Maddie Schumann
Maddie Schumann

Tackling Holocaust denial: Free speech versus education

Students on the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET)/UJS Lessons from Auschwitz Universities Project, visiting Auschwitz. Photo credit: Yakir Zur - via Jewish News
Students on the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET)/UJS Lessons from Auschwitz Universities Project, visiting Auschwitz. Photo credit: Yakir Zur - via Jewish News

The recent Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill takes universities to the next level with legal responsibilities expanding to student unions. For example, a speaker such as revisionist David Irving’s event is cancelled due to pressure from opposition groups. This could expose the University to pay him compensation.

Is this a fair approach? Some will argue that this bill stands up for freedom of speech allowing for more intellectual debate.

Last week Michelle Donelan, the Universities Minister, incited controversy by threatening fines for Holocaust Denial, but only if it strayed into areas of racism and/or hate crime. Then a PM’s spokesperson contradicted Ms Donelan, saying: “Holocaust Denial is not something that the government would ever accept” and it is antisemitic.  With Holocaust Denial not illegal, what the PM or other governmental representatives think on this matter is highly irrelevant because the legislation gives a platform to Universities to espouse denial and therefore, influence future generations.

Denial of the Holocaust is often associated with antisemitism. Michelle Donelan has criticised Universities for not accepting the International Definition of Antisemitism. For example, Goldsmiths, University of London rejected the definition on grounds that it prevents free speech ‘’criticism’’ of Israel regarding Palestinian human rights. Therefore, contradicting with a human right of free speech. Am I surprised by this? No, not at all, as this University is historically a hot spot for far-left ideologists opposing Israel.

For me, this is an example where a form of racism is fully legitimised and more importantly allows young students to be influenced by the political agenda of the University rather than historic facts. Contrary to this, Exeter University where I read law has adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism.

 

Universities have a duty to adhere to the Equality Act. In practice this means that they must prevent any event that may lead to violence or acts of hatred. Returning to David Irving who openly states that “We need a dictator who is a genius, if we are to arise again.” The War Path. How is a call for a dictator not a call for hatred? Whom does he talk about, when he says; ‘’if we are to rise again’’? In the same book he says: ‘’Because there is only one salvation left for Germany, and that is Hitler.” If this is not glorification of Hitler than I do not know what it is…How can a person like David Irving be invited to talk to students when he clearly has a race issue? He is antisemitic. That is a clear breach of the Equality Act and yet somehow it is squeezed within ‘’freedom of speech’’. It is disturbing to know that the English Court has discredited his work and called him; ‘’antisemitic and racist’’ however this new bill will allow him and others to voice out revisionist history that is offensive to any Holocaust victim and to all who survived this horrific inhuman experience. More worrying is that the circle of revisionist admirers is constantly increasing in the UK that shockingly includes the so called ‘’progressive’’ school of thought.

 

At this point it is obvious to me, that we cannot deal with the education side successfully unless we have proper legislation which will disable Holocaust denial. While schools and Universities through free speech can invite revisionist historians to speak, our impressionable younger generations are fed falsehoods making the NEVER AGAIN concept to be potentially forgotten. So how do we end it, if we can? Should we leave things as they are? Are European countries dealing better with this?

 

 

About the Author
Maddie is a Sociologist with a law degree, and a legal translation professional speaking many languages with an interest in international law and politics.
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