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Two days ago, on February 17, I delivered a keynote address at the University of Colorado, Boulder, at the invitation of Student Advocates for Free Expression (SAFE) and the Coalition for Palestinian Justice, briefly co-sponsored by the local chapter of Amnesty International, glib folks who know how to toe a smooth line
- but who predictably, at the last minute, willy-nilly, withdrew their sponsorship.
We sallied forth, regardless! It was quite an experience - another Zundel-First!
Here is how this event came about:
During the aborted and hastily restructured International Revisionist Conference last year in Sacramento, a young CU-Boulder student, Joshua, learned about Ernst Zundel's kidnapping and illegal incarceration at the behest of the Canadian Holocaust Lobby and decided to do something about it. I was contacted shortly thereafter and asked if I would speak at an event that would highlight the importance of Freedom of Speech. I said I would and asked to be kept "in the loop" as to planning speakers, preparations etc., but my request fell through the cracks, and therefore I had nothing to do with either pre-publicity or final choice of speakers. This turned out to be just as well, because I thought that if controversial co-speakers were invited, who might help or hurt Ernst's cause, I would have nothing to do with it either way. Frankly, I did not even think that I would be permitted to speak, because ever since I have been associated with the Zundel name, I have had my share of last-minute, ADL-inspired cancellations - usually after I bought a flight ticket and had my suitcase packed. I fully expected this to happen this time as well. I didn't really care. It still was nice to claim I had been asked. It makes all kinds of folks prick up their eager ears. Shortly thereafter, I was told that one important speaker, described to me as a "Black Muslim" and a feature/op ed writer of the Los Angeles Times, had agreed to accept a co-invitation to speak. When I asked what the slant of his presentation would be, it was explained to me that he fully understood Ernst's situation and intended to address the foolishness of the politically untutored Arab community in not including Ernst in their protest publications and events about secret hearings and security certificates. That sounded promising to me. Besides, I felt a certain writer's kinship, for once upon a time I had been a grass-green freelance book reviewer for that huge, leftist daily paper, and two of my reviews had even been anthologized in a separate LA Times publication. I had fond memories of writing for that paper in my politically oblivious days, and I certainly looked forward to meeting this man and learning more about his take on secret trials and security certificate issues in democratic countries always so eager to lord it over others they call derisively "dictatorships." Finding a third speaker turned out to be somewhat of a problem, because of what I call the "Zundel Taint" - the fear of rubbing shoulders with a "Nazi" and catching the effect. I was told that more than 50 name recognition speakers had been approached, and not one of them presumably concerned with the erosion of Freedom in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave could work up enough gumption to accept the invitation.
Now what? The date of the forum moved closer and closer - no Speaker Number Three! Virtually at the last minute, fate seemed to favor us. A huge free speech controversy had broken out on the CU-Boulder campus involving a tenured professor by the name of Ward Churchill who had misspoken himself in the politically incorrect vein. I had never before heard the name, but I did a quick Google search and found out that this tenured professor had made a rather insensitive comment in an article of his published several years ago about the 9/11 victims being "little Eichmanns." You can read up on the Ward Churchill controversy by yourself - just search for his name on the Net. There is plenty of heated argument about whether or not to censor the guy for his slur - after all, he is a tenured professor, and a "protected minority" (American Indian?) to boot. Joshua went and asked him to speak - and Professor Churchill promised he would! I was speechless when I heard about it. I didn't think he could afford to add to his woes, or we to ours, by appearing in the very same forum. As it turned out, at the last moment, the good professor got cold feet and simply didn't show up. Phew! What a shock! And here I thought, green ignoramus that I was, that Free Speech was an absolute! I was all set to invite the gentleman for breakfast to give him a quick Zundel Taint Detoxification Treatment over omelette and coffee, but no such luck! It just shows up the magnitude of the problems we have - not even a tenured professor, himself on the hot seat for politically incorrect speech and loudly pleading First Amendment Rights, is willing to give us a break! However, to the last minute of our scheduled forum, I did not know that he had backed out, nor did I know that my other co-speaker, the Black Muslim/LAT writer, was nowhere to be seen.
Panic-stricken also, not to my great surprise, was the local representative of Amnesty International, an overweight young girl but with a pleasant, friendly face and the prettiest long, black curls that I had ever seen. I asked if they were natural - they were! Further, judged by her name and looks, I pegged her to be Jewish. Somebody introduced us and I shook hands with her, wondering what she might say to the Zundel demo clip and to the story I was about to tell. After a few pleasantries, during which I shook hands with a few other students who welcomed me to their campus, she went to her seat and sat down, looking a bit thrown off balance. After a decent interval to give her a chance to regroup, I joined her there and intended to have a small chat. Originally there had been a promise of Amnesty International sponsorship as well as a promise of token financial support, which surprised me, given the blatant hostility of Amnesty International/Canada who had refused to include Ernst in their intervention program for Prisoners of Conscience. I had been told this campus sponsorship was genuine - in fact, their original token offer of $200 had been increased to a hefty $1,000 - and that AI would have a table with literature in one of the main student traffic areas to help to publicize the forum. When I expressed my doubts that they would carry through, given that the ADL thumbscrews would be applied the moment news leaked out that I would be the speaker, I was told this student AI representative was a "pretty level-headed girl" - that she knew who I was, that she was thoroughly familiar with the Zundel Case, it being controversial. Absolutely!
Well, no such luck! I sat down next to her. She shifted a bit and avoided my glance. But then she took a strangled breath and told me that she had been up 'til 2 A.M. and to her great dismay had found "such hate, such hate" (big gasp!) in cyberspace that she simply couldn't handle it, it was too traumatizing!
I said, "Hate? On my site?" and she said, yes, but "not only" on my site. She had consulted "other" websites. (Nizkor?) And there she found that Mr. Zundel had been quoted, to her great distress and utter horror, "S that Hitler was a great man." It was too much! She had no choice but to withdraw the AI sponsorship.
I looked at her and almost laughed. She so reminded me that, several years ago, in one of the more memorable moments in the grindingly dull Human Rights Tribunal Hearings in Toronto, the one-time Mayor of Toronto had claimed that she had spotted Zundel "hate" as well. When prodded by Zundel Defense Attorney, Doug Christie, to point to the document allegedly containing "hate," she sat there with a beet-race face and simply couldn't find it! She cut such a pitiful swath in her desperate search that even the Zundel Defense Team felt sorry for her! Even the judge took mercy and called a quick recess to give her time to find the "hate" she claimed she knew she had spotted. Somewhere! Not even a coffee break helped kick-start her memory, and when this Hate Detector VIP of the Great City of Toronto left the witness chair, she left behind the very clear impression that she had not even looked at anybody's website. She had simply taken someone's word for it that there was "hate" - somewhere! So here was this girl who went by selfsame smear-sheet "evidence," having no qualms of conscience to prejudge an innocent man! I likewise took mercy on her and told her that I merely wished that she might want to listen carefully and then make up her mind if Mr. Zundel really was a hateful man as claimed so fervently by all and sundry of her tribe.
She did do the dutiful thing. She stepped up to the microphone, sputtered that she didn't think Ernst Zundel was a Prisoner of Conscience, gave no clue how she had come to that conclusion, and took a hasty exit. I had asked my U.S. immigration attorney, Bruce Leichty, to be at my side as a back-up in case there would be hassle from censorship quarters. To my great relief, he agreed. I didn't tell him this, but being the consummate lady I am, I intended to wear a white linen suit, and in my darker moments I could already see it spattered with rotten tomatoes and such. Bruce's presence was a big comfort to me - just knowing that he was there. I didn't know what to expect, and I thought I might need legal help if worst came to worst, as often it does where Revisionists gather. After Joshua spoke a few opening words, Bruce Leichty stepped forward and graciously introduced to one of the biggest state university campuses in the entire country a large-screen 14 minute demo of our Zundel documentary-to-be. The screen lit up. A truly historical moment!
There was stunned silence after the 14 minutes were over. The kids just sat there, not saying a word. Nobody stomped out of the chapel in protest. There were no hoots, no catcalls, no spitballs, no JDL punks throwing eggs at their favorite targets of hate. Just silence. Utter silence.
Then I stepped up to the podium and started to speak. I was amazed at the calm in my heart. I felt no hostile vibes at all from the audience. This is something that every professional speaker intuitively feels - whether an audience is "with us or against us." This young audience was "with us" - they were eager to learn something new. It was easy to address them, and I felt that I did well. I recounted simple vignettes from the long and bitter struggle that led to several "Great Holocaust Trials" because the Canadian Holocaust Lobby had targeted Ernst, wouldn't leave him alone, hated his truth campaign, hated his gutsy energy - just plain all-around hated his guts. I told how again and again they had tormented him in various open terror campaigns, unleashed even arson on him - and when I told of the murderous complicity of CSIS, the very spy agency that now keeps him in chains with secret evidence he can't inspect and faceless witnesses he can't dispute, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop in that audience.
As I spoke, I kept the Amnesty International girl in the corner of my eye. She stayed to the end of our program, which oddly even touched me because I knew that she would learn a thing or two and think about some principles such as Free Speech, allegedly championed by outfits such as AI that batten on taxpayers' largesse. She even had a question afterwards, asking why Ernst had taken up his Cause against the Holocaust - the answer to which she should have been able to deduce, after I had spoken of the many years of vicious persecution at the hands of his Jewish opponents. She spoke so softly that I had to ask twice just what it was that she wanted to know. I then told her that through more than half a century's worth of incessant Holocaust anti-German hate campaigns via media and in schools, not only grown-ups felt abused - even young German-descent children were being abused. German-Canadian parents, I told her, had sought out Ernst Zundel, then a young ethnic activist speaking up for his demonized people. It was the vicious hate of his opponents that make him start investigating the so-called Holocaust - and did not find it to be what it purported to be. I ended my presentation by throwing out an activist's idea to the kids. While on the plane to Colorado, thinking how I might involve the youngsters in the audience in the campaign to free my love, I had come upon a plan. There is on one hand, so I reasoned, the widely lauded liberal hero named Martin Luther King who, once maligned, had fought so bitterly for his own kin - and on the other hand, there is the still maligned Ernst Zundel who still fights for his people. What is the difference, I would ask, between the ethnic persecution then - and now?
I didn't say it quite as well as I can formulate it now, but I believe I said enough. "How would it be," I asked the youngsters in so many words, "if I were to charter a bus, load some of you up on that bus and take you on a Freedom Ride to Canada?" This could be, with a little work and dedication, become a ready-made analogy to the Selma Freedom Riders almost two generations ago. These kids who might not even have been born when Ernst fought his first Holocaust Trial, might see this as their chance to become today's Freedom Riders. Only this time they would be heading North instead of South. Was that a good idea?
When I was finished, their was a pleasantly hearty applause - not the kind of applause I was accustomed to as a professional convention speaker before I knew Ernst Zundel, but still - there was genuine, respectful applause. Nobody fainted or turned into a frog. I believe that I touched many young hearts.
Our documentary film maker was there and taped the entire event. He, too, spoke a few words and told about the stresses of working in his censored industry on a politically incorrect film. The program was further enhanced by a brief synopsis of the Zundel Case by my talented, hard-working immigration attorney. Bruce explained the difficulties from a legal point of view at a time where a government can seize, deport, and imprison anyone - without accountability. This was followed by a short speech by a local attorney, whose name escapes me now, who specializes in Constitutional Law. Then followed a Q/A period during which the questions, almost exclusively, dealt with the Patriot Act and its destructive impact on the erosion of Freedom of Speech. I am very pleased with the outcome of this event held in the Old Main Chapel, CU Boulder Campus, and want to thank the CU-Boulder students who didn't look over their shoulder, who stuck out their necks and worked very hard to show that, as far as they are concerned, freedom of speech IS freedom of speech - "indivisible", so they assume, "with liberty and justice for all!"
Homage to Catalin Haldan
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