Don't play the nutty professor with David Irving

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

Giles Coren | The Times | 14 December 2002

Professor Mona Baker, the leader of the movement to boycott Israeli academics, is in cahoots with Britain's leading anti-semitic lunatic, David Irving. You did not know this because you do not enjoy, as I do, wandering through the lush vegetation of David Irving's website and marvelling at the strange fruits that grow there. I surf the Irving foam because among the flotsam on the site there are sometimes some bits and bobs about me (if one mentions him in print in any context at all -- which he loves -- you get a little verbal bashing, usually focusing with some jocularity on your surname, if it breaches his stringent race guidelines). And that was how, the other day, I came upon a letter of protest from Herr Irving to Amazon.co.uk (see panel on right) about the nature of its advertising in Israel, which began as follows: "Dear Amazon, I have been shocked to get an e-mail from Prof. Mona Baker of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology which indicated that your company advertises itself in the Israeli press via a logo which reads: 'Buy Amazon.Com and Support Israel' and which displays an Israeli flag." I think, on balance, that anti-Zionists have a reasonable gripe with Amazon in this instance, and letters are a harmless way of expressing that. But why is Mona Baker sending e-mails to David Irving about it? Is the potty Holocaust denier the sort of chap she sees as a possible political collaborator? One is so often implored to remember that not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites. But not all of them aren't. And Irving is one who is. His aversion to Israel is based not on political but racial revulsion. (Though it is a little confusing that on his website he parrots that favourite anti-Zionist equation of Zionism with Nazism -- because coming from him it might easily be meant as a compliment). NOW, Professor Baker, in choosing to boycott people on the ground of their nationality rather than their personal politics, treads a fine line herself between legitimate opposition to state brutality and fascistic denial of free speech on the ground of race. Anti-Zionists and Nazis do share a common cause, in a way, in so far as their enemy is Jewish, and sometimes the two end up doing each other's dirty work -- it is no coincidence that the French lawyer Jacques Verges represented both Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal -- but only the anti Zionists can claim political validity for their occasional apparent racism. It is not impossible that Mona Baker is a rational woman who thinks that her boycott is the best way to liberate the disfranchised Palestinians. And it is also not impossible that she is a misguided nutter. It is not for a miserable clown like me to judge. But if she does not want her attempts to legislate against a group of people who just happen to be Jewish to come up smelling of Hitler, then she should avoid soliciting the support of his most prominent modern disciple. (PS: In anticipation of any objection from Professor Baker, I should add that David Irving is, of course, a liar -- one of the few people in the world about whom we are legally allowed to say that -- and so it is possible that her e-mail is just a figment of his imagination. At any rate, if I were her, that's what I would say.) I DON'T want to get too Holocaust heavy on a Saturday morning -- the Arch-Goon Irving is probably as much Nazi as one needs over toast and marmalade -- but I feel compelled to ask, only half-glibly, whether we are supposed to see it as some sort of coincidence that the company that this week launched a range of underwear made from human hair was German? On balance I would let sleeping dogs lie. The modern German is a modest, friendly, if rather large person. And it is terribly sad that, as we read this week, German kids are suffering racial abuse in English schools. But, come on. This sort of thing with the underwear is not going to help. The bit about shaving the heads of death-camp victims to make socks for U-boat crews is one of the most famous gruesome details of the war. (Yes, David, I know that they never actually made the socks, but they said they were going to, and it's the thought that counts). Really, if the good people of Germany want their kids to have an easier time they're going to have to persuade some of their compatriots to stop treating humanity as something to be farmed.