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A referendum is being held at the university’s prestigious debating society for all members on Friday which could lead President Luke Tryl to rescind the controversial invites to a Free Speech Forum event next Monday.
Opposition to the event intensified last week when several politicians and celebrities including Defence Secretary Des Browne and Television presenter June Sarpong pulled out of separate speaking events at the Union in protest.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams condemns the invites in an exclusive Jewish News interview today and around 2,000 people have signed a Downing Street petition against the event.
On Monday, meanwhile, Jewish students joined representatives from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Oxford Students Union, National Union of Students and Unite Against Fascism at a rally at Oxford Town Hall to express their outrage. Bergen Belsen survivor Mala Tribich, who addressed the protestors described the invite to Irving as “deeply hurtful and insulting.”
Karen Pollock, Holocaust Educational Trust, Chief Executive, added: “I urge Mr. Tryl to think about the consequences of his actions, other than self promotion.”
Steven Altmann-Richer, co-president of the Oxford Jewish Society, told the Jewish News: “The rally was a victory with so many different people were united against one cause. It was an opportunity for the President to listen to a large number of people and see beyond the Oxford Union members and see what damage he is doing.”
Fourth-year law student Jeremy Seef added, “I would encourage any member to vote or at least express their opposition by writing to the Union President.”
Tryl told the Jewish News: “I decided to invite Griffin and Irving to take part in a free speech forum to show that we are not afraid of taking on their views. I find both individuals to be odious, their ideas awful and abhorrent.
“Already junior common rooms across Oxford have supported the invitations, whilst an independently organised debate of a few hundred students revealed that 75 percent were in favour. These are not people who are sympathetic to the far-right but students who believe in tackling extremism head on. The matter will now go to a poll of all of our members this Friday and it is ultimately they who will have the final say in whether or not this forum goes ahead.”
A BNP spokesman said: “It is internationally embarrassing that we can criticise Russia , China and Burma for civil rights while the leader of probably the fourth biggest political party in the UK is not allowed to speak at any British university. Nick isn’t happy about speaking with David Irving but if you are going to talk about free speech you cannot say who is or isn’t allowed.”
Irving, meanwhile, cast doubt over whether he was planning to attend even if the invitation wasn’t revoked. He told the Jewish News: “I am currently scheduled to speak in Liverpool that night.”
And blaming the “hidden pressures of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and its front organisations.”, he stated that invitations to the Union had been cancelled at least seven times in recent years.Oxford Union crunch vote by Marc Shoffman