Should Academic Free Speech Accommodate Holocaust Denial?
If you scratch a Holocaust denier long enough, you may reveal an anti-Semite, but not always. You will, however, probably find someone like the morally repellant Kaukab Siddique, a Pakistani-born, tenured associate professor of English and journalism at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, who seemingly puts great faith in conspiratorial dramas in which a crafty and all-powerful enemy—in this case, Jews—weaves an oft-repeated claim that six million of their people were exterminated just to elicit the world's sympathy and promote Zionism and the creation of Israel.
Siddique has been embroiled in an intellectual firestorm, largely of his own making, since his paroxysms of hatred toward Israel were exposed in a video taken during his appearance at a Labor Day rally in Washington and posted by The Investigative Project and reported on by the Christian Broadcasting Network.
In vitriol-laced language that unfortunately is not at all uncommon these days from the professoriate and many of their impressionable, like-minded students, Siddique was filmed crying out to the crowd at the September 3 event: “I say to the Muslims, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism.’” More troublesome than this spectral horror of creeping, pernicious Zionism was Siddique’s exhortation to the receptive audience that Zionism itself was an aggressive, dangerous ideology that must be extirpated. “Each one of us is their target and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel,” he said, “if possible by peaceful means.” [Italics mine]
This grotesque anti-Israelism, of course, frequently animates the thinking of broad swathes of the West’s intelligentsia, who, obsessed with Third World victimism and a virtual cult of Palestinianism, think nothing of calling for the destruction—by boycott, divestment, de-legitimization, even armed resistance—of Israel, a sovereign nation, American ally, and the single democracy in the Middle East.
But Siddique, it has been revealed since this recent furor began, has an even more pernicious intellectual defect which calls into question, not only his academic credibility, but his very qualifications to hold tenure at a university at all. Because linked to his invidious attitudes about Zionism, Israel, and Jews, Siddique also plays a leadership role in Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), a “radical separatist Islamist” group based in Baltimore that focuses its limited intellectual resources on spewing forth anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and engaging in Holocaust denial. At an August meeting of this inspirational group, for instance, Siddique spoke to the rapt attendees and touched on the same theme of his that was revealed in the D.C. rally, namely, the treachery of Jews and the boundlessness of their power. “We're under the grip of a Jewish Zionist power structure in this country,” he told the audience, and further suggested that one reason Jews were able to obscure the sins of Israel and exploit the Holocaust for material and emotional gain was due to the existence of the dreaded “Zionist-controlled media.”
When asked about his D.C. rants concerning Zionism and Israel, Siddique was quick to assert, as many crypto anti-Semites are, that he, of course, harbored no enmity towards Jews, only towards pernicious Zionists and their brutal, illegitimate, rogue nation, Israel. In fact, he has previously asserted that JAM is “not against the Jews as a collective,” and the only reason “we are against the Jews [is] because they have usurped Palestine and they take interest on loans and have built up the exploitative economic structure,” collectively blaming Jews for being rapacious thieves who not only stole Palestinian lands for economic gain, but then used those ill-gotten gains to further manipulate the world economy—a well-worn anti-Semitic trope.
It is one thing for a tenured professor at a modern university to have negative attitudes towards Jews and Israel. It is altogether a more serious matter when a member of the professoriate, as is the case with Siddique, thinks that his academic free speech gives him moral cover to delve into the intellectual netherworld of conspiracies, historical distortions, and full-blown Holocaust denial. In a now widely-circulated email thread on the crackpot conspiracy-theory web site Rense.com, for example, Siddique revealed that his world view creates conspiracies as a way of explaining the unfolding of historical events; his is a pessimistic and frantic outlook, famously characterized by historian Richard Hofstadter as “the paranoid style” of politics, which shifts responsibility from the self to sinister, omnipotent others—typically and historically the Jews.
Thus, in his incoherent ramblings on the site, he suggested that the Nazis were not actually that harmful to European Jewry, a point he attempted to prove by grotesquely and cruelly suggesting that “[t]he German behavior was so good that Elie Wiesel (the arch holocaust propagandist) left Auschwitz WITH the retreating Germans when the Russians advanced towards the camp.”
And besides, Siddique continued, was it not the Jews’ own propensity for ill-doing that brought on justifiable Nazi anti-Semitic inclinations? In Siddique’s feverish imagination, those negative feelings did not, at any rate, amount to a genocide of a whole people. “The Jews,” he wrote, “as in America today, controlled the entire economy. German leaders made powerful speeches against Jews but that does not amount to holocaust [sic].”
In fact, Siddique concluded, the “Holocaust is a hoax,” so those who still speak about it should “Get over it!”, since there “is not even ONE document proving the holocaust [sic],” an assertion that might come as a surprise to the archivists at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial, as one example, which owns some 51 million pages of documents and 121 million images cataloguing the exact Nazi atrocities Siddique denies ever occurred.
And then in a particularly odious bit of moral relativism, Siddique commits the intellectual parlor trick of grafting onto Israel the Nazi-like crimes he has just finished asserting never happened, again maligning Jews for their perceived omnipotence and power, and Israelis for their crimes against the innocent Palestinians. “Notice that Jews wiped out entire PALESTINIAN villages,” he wrote, contrasting this behavior from that of Hitler, “but failed to hide the atrocities in spite of their control of the media.” Even worse, Israel’s brutal occupation and militancy continues to oppress the Muslim world and then accuse the victims of the crimes Zionist themselves perpetrate. “In Palestine,” Siddique wrote, “we Muslims can see how you Jews operate. You kill, rape, destroy, build your cities on our villages and then use your media to label us as terrorists.”
If the victim status of Israel—and by extension, all Jews—can be diminished by exposing the lie of the Holocaust, which is what deniers dedicate themselves to achieving, Palestinians become the more aggrieved victim, a people victimized by former victims, the Jews, who spread the lie of their own suffering for material ends. It is not without irony, of course, that while Siddique, not to mention many other anti-Israelites in the West, wants to rob Jews of the piece of dismal history that brought about the extermination of six million of their people, they are eager to regularly repeat the vile comparison they draw between the perceived behavior and shared values of the Jewish state and the Nazi regime. How better to cause the greatest hurt and to speak the gravest criticism than to deny or minimize on one hand that the Nazi atrocities and slaughter ever took place, and then to suggest, that if they did, the people reborn of that fire have descended morally to the same moral level as their former tormenters?
Does it matter if a tenured professor expresses personal opinions, no matter how odious and controversial, and are they not acceptable under the notion of academic free speech? Well, yes and no. With great regularity, academic imbecility and fraudulent scholarship has been substituted for reasoned inquiry on our campuses, and, observes Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, “academic freedom is meant to protect scholarship, not replace it.” Nor does “free speech ... absolve anyone from professional incompetence,” Rubin says,” which is the heart of the matter in a conversation about Professor Siddique and his qualification to be part of a community of scholars where certain ideas and theories simply do not deserve nor warrant academic discourse.
More seriously, Siddique’s chronic Holocaust denial, his calls for the destruction of Israel, and his demonization of Zionism, Israel, and world Jewry should be of enormous concern to Lincoln University officials. Far from being “a concerted act by the extreme right wing aligned with Israel to destroy someone who spoke out against them,” as Siddique himself characterized the reaction to his odious opinions, his ideas have to be understood as blatantly anti-Semitic, and expressive of raw Jew-hatred, regardless of his own attempt to excuse it as mere criticism of Israel.
In fact, if one applies the working definition of contemporary anti-Semitism, produced in 2005 by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), to Siddique’s core ideologies and attitudes, the anti-Semitic nature of his speech and thought is quite clear. EUMC’s definition, specifically, describes behavior as anti-Semitic when an individual makes “mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective;” denies “the fact, scope, . . . or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany . . . during World War II;” and accuses “the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust,” all of which animate Siddique’s lurid writing and speaking.
Even absent Siddique’s moronic denials of the Holocaust, his obsession with and criticism of the perceived power of Jews in controlling the media, manipulating U.S. public policy to further the interests of Israel, having involvement in the attacks on 9/11, not to mention his characterizations of Jews as being treacherous, underhanded, duplicitous, and avaricious—all of these notions, when put into speech or writing, not only rise to the level of what has been deemed anti-Semitism under the EUMC guidelines, but should be of grave concern to administrators at Lincoln, a historically black university which receives significant state funding from Pennsylvania.
Putting aside the fact that Lincoln’s own code of conduct forbids “any conduct or behavior that is disrespectful, absurd and rude,” and despite the fact that the university has now distanced itself from comments and beliefs Siddique expressed publicly but outside of the campus walls, there should be universal denunciation of the professor’s whole belief system, riddled as it is with the darkest and most vile of pathologies and hatreds. Tenure comes with some clear responsibilities, not the least of which is to be an intellectual and moral partner with the academic community with which one has made a professional contract. Saying that is acceptable for a professor to harbor delusional, primitive attitudes about the Holocaust and Jews as long as he only utters his calumnies off campus and not as part of his teaching in the classroom is disingenuous at best, and a craven way that university officials try to excuse the inexcusable in some of their tenured intellectual brats.
This case also exposes a startling double standard that is currently prevalent in academia when it comes to who may say what about whom. Either because they are feckless or want to coddle perceived protected student minority groups in the name of diversity, university administrations are morally inconsistent when taking a stand against what they consider “hate speech,” believing, mistakenly, that only harsh expression against victim groups needs to be moderated. When other groups―whites, Christians, Republicans, heterosexual males, Jews, for example―are the object of offensive speech, no protection is deemed to be necessary.
Lawrence Summers, for example, lost the presidency of Harvard for merely suggesting out loud at a closed lecture that the reason women had traditionally not excelled in science and math might be due to genetic differences in the sexes. That is a theory that feminists found repugnant and unacceptable to even utter, but it is certainly not as fantastical or delusional as suggesting that the Holocaust is a fable. And more relevant is Lincoln’s own reaction, or lack thereof, to Siddique’s anti-Zionist invective at the rally and the subsequent revelations about his Holocaust-denying hobby. Was it not for the waves of criticism coming from Pennsylvania officials, Jewish groups, and others, Siddique’s behavior would have continued without comment, and no introspection from the university community would likely have occurred at all.
Imagine for a moment that it was discovered that a tenured professor at Lincoln was “outed” as being a white nationalist, and his postings were sprinkled on the pages of a hate site such as Stormfront.org in which he railed, as visitors to that odious site do, against the dangers of non-whites to white culture, the harm that non-whites do to society through criminality, high birthrates, and low morals, and the overall superiority of the white race to other, lower forms of human existence. Would any member of the Lincoln community care whether or not that professor brought those vile attitudes into his classroom or merely expressed them off campus? Would they say that he had a right to express that type of noxious attitude safely under the umbrella of academic free speech? Could any sentient observer contend that a tenured professor who delved into the perverse intellectual netherworld of neo-Nazism and white supremacism could somehow return to the cocoon of a campus and separate his other life from the person he is when he stands in front of students, helping young minds to thoughtfully explore human thought and achievement?
The answer obviously is that anyone who expressed such feelings in the academic community would be immediately and thoroughly shunned, that his or her actions and speech would be labeled for what they clearly were—repugnant hate speech that has no place on a campus. And when an offense is made to members of one of academia’s favored victim groups, the response is immediate, widespread, and thunderous in its self-righteousness.
Consider what happened at the University of California, San Diego, this March, for example, where the entire campus underwent collective apoplexy over some incendiary racial slurs made by students, not a tenured faculty member, involved in an off-campus fraternity party, the racially-insensitive “Compton Cookout,” and the discovery of a noose and a roughly-fashioned Ku Klux Klan hood on campus—all of which helped stoke tensions and inflame rage at the perceived racism.
Members of UC San Diego’s Black Student Union wasted no time in drafting a six-page memo for school officials (who eagerly embraced them), in which they itemized a veritable encyclopedia of demands by which, it was felt, the racist climate could be modified. Cries of “institutionalized racism” and a “toxic environment” at UCSD were heard. Because the BSU felt that African Americans were being “racially demoralized,” those demands included, among others, establishing ethnic studies programs, a “rewrite the Student Code of Conduct,” presumably meaning a speech code that would proscribe certain speech deemed inappropriate by the code’s creators, and, ominously, a mandatory “diversity sensitivity requirement for every undergraduate student.”
While calling for further investigation into the specific incidents that had sparked the outrage, and promising to identify and punish the perpetrators, embarrassed school officials also met with angry minority students, promised to increase efforts at diversity, pledged more minority faculty hiring and student enrollment, set up psychological counseling facilities, met with community leaders and state officials, and even flew in Berkeley’s law school dean, Christopher Edley, to help arbitrate the situation.
But at Lincoln University, when a tenured professor demonizes Jews, delegitimizes Israel, accuses Zionists and Israelis of treachery, theft, brutality, and pure evil, and calls for the Muslim world to rise up and destroy the Jewish state by any means necessary, the reaction is grotesquely understated. In fact, the final moral call by Lincoln’s administration is that, while Siddique’s views are not in keeping with the university’s sensibilities, at least he keeps his morally-imbecilic views and ideology safely outside the campus walls where, presumably, they cannot infect the minds of students within.
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Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2010
This is a summary of the article linked to in my comment above:
http://www.acpr.org.il/Nativ/2007-1-contents.htm#Reason, Science and Progress
Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2010
Andrew, antisemitism, more properly called Judeophobia, goes back to the time of the Roman Empire. It is not a mere 19th creation, except in the limited sense of the racial theories of HSChamberlain, Wagner, Marr and others. My view is that Luther and Kant had as much influence on producing Nazi Judeophobia as did the racial theorists. Or that the racial theorists were influenced by Luther, Kant, etc.
Peter Kovachev - 11/11/2010
A fascinating background, Andrew, and a probably a helpful therapeutic primal e-scream. Let me guess, you're young, fascinated with yourself, and the hard fact that no one will ever care about your personality's facets as much as your mom, hasn't really sunk in yet. Trust me, it will eventually and life will go on.
Beginning response with claims to Jewishness and autobiographies is not a good idea. Claims to Jewishness do not place one in a special club, rendering him immune from being judged as hostile to Jewish aspirations, or even from being called a raving antisemite. Unfortunately, the strange phenomenon of the self-hating Jew is a historical and present reality; just pick up some history books, or have a few drinks with J-Street types.
Even less of interest to most are jujune theses on world history and bombastic pronouncements like, "Adolph Hitler was simply a logical outgrowth of nineteenth-century nationalism." It's that simple, is it? Gosh, if I had known back at university.
Or, "the answer to Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish National Homeland. What would that have been worth if Field Marshall Montgomery had lost the battle of El Alamein..." Great point; and what would a Jewish National Home have been worth if a meteor had struck Earth and obliterated everyone except five tribesmen in Borneo? Tip: It's usually not very effective to argue with might-have-beens which never happened.
Lastly, non-sequiturs should be avoided at all cost. To wit, your, "I suppose the boundary cases involve great apes, whose mentality merges with that of children" doesn't appear to be attached to any of your points. Non-sequiturs may not affect the thrust of your arguments, but the reader is justified in pondering whether they are a product of a brilliant mind or, sadly enough as the case usually is, whether such literary ejaculations reveal issues with substance abuse, or cognitive or emotional disabilities. It's a rough, cold world out there, and although some of us may be able to guess at your points, don't expect everyone to do so.
Andrew D. Todd - 11/11/2010
Just to set the record straight, an ultra-orthodox rabbi would consider me an unobservant Jew. A German Nazi would consider me a "Zebra," and if I wanted to claim Israeli citizenship, I could. As it happens, I consider myself an American, one of Hector St. John de Crevecour's "Noveau Hommes," with ancestors from many countries, not to mention those who arrived over the Bering land-bridge, fourteen thousand years ago. When I was a child, I attended a school and a community center run by (progressive) Jewish organizations. Both Christmas and Channuka were celebrated. So stop calling me a shiksa!
Adolph Hitler was simply a logical outgrowth of nineteenth-century nationalism. It was mere chance, the luck of battles in 1815 or 1870 or 1914, that he was an ethnic German, rather than a Frenchman like Jean-Marie Le Pen. Parenthetically, I gather there is a certain persistent doubt about whether Hitler might have had Jewish ancestry (at this late date, who can prove who a girl slept with or didn't sleep with, circa 1850). Nineteenth-century nationalism implies purging those who are seen to be a little bit less "national" than the others, and then, having eliminated them, repeating the process on another group who are not perfectly "national." And so on. In Northern Ireland, to cite one example, Orange Day is colloquially known as "Kick the Papishes Day." All Hitler really did was to synthesize nineteenth-century nationalism with the violence of total war. He is in fact Hans Helmut Kirst's character "General [Toten]-Tanz" in _The Night of the Generals_.
The answer to Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish National Homeland. What would that have been worth if Field Marshall Montgomery had lost the battle of El Alamein, and Field Marshall Rommel had taken Cairo, and had then passed through Palestine, en route to turn the Russian flank on the Caspian Sea, to come into Stalingrad via the back door as it were? The answer is to push political and civil rights outward, far enough that Jews are not conspicuous aliens. This is in effect Pastor Martin Niemoller's "When they came for the Jews..." argument. In its time, this approach produced Jewish Freedom Riders. I suppose the boundary cases involve great apes, whose mentality merges with that of children.
Peter Kovachev - 11/10/2010
"Anti-semitism of the Israeli state"? Did you make this howler up yourself just to provoke a talking point, Mr Todd? It is one of the stupidest swipes at Israel I've read in a while.
For anyone serious who is reading this, yes there is vigorous Orthodox opposition to Reform and other liberal movements, not all of it fairly fought. It is not, however, the only or even the biggest obstacle Reform and other forms of liberal Judaism face in Israel.
The majority of Israelis are not readily attracted to Reform mostly because it is a Western European and North American response by an assimilated religious and cultural minority to issues which Israelis, given their circumstances and challenges find, rightly or wrongly, picayune. And it doesn’t help either that the Reform movement in the U.S. has been distancing itself from Israel politically, physically and emotionally, while readily embracing with abandon almost any trendy liberal cause du jur.
This has left some of the Reform's more excitable activists confused and angry, seeing that while many Israelis may choose to be moderately or entirely non-observant, and that they admire some of the platforms of the Reform, when push comes to shove, they tend to choose what they consider to be authentic, time-proven and much more vibrant traditional kinds of Judaism represented not by a fictional monolithic "Orthodox rabbinate," but by the rich and very diverse collection of Orthodox movements on finds in Israel.
There are, indeed, legitimate complaints liberal Jewish congregations and secular Israelis can make both against sectors of the Orthodox political establishment and Israel’s governments. However, a good chunk of the critique comes from hostile types like our Mr Todd, who pretend to know or care about Israeli and Jewish internal religious issues and in the fashion of all intellectual scavengers, will use any handy tool and all the provocative lingo and questionable factoids to bludgeon Israel and the Jews.
Andrew D. Todd - 11/10/2010
At some point, one has to talk about the anti-semitism of the Israeli state, that is, the harassment of Reform Jews by the official Orthodox rabbinate. Harry Golden dealt with this in _The Israelis_ (1971). As Golden pointed out, Israel is not a nation of Orthodox Jews, so much as it is a nation of non-observant Secularized Jews, who simply don't care enough about religion to be affected by what Orthodox Rabbis do.
Here are some more recent sources. Nothing much seems to have changed:
Peter Kovachev - 11/9/2010
Mr Hanby, as an active and proud Zionist, I protest your reduction of Zionism to the vague, and obviously unfavourable characterization as a "separatist ideology."
Given the fact that most ideologies and all expressions of religious, national or cultural pride out there can in one way or another be interpreted as "separatist," the term has hardly any meaning other than to be demeaning to Jews specifically.
Zionism is, simply, a Jewish form of nationalism, held by the vast majority of committed Jews worldwide, and comes in many forms, expressions and political shades. In its modern form, it emerged as a practical response to centuries of attempts to destroy Judaism as a religion and Jews as a people. How is Zionism "hurtful to American Jews"? (Recent stats show Americans' support of Israel and sympathy with Jews to be quite high.) And, even if this were truly the case, would it be justified to single out the Jews as the only group in America not entitled to particularistic sentiments? Would you describe Gay Pride parades, the Million Man March, Latin festivals and Chinese New Year fests as "orgies of separatism"?
Sure, people are entitled to their own opinions out there, but in my experience, if you scratch "anti-zionism" even superficially, the ugly face of Jew-hatred will peek back at you.
Charles S. Weinblatt - 11/8/2010
Americans love free speech. We believe that people should be allowed to say anything, as long as it is personally defaming. Yet, with such freedom also comes responsibility. When a university professor denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel, he can inflict significant damage to Jews and Judaism.
Captured German war records, available at the US National Archives, prove that millions of innocent Jews and tens of thousands of others were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany - mostly in gas chambers. These facts have been proven repeatedly through countless thesis and dissertation research papers (see Nuremberg Trial records, Yad Vashem, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Emory University and many other cherished academic institutions). Virtually every History PhD in the free world will stake their career on these known Holocaust facts. Despite this knowledge, Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. Deniers have a sordid agenda - to distort the truth in a way that promotes antagonism against Jews, and to deny the culpability of their ancestors and heroes.
Museums and mandatory public education are appropriate tools to dispel bigotry, especially racial and ethnic hatred. Books and films can also establish the veracity of genocides, such as recent Holocaust films. They help to tell the true story of the perpetrators of genocide; and they reveal the abject terror, humiliation and degradation resulting from such blind loathing and prejudice. We must disclose the cruelty and horror of genocide to combat the deniers’ virulent and inaccurate historical revision. By doing this, we protect vulnerable future generations from making the same mistakes.
Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize genocide we send a critical message to the world. As we continue to live in an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, we must repel the broken ethics of our ancestors, or risk a dreadful repeat of past transgressions. A world that continues to allow genocide requires ethical remediation. We must show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny's only hope. Only through such efforts can we reveal the true horror of genocide and promote the triumphant spirit of humankind.
Author, Jacob’s Courage
Alonzo L Hamby - 11/8/2010
It is one thing to hate Zionism, a separatist ideology that I happen to think hurtful to American Jews. It is another to hate Israel, for all its faults a fundamentally liberal democratic country existing in a sea of Middle Eastern authoritarianism and corruption. But people are entitled to their opinions.
No intelligent interpretation of academic freedom, however, legitimates the teaching of untruths. No one who examines the record of World War II can credibly deny that the Nazis wanted to kill millions of Jews and, while one may quibble about the precise numbers, were horribly successful at it.
That said, the tone of this article is troubling in its shrillness, and its focus on one extremist obscures the much greater fact that it has become broadly acceptable on American campuses to attack Israel intemperately and rather dangerous to say anything critical about the Islamic world.
A couple of days after 9/11, I was asked to serve on a panel discussion of the event, along with four or five other Ohio University faculty members. One highly edcucated idiot launched into a long monologue blaming the attack on Israel! This unfortunately was not an uncommon, one-of-a-kind event in academia.
Nicholas Clifford - 11/8/2010
I can't quote chapter and verse on this, but my memory is that the AAUP documents on academic freedom apply rather more narrowly than many think. Of course you are free under the first amendment to express whatever ideas you like. But if you wish to appeal to academic freedom (under the AAUP's understanding of the term. your academic freedom is limited to those matters in which you are competent. Is an English professor competent to deny the Holocaust? An overly simple answer might be, Yes, as an individual; No, under the AAUP guidelines. Being "morally imbecilic" about the Holocaust, Israel, or for that matter, the Palestinians, is not a crime; but I don't think it can claim academic freedom as protection, unless it is within the competence of the "moral imbecile."
Maybe someone more up to date on AAUP matters and interpretations can set me straight on this.
John D. Beatty - 11/8/2010
When the Greens listen respectfully to those who claim that climactic change is a natural cycle, and when the Truther mantra of 9/11 as an "inside job" is accepted as an academic argument, we can allow Holocaust denial to be a legitimate academic position.
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