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Vol.7, No 120, May 15-18, 2000
[news]  

Teacher testimony stirs controversy

By Christina L. Esparza
Daily Forty-Niner

A Cal State Long Beach professor's controversial testimony in a highly publicized libel trial has left his peers asking for an explanation.

CSULB psychology professor Kevin MacDonald testified last year on behalf of David Irving, a historian who claims the estimated number of Jews killed in the Holocaust has been exaggerated and the Auschwitz death camp had no gas chambers.

Irving sued author Deborah Lipstadt for libel, contending she had ruined his reputation by saying that he falsified historical data in his books.

"I certainly was surprised, to say the least, that a CSULB professor would testify for someone who was well known of being a Holocaust denier," said CSULB history professor Donald Schwartz who teaches a class on the Holocaust.  "It left me feeling there is a need for a faculty open discussion with MacDonald in a formal forum."

MacDonald was called as an expert witness in Irving's defense because he has written three books on Judaism asserting that Jews have historically separated themselves from gentiles. However, MacDonald said he is not a historian and "can offer no expert opinion on the work of David Irving," according to his deposition.

But, in a letter posted on his Web site defending his testimony, MacDonald  said he saw himself defending Irving's right to free speech.

MacDonald said he was approached by Irving to testify because one of MacDonald's books called the suppression of Irving's work "an example of Jewish tactics for combating anti-Semitism," the letter stated.

MacDonald, who refused to be interviewed, has also posted a reaction to claims that his books are anti-Semitic.

He writes: "This book ['A People that Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy'] is likely to be highly controversial and troubling to many, since it depicts Judaism as a fundamentally self-interested group strategy which has often been in competition with at least some sections of gentile society."

During questioning in the libel case, Irving asked MacDonald if he "perceived the Jewish community as working in a certain way in order to suppress a certain book." MacDonald answered "yes" and added there were "several tactics the Jewish organizations have used."

MacDonald replied to an article written about him in the April 20 issue of New Times magazine saying: "My position is that we should not simply assume that every instance of anti-Semitism is completely irrational. Rather, we should suppose that, in general, there are indeed real conflicts of interest between groups…"

However, MacDonald has insisted in many writings and in the New Times article that he is not an anti-Semite and one of his students agreed.

"I don't see his believing in freedom of speech as him agreeing with Irving," said Susan Miramontez, a junior psychology major and a student in MacDonald's class. "He's a highly intelligent man who enjoys his profession."

But MacDonald's testimony, along with his writings, has caused CSULB faculty to demand an explanation for his actions, Schwartz said.

Psychology department chairman Keith Colman refused to comment and said it was not his job to defend the professors in his department.

Faculty members have expressed concern because MacDonald's work has been used as ammunition for neo-Nazis to attack Jews, Schwartz said.

"His work has been read and cited by right-wing groups, like skinheads," Schwartz said. "His work can be used in those racist and anti-Semitic views."

 
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