A group representing Holocaust survivors is calling on New York institutions to boycott Holocaust-denier David Irving, who is planning a visit to the Big Apple over the weekend.
As part of a nationwide tour, Irving has been crisscrossing the United States, planning a stop in New York on November 14. The date was announced on Irving's Web site. In what has become a common practice, those interested in attending were encouraged to purchase tickets online with the promise that they would be notified about the location several hours before the event.
"He has said repeatedly, he's determined to make this New York appearance. It's particularly offensive because this is the largest community of Holocaust survivors," said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, which represents 80,000 families nationwide.
Steinberg said he had been alerted to Irving's speaking tour by Holocaust survivors and their relatives around the country, who had called him and said Irving was making appearances in their hometowns.
"It is a big deal. Second only to Iran's Ahmadinejad, this is about as offensive as you can get to Holocaust survivors," Steinberg said.
He said his group had debated internally about whether publicizing the visit could backfire by rallying other deniers to his side.
"But in the end, we decided that in view of the fact that most people he may be engaging with" - such as hoteliers, book shop owners or others renting space to him for his appearance - "may be unaware who he is, it was best to make this public so that they are aware of it."
Indeed, members of another group, calling themselves New Yorkers Against David Irving, have purchased tickets to the lecture and plan to demonstrate outside.
"Irving serves as a 'focal point' to bring together Jew-haters," the group said in a publicized statement.
The June murder of a security guard at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum "shows where this racist and anti-Semitic tendency often leads," it charged. "We call for people to confront Irving at each stop of his tour."
Though Irving tours regularly, observers noted that his current circuit seemed more extensive than in years past.
But this speaking tour has been marked by trouble. Just ahead of an appearance in Jackson, Mississippi, where Irving sought to speak at City Hall, Steinberg's organization alerted local officials and successfully forced Irving to move the event.
Last week, two men attending one of Irving's book signings outside of Palm Beach, Florida, got into a fight. One was stabbed and wounded.
Deborah Lipstadt, the Emory professor whose high-profile court battle with Irving resulted in three courts calling Irving a Holocaust-denier, an anti-Semite and a racist, said the threat he posed had lost some bite after their protracted court case in the late 1990s.
In recent years, Irving has nuanced his positions slightly, she said.
"Some people say he's no longer a denier," Lipstadt said. "The guy remains an anti-Semite. The ultimate fact of the matter is that nobody should pay attention to him. He is dying for demonstrators."
She said that Irving, who was once "quite dangerous," posed less of a threat because "his lies have been so virulently exposed."
But she acknowledged that Holocaust-deniers had taken a new approach in recent years. "They're on the net in very sophisticated ways. He's on the net, too. That's where he gets a little bit of his following."
Holocaust-deniers are being more subtle on the Internet, said Dan Leshem, program manager for a site founded by Lipstadt, called Holocaust Deniers On Trial, found at www.HDOT.org. For example, Leshem said, deniers regularly troll YouTube and social networking sites and post thousands of anti-Semitic or anti-Israel comments on videos or news items.
They are "moving away from 'Come to my Web site, hear my message of denial,' and the deniers have spread out into the Web 2.0 world," he said. Rather than recruit followers full on, they "infuse the everyday discourse with little bits of Holocaust denial."
But that is a modus operandi Steinberg and his organization will fight.
"David Irving is the poster child for the new form of anti-Semitism, which is simply denying that you're an anti-Semite, but saying everything that causes harm to the Jewish people and the state of Israel," he said.