O P I N I O N
by David Cukier
The following is the text of the author’s letter today to the provost of University College London, following up on his earlier communication of 29 November.
- From: David Cukier
- To: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
- Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 3:38 PM
- Subject: UCL Conference on December 17th and 18th 2012: Jews and Non-Jews in Lithuania: Coexistence, Cooperation, Violence
Dear Professor Grant,
I attach an earlier communication to you in which I asked you to consider the wisdom of hosting the above conference at UCL as a former student who takes great pride in having studied at UCL and the objectives and principles established by its founders.
One of those principles is freedom of thought and expression in the pursuit of truth. I believe that Monica Lowenberg has contacted your office on the hosting of this conference and requested permission to speak for a brief amount of time, no more than five minutes, to express a view concerning the dangers of historical revisionism which the Lithuanian government appears to be engaged in, as recognised by many EU governments and British and EU parliamentarians. The cynical sponsorship, some might say, of this conference by the Lithuanian Government for their partisan political ends should not go unchallenged especially in an academic setting with a distinguished past, particularly in the field of Hebrew and Judaic studies.
I appeal to you both in the name of fairness and for maintaining the good reputation of UCL, and the principles on which it was founded to allow Monica Lowenberg the opportunity to express the disquiet felt by a large section if not the overwhelming majority of the Jewish lay public in this country and abroad, the fears they harbour concerning the development of this strand of historical revisionism sponsored by the Lithuanian Government particularly in resurrecting extreme ideologies for politically expedient motives.
Refusing to let Monica speak and express an alternate view will be seen as another insult to the historical memory of countless Holocaust victims and a signal suppression of freedom of expression in an academic institution whose original purpose was to uncover truth and give freedom to expression and open learning, to the widest possible constituency. I would have thought that such a request is a minimal request of your good office and a confirmation that all valid and cogent views are welcome at UCL to all participants, both invited lecturers and general participants alike, that no one is excluded from expressing their view simply because it is inconvenient or likely to embarrass the sponsors or funding partners.
One again I urge you to allow Monica Lowenberg access on your authority, and to ensure that she is given the opportunity to speak and make her points to the conference in the name of simple decency, and allow her the freedom to express the wider Jewish Community’s concern on the very matters that constitute the agenda for the conference.