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 sites.

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 and behavior.

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 of Haifa.

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 U.S. 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 website of the anti-Jewish, Islamist, pro-Hamas CAIR organization in the U.S.

While Gordon claims that he himself did not place his articles on some of these more anti-Semitic websites, 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 websites 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 War II.

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 websites, 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 mall.

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 website 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 websites 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.

Meanwhile, readers who would like to tell the authorities at Ben Gurion University what they think of Gordon's writings and behavior should write to Professor Avishay Braverman, President of Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba 84105 Israel. Letters to the American Associates of Ben Gurion University (AABGU) should be sent to 1430 Broadway, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Zvi Alon is President of AABGU and Vivien Marion is the Executive Vice-President. (phone: 212-687-7721; fax: 212-302-6443; email:
info@aabgu.org)

Anyone interested in defending free speech through helping defray Prof. Plaut's legal costs (he is represented by attorney Dr. Haim Misgav) is invited to contact him directly. His email address is
steven_plaut@yahoo.com.