ZOA Condemns Columbia’s Lee Bollinger For Inviting Iran’s Ahmadinejad To Address University
September 21, 2007

ZOA organizes rally against
Ahmadinejad at Columbia

New York — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned the decision by Columbia University president, Lee Bollinger, to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust, proclaimed that Israel should be wiped off the map and seeks to acquire nuclear weapons, to address the University. Ahmadinejad will appear at Columbia University on Monday, September 24, to deliver an address and participate in a question and answer session with university faculty and students at Columbia. Bollinger said in justifying the invitation to Ahmadinejad that he had insisted that the event would include a session of questions as long as Ahmadinejad’s address and that he personally would issue a number of “sharp challenges” to the Iranian leader on his public denial of the murder of European Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, public call for Israel’s elimination, support for terrorism targeting American personnel and civilians in Iraq, his pursuit of nuclear weapons, suppression of women’s rights and imprisonment of journalists and scholars, including Columbia alumni Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh ( Bollinger statement, September 19, 2007).

Commentary on Bollinger’s invitation to Ahmadinejad:

  • Senator John McCain: “Rather than rolling out the red carpet for the leader of a terrorist-sponsoring regime, Columbia should be welcoming the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps back on campus” ( New York Daily News, September 21, 2007); “A man who is directing the maiming and killing of Americans troops should not be given an invitation to speak at an American university” ( Boston Globe, September 21, 2007).

  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: It is disappointing “when our academic institutions can’t draw a line between people who bring legitimate differences in perspective versus those who are completely out of touch with reality” (Mitt Romney, New York Daily News, September 21, 2007).

  • W all Street Journal: “After promising that he would introduce the president ‘with a series of sharp challenges’ — including Iran’s ‘reported support’ for international terrorism — he went on to say that ‘it is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their expression.’ We’re all for free speech and the vigorous exchange of intellectual differences, though we don’t see how Mr. Bollinger can be, given his decision to discriminate against young men and women who seek to make careers in the military. We also don’t quite see how the right to free speech — a freedom Mr. Ahmadinejad conspicuously denies his own people — is tantamount to the right to an illustrious pedestal” ( Editorial, Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2007).

  • William Kristol, Editor, Weekly Standard: “So at the request of the Iranian government, Columbia University will host the president of a terrorist regime which is right now responsible for the deaths of American soldiers on the field of battle … One can imagine President Ahmadinejad nervously preparing for President Bollinger’s ‘sharp challenges,’ and wondering whether those challenges will detract from the propaganda victory Bollinger’s invitation has given him. He’s undoubtedly concluded it won’t be a big problem … In fact, the introduction with “sharp challenges” by Bollinger makes the situation even more of a disgrace. Now there will be the appearance of real dialogue, of Ahmadinejad answering challenges, which further legitimizes the notion that Holocaust denial, say, is a subject of legitimate and reasonable debate” ( William Kristol , Weekly Standard, September 21, 2007).

  • New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn: Universities should be “laboratories for a healthy exchange of differing ideas,” but argued such exchanges “should not include state-sponsored terrorism and hate speech. He can say whatever he wants on any streetcorner,” Quinn wrote in a letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, asking that he cancel the event. ( New York Daily News, September 21, 2007).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are appalled at and condemn the naivety and superficiality of the justifications that have been advanced by Lee Bollinger for inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address Columbia University. Ahmadinejad is only the most vocal of Muslim leaders calling for Israel’s elimination, meaning calling for the murder of the Jews of Israel, and uttering obscenities like denying the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews. What makes Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls for and predictions of Israel’s destruction so ominous is that his regime is proceeding unhindered towards acquiring nuclear weapons, which would allow him to carry out his dream. Ahmadinejad says repeatedly that no one will stop him.

“Against this, the racist bile of David Dukes pales into insignificance, yet Lee Bollinger would be blocking his entry at the front gate if anyone invited this racist to appear at Columbia. However, instead of barring from Columbia the anti-Semitic fulminations of Ahmadinejad, Bollinger invites him to restate them on campus. By inviting Ahmadinejad to address the university, Bollinger is giving a podium and an aura of respectability to this genocidally-minded Holocaust denier. Worse, he is permitting the impression to form that Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and demands for Israel’s destruction are reasonable points of view for debate and discussion. Are David Dukes’ racist views on African- Americans reasonable subjects for debate at Columbia? Of course not.”

“It is for this reason that the ZOA has strongly supported the House Concurrent Resolution 21, which calls on ‘the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.’ The Resolution ‘condemns … Ahmadinejad’s offensive remarks, contemptible statements, and reprehensible policies,’ calls on the United Nations Security Council and all Member States to ‘consider measures to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,’ and ‘reaffirms the unwavering strategic partnership between the United States and Israel.’

“How bitterly ironic and how inexcusable that Lee Bollinger issues an invitation to a man who has properly been the subject of a Congressional resolution calling upon the UN to charge him with violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Bollinger’s invitation to Ahmadinejad is an infamous decision that will haunt the reputation of Columbia University and its president for years to come.”

“We urge ZOA members and all people of goodwill to attend the rally at Columbia University to protest the presence of Ahmadinejad organized by ZOA, Hillel, Hasbara, StandWithUs, Amcha, and The David Project. The rally will take place on Monday, September 24, 1:00-3:00 on Columbia University’s campus outside Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway. Non-Columbia students should assemble at the Columbia Gates at 116th and Broadway, for which a permit has been secured to stage a protest there.”

Center for Law & Justice
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