Thursday, July 21, 2011
An Earlier Article on the "Israeli David Irving Suit" (2003)
The David Irving Trial in Israel
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
From Richard Lakisher
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 neo-Nazi 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 himself, and associated with
anti-Semitic right-wing extremists.
The judgment in the case was handed down in April, 2000. The court
found for the defendants (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 neo-Nazis 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, and
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 with honor on
the personal web site of the British David Irving. His writings have
been published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denier web sites, as well as
in other anti-Semitic and Islamist fundamentalist journals and web
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
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 instances, the
plaintiff associates with extremist anti-Semitic organizations and
with individuals widely considered to be anti-Semites, and
collaborates 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 plaintiff claims that his good name as a researcher was
damaged by those who attack his behavior and denounce his 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, Professor Steven Plaut. He is on the faculty of the University
Neve Gordon 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
politicized 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 an 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 Professor 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,
organizations and columnists, including the Seattle Times, the
Declaration Foundation, Professor 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 neo-Nazi, Holocaust Denial and Islamist
fundamentalist newspapers and web sites. On several neo-Nazi 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
Arab news agency that airs the speeches of Bin Laden and that
broadcasted the shots of the Allied troops being murdered by Saddam's
Republican Guards during the recent Iraq 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.
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
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
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, neo-Nazi, 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 New York 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, Professor 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 neo-Nazi 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 neo-Nazis 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 billy 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 Professor 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 Professor 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 wanna-bes. Describing people who appoint themselves
as representatives and liaisons to mass murderers of Jews might
legitimately be described as Judenrat wanna-bes. 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,
neo-Nazi and Holocaust-Denial web sites and newspapers regard Gordon
as sufficiently anti-Semitic to publish his writings.
In short, Gordon has decided that Plaut will play the role of Deborah
Lipstadt in Israel's analogue to the David Irving Trial. 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 Yasser 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.
Free speech in Israel is under assault and the defeat of frivolous
libel suits is a crucial part of its protection.