Let Irving Come

Jewish Council President David Zwartz (The Press, August 9) is undermining his own cause by objecting to David Irving coming here.

Irving’s Holocaust views are hurtful to the Jewish community and repugnant to any decent New Zealander but, with the strength of truth behind it, the Jewish Council should be confident enough to rebut Irving’s twisted view of history.

Without the guise of victimhood provided by attempts to suppress him, Irving’s arguments would have largely disappeared from sight many years ago.

New Zealanders rightly get indignant when told they have to be protected from other people’s opinions. We have allowed plenty of other racists to visit, from apartheid apologists to Australian One Nation leaders. Their views have been discredited in debate and people have gained a better understanding of what is wrong with their position. Such visitors generally won’t admit they are racist, so this too has to be debated.

It is not useful to shut down this discussion, unless the speakers directly call for action against ethnic groups.

We get into dangerous ground, contrary to civil liberties and human rights law, when we try to suppress words and ideas. This is why legal prohibitions today are only against people inciting violence or discriminatory action.

The fact that a community feels hurt is not a reason to suppress free speech or freedom of movement. Once you grant the State the power to suppress these rights, even for despicable characters such as Irving, you open the way for it to be used against other people the Government wants to close down.

We have already had problems in this respect. For example, the Muldoon Government stopped Jose Ramos Horta, now East Timor’s Foreign Minister, from visiting New Zealand, because it didn’t like him criticising the Indonesian occupation f his country.

I hope one day anti-Semitism is a distant memory, but that is most likely to come about in a world where such views are countered by the truth. The Holocaust was only possible because Adolf Hitler first eliminated freedom of speech and people’s ability to protest.

While we may disagree on how best to deal with Irving and his ilk, most of us stand with the Jewish Council against the malevolent actions of the callous few, such as those who desecrated the Jewish graves in Wellington.