Freedom of Speech is not ‘Pick and Choose’: On the Paleckis Trial in Vilnius



O P I N I O N

by  Dovid Katz

DefendingHistory.com disagrees with each and every word that Lithuanian politician Algirdas Paleckis has uttered about the events in Vilnius, Lithuania, of January 13th 1991 when courageous unarmed protesters for freedom and independence were mercilessly murdered by armed Soviet forces.

As students of Voltaire (though the famous quote is by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall), we disapprove of all that Paleckis has said about January 1991, but we will join the fight to the finish for his right to say it and not be subject to trial in a member-state of the European Union and NATO.

We cannot know whether the decision to prosecute Algirdas Paleckis has anything to do also with his views on the Holocaust and his courageous and laudable work to oppose the state’s current shameful efforts to obfuscate the genocide via the state-funded Double Genocide movement in Europe and beyond, and for his robust and correct criticism of the government’s efforts to glorify local Holocaust perpetrators as “freedom fighters”.

We wish to say for the record that we applaud his stance on the Holocaust and the need to mount intellectual and political resistance to the current campaign to trivialize it. We applaud his opposition to the efforts to  declare the equality of Nazi and Soviet crimes as a “state truth” with dissent punishable at Eastern Europe’s witch-burning-stake of the twenty-first century.

Paleckis was, moreover, one of the few public figures to speak out against the 2010 legalization of public swastikas. Thanks to him, the eerie silence that brought so much discredit to the country in the wake of that court decision was broken. The country owes him a great debt for that.

Nor can it be ignored that the democratically repugnant 2010 law under which Paleckis is being prosecuted was itself a perverse product of the far right’s Red-Brown campaign. Its prime movers and the media explained publicly, back in March 2009, why such a law was being pursued in the first place, in the twenty-first century: “Meanwhile, in the Lithuanian legal system, acts regarding the the crimes of Soviet genocide, i.e., their denial or justification, are not criminalized, and, experts say, this is an obstacle in attempting to equate the crimes of Soviet genocide with the Nazi genocide.”

To put it differently, the very law under which prosecutors are pursuing Algirdas Paleckis is itself a product of the malevolent campaign to obfuscate the Holocaust and to criminalize dissenting opinions. Milan Chersonski (long-time editor of the Jewish community’s newspaper) and MEP Professor Leonidas Donskis are among those who have eloquently exposed the law for what it is.

Perhaps the prosecution service that has such a dismal record in prosecuting Nazi war criminals, and that has instead been pursuing Holocaust Survivors with kangaroo “war crimes investigations” just lacks the courage to prosecute those of us who on the subject of the Holocaust are perchance violating the new law by maintaining, for example, that Soviet crimes in Lithuania were horrendous but did not rise to genocide (see e.g. our reply to Rokas Grajauskas in the amicable discussion in a recent issue of Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review).

On the issues of freedom of speech, and on the difference between right and wrong during the Holocaust, Algirdas Paleckis got it right, and is one of an array of bold Lithuanian citizens of all backgrounds who have spoken out. It is time for local and national leaders who equally disagree with his nonsense about 1991 to rise to the defense, not of Algirdas Paleckis but of freedom and democracy in an important member state of the European Union and NATO.

Posted in Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Media Watch, Opinion, US State Dept Manipulated? | Comments Off on Freedom of Speech is not ‘Pick and Choose’: On the Paleckis Trial in Vilnius

Comments are closed.