Irving enlists video Nazis to attack ban on Australia visit

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The Independent Online
AN OBSCURE farming town in the outback of Western Australia is at the centre of a campaign by David Irving, the right-wing British historian, to overturn a ban on his entering the country.

Cranbrook, about 250 miles south of Perth, is the home of Veritas Publishing, which last week mounted an abortive attempt to hold public screenings around Australia of a video in which Mr Irving repeats his claim that the Holocaust never happened.

The video, The Search for Truth in History, is Mr Irving's response to the Australian government's decision in February to refuse him a visitor's visa for a lecture tour, on the grounds that his entry would be against the public interest.

The Australian ban came in the wake of similar moves against Mr Irving in Canada, where he was deported last year, and in Germany, where he was fined about pounds 12,000 for asserting publicly that Jews did not die in gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Last week the video, filmed in South Africa, received a 'G' category (suitable for all ages) from Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification. But only just: four of the censorship board's 10 members wanted to classify it 'Parental Guidance', and one wanted to ban it.

The amateurish 80-minute video consists mostly of Mr Irving standing in front of an indoor plant talking about the 'internationally orchestrated campaign' against him by Jewish organisations. He attacks the Australian government for being 'weak-kneed' in the face of his 'traditional enemies', and decries Germany for having 'special laws to protect the gas chamber legend and other lies of history'.

Plans to show the video in Australia's main cities last Wednesday night fell into disarray when screenings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had to be cancelled because of demonstrations against the film. Screenings went ahead in Perth and Adelaide after the venues were switched at the last minute.

The video is hardly a piece of compulsive viewing, but Veritas Publishing, its distributors, claimed yesterday that almost 1,000 copies of the video had been sold in Australia since Wednesday's abandoned showings. Veritas has close links to the Australian League of Rights, an organisation noted for its hard-line right-wing views.

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, a public authority, described the League of Rights in a 1991 report on racist violence as 'undoubtedly the most influential and effective, as well as the best organised and most substantially financed racist organisation in Australia'.

The late Frank Bawden, founder of the League of Rights, set up Veritas as a publishing company. In 1986, it published a new edition of Uprising, Mr Irving's book about Hungary, and in 1987 was the first to publish his Churchill's War. Mr Irving visited Australia on both occasions.

Veritas is now run by Murray and Jan Pope, two sheep farmers, from their property near the little town of Cranbrook. The Popes are members of the League, which has actively supported so-called 'rural action movements' among thousands of farmers badly hit by Australia's worst rural depression in decades. Mr Irving's solicitors are making a new appeal to the High Court to reverse the decision to refuse him a visa. Most of the country's leading newspapers and civil liberties groups last week called on the government to lift the ban, arguing that it was counter-productive and likely to give Mr Irving's views a higher status than they deserved.

The February ban followed heavy lobbying from Australian Jewish groups, whose support the Labor government, under Paul Keating, was anxious not to alienate at the general election in March.

Mr Irving, speaking from London, said on Australian radio on Thursday that he was confident he would be in Australia by the end of the year. Asked for his views on race and how he felt when he saw a black player representing England at cricket, he replied: 'It makes me queasy.'

Jeremy Jones, vice-president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said yesterday that such statements made it likely that the campaign to stop Mr Irving's entry would become more intense.

'There's a difference between the Irving of previous visits and the Irving 1993 model. He has more extreme views now. The issue is not so much what he says as what he does - and the freedom of others not to be vilified.'

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