced to 3 years in prison for an issue of free speech.  Either you're for free speech or not, and if you're a supporter this means you have to stand up for people who say things you violently disagree with.

As the original article itself notes, the publication of the extremely offensive (and not even funny) cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed are being defended on the grounds of free speech.  But what's the difference between them and what Irving has said?  They both are designed to offend a religious group.

As I said, I've been to two of the most prominent holocaust museums.  There is ample evidence there to prove what happened.  There's no need to outlaw any discussion or denial of historic events, especially when there's so much evidence to the contrary.

I know that many people believe that if these laws forbidding free speech on the holocaust were overturned, people like Irving would spread lies to encourage hate attacks against Jews or others.  All I can say is that hate groups, whether the KKK or neo-Nazis, will always find a way to spread their messages to the people who want to believe them.  What kills a fungus is sunlight, and in this case this means open and free speech about this and every other issue.

Do you know what holocaust deniers/doubters always say?  They say "see? if we weren't right, they wouldn't outlaw us from talking about it".  It gives them ammunition, this repression of free speech on the issue.  It makes people like Irving and Zundel look like martyrs.  It gives Iran the impetus to hold an entire conference on the subject, and it will draw people from all over the world who want to hear what Europeans forbid to be discussed.

The European Union regularly criticizes Turkey for its repression of any and all speech about the Armenian holocaust a century ago, and rightly so.  It's time for Europe to let people truly enjoy free speech.  Will there always be hate groups who twist facts and words to inspire prejudice? Of course.  But let them expound their foolish thoughts on the subject and the vast majority of the people will come to the sensible conclusion.

By the way, if you're not up on your Bible and don't understand the satire I used above, see here.  And oddly enough, there really are Herodian Infanticide deniers.


Side question: would the EU eventually streamline all freedom of expression laws to make them consistent?  

I don't agree with Austria's law, but I also don't understand how something so central to European history, an event that was one of the reasons there was even a need to create and "EU" in the first place, can be openly debated (wrongly or not) in one European country and not in another.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:37:29 PM EST
Criminal offences are not, in general, within the competency of the EU as currently defined. It'd be very difficult to do: the criminal legal systems and traditions are very different across Europe.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:49:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It can be debated in all countries. You are not allowed to spread lies about it, in particular to deny that the Jews and other groups were exterminated, in a number of countries (including Germany and France). Go see MarekNYC's diary: Holocaust Denial, legitimate debate and racism. on this topic.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 03:08:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember the thread well, and it was not without controversy.

My question, though, was about the EU & some attempt to make these laws consistent throughout Euroupe.  I have the same issues with my own country.  

As for the diference between debate and spreading lies, I can't even begin to understand why these laws are good.  Maybe it is 31 years of American sensibilities or not having lived through what Europeans have.  But I'm used to people disputing proven facts all the time, even when it is offensive.  I mean I hear people spewing lies everyday in order to promote their own agendas, agendas which are hatefull in many ways: to gays, to the secular, to Muslims and Arabs, to the poor, to women.  But I don't think it should be illegal for them to say these things, just that we should not base public policy or curriculum on them.  That's my personal belief and I'll be the first to admit that it has everything to do with the culture I was raised in.  I'm just having a problem with this.  I don't want to act like an arrogant American who thinks the rest of the world has got to do as we do.  But I do believe this is one of the ideals America got right and it should not be dismissed solely because of the fact.

Forcing people to stop saying things won't force them to stop thinking about them.  And criminalizing speech wont make the problems at the root of anti-semitism, xenophobia, economic insecurity, feelings of powerlessness, etc... go away.  It will just cover them up.  Out of sight, or out of hearing range, out of mind.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 04:17:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Couldn't have said it better myself!


Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Sat Feb 25th, 2006 at 03:45:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well said.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Feb 25th, 2006 at 10:35:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PeWi provided some background as to how these laws came to pass in the immediate post war period as part of the de-nazification process.

These kind of words have demonstrably led to evil consequences in Europe, and it is thus understandable that they should be dealt with with care.

"Nigger" is a loaded word in the US for similar reasons.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 25th, 2006 at 11:46:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mmmm, can you tell me where I can visit the archives of Herod's staatspolizei?

I would also like to read the minutes of the famous Dead See Conference, where the final solution to the infant problem was decided (a meeting that was held at Herod's Northern Palace in Masada, which has magnificent views on the nearby Dead Sea, hence the name of the meeting). Just let me know where to find those, will ya?

by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 01:25:04 PM EST
I could not agree more.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 01:32:36 PM EST
Hat tip to Soj.  We don't see eye to eye -- as everyone is aware by now to the point of tedium <grin> -- but you are consistent in/with your stated principles and I do respect that.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 24th, 2006 at 03:34:19 PM EST
So who isn't?

Inconsistency is a pretty serious insult around here ;-)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 25th, 2006 at 11:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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