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U of T provides accused anti-Semite with mike
Freedom of speech highest value, says Prichard
By Dorsa Jabbari, Varsity Staff
Despite numerous pleas and cancelled speaking events across Ontario, U of T provided a podium for alleged anti-Semite David Icke.
Before the couple of hundred ticket holders could slip into Hart House Theatre last Wednesday evening to hear Icke speak, they had to make their way past close to 70 protestors rallying outside.
“Icke’s work is most disturbing,” said Green Party spokesperson Richard Warman, pointing out that Icke upholds that many modern world religious and political leaders descend from extra-terrestrial lizards.
Icke had been removed from his position in the early 90’s as spokesperson for the British Green Party because of the nature of his conspiracy theories. Numerous organizations worldwide denounce his work as anti-Semitic. His most notorious books include The Robots’ Rebellion, The Truth Shall Set You Free and The Biggest Secret.
“One of Icke’s main sources is a notorious document called ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ which he renames ‘the Illuminati Protocols,’” said leader of the Ontario Green Party Frank de Jong in a press release. “It states that Jews are trying to take over the world, and was used by the Nazis to justify the genocide of six million people.”
Icke’s books have been taken off the shelves of Indigo bookstores across Ontario.
U of T president Robert Prichard chose not to follow the footsteps of six or seven other venues across Ontario that canceled Icke’s speaking events.
“I myself would not give a plug nickel to hear Icke speak—I’d sooner be with the demonstrators,” said Prichard.
“But the university has an obligation to put freedom of expression above all other values. We should not engage in prior restraint,” he said, adding that his position comes directly from U of T’s statement of institutional purpose.
In a letter addressed to U of T law professor Edward Morgan, a counsel to the Canadian Jewish Congress and U of T, Prichard defends his decision.
“I recognize that Mr. Icke’s conduct may make him unsuitable for entry into Canada and that if he is admitted to Canada that his speech may violate prohibitions on hate crime found in the criminal code,” wrote Prichard. “Our commitment to freedom of expression must be interpreted in the broadest possible way if we are to be true to the fundamental values that separate the University from all other institutions of the modern liberal democracy.”
Morgan says Icke’s work is hateful.
“Having been involved in a number of the more renowned cases in Canada dealing with hate literature, it is my view that this is precisely the type of vilifying material with which the Supreme Court was concerned in its decision regarding the Criminal Code ban. The publications praise classic anti-Semitic tracts, and are replete with references to a ‘secret society’ carrying on a ‘global conspiracy’ led by a ‘manipulating Jewish clique,’” wrote Morgan in a letter to Prichard dated September 30, 1999.
While Morgan champions principles of academic freedom, he argues that Icke’s work does not contribute in any way to academia.
“The material which I have reviewed finds no place in the Canadian marketplace of ideas. Indeed it would seem to undermine such a free exchange,” said Morgan.
“The guy [Icke] uses the National Enquirer as his source,” said Warman.
Susan Bloch-Nevitte, director of U of T Public Affairs, argues that although U of T is providing the space to Sumari Communications who is hosting the speaking tour, the university does not directly endorse Icke.
“The university’s permission to use its space should in no way be construed as endorsing or condoning this individual’s views, which are without doubt repugnant to members of the university community,” said Bloch-Nevitte.
A Sumari Communications employee, who insisted on remaining anonymous, is adamant that Icke’s reputation as an anti-Semite is unfounded.
“I dispute the anti-Semite issue because the Jewish community has chosen to isolate anti-Semitic quote in David’s books which he himself uses quotes from Jewish authors to prove his theories. No one is forcing these people [the audience] to be here, but what is important is that they have the choice. It is called freedom—and David doesn’t even mention the Jews in his talks,” said the employee.
“Is this a Jewish plot? No, No, No. Is it a plot? Yes, Yes, Yes. We are being manipulated, and I do not care if you are Jewish, Chinese, Catholic, etc. We are all being manipulated. And those people that are offended by what I have to say, they should choose not to be offended,” Icke said at the beginning of his talk.
Danny Roth, the director of communications and public affairs of the Canadian Jewish Congress of Ontario Region, attended the event. He was astonished that Icke received a standing ovation after his five-hour-long oration.
“They obviously missed the point,” said Roth, pointing out that Icke did not use explicit anti-Semitic terminology but still preached the same ideas.
“No matter how hard he tries to separate himself from his writings, there was still the classical anti-Semitic message which was camouflaged through suggestive language,” said Roth. “He used terms such as ‘free masons, global conspiracy, and the Illuminati.’ Just because he did not come out and say the Jewish people are the Illuminati, it does not mean that he is not an anti-Semite.”
With files from Nicola Luksic