Parents should reconsider sending
children to Columbia
children to Columbia
New York The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) condemned Columbia University for providing a forum to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and is urging donors to reconsider giving money to the University. Not only was Ahmadinejad given a platform to repeat his lies, including denying the historical truth of the Holocaust, but giving him a platform was defended by the Dean of Columbias School of International and Public Affairs, John Coatsworth, on the grounds that no-one, not even Adolf Hitler, would be disqualified from addressing Columbia. Coatsworth stated, If Hitler was in the United States and wanted a platform from which to speak, he would have plenty of platforms at which to speak in the US. If he were willingly to engage in debate and discussion, and be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him (Jerusalem Post, September 23; Youtube).
A petition of over 10,000 signatures asking Columbia to rescind the invitation to Ahmadinejad was ignored by Columbias administration.
Selected critiques of Columbias decision to provide a platform for Ahmadinejad:
Does anyone seriously believe that Columbia would invite a politician or scholar who denied that American slavery took place, or alleged that its effects on African-Americans was benign or exaggerated? Would Columbia host a Grand Wizard of the KKK who called for African nations to be wiped off the map? And yet, Ahmadinejad is far worse. Not only has he denied the Holocaust and called repeatedly for Israels destruction, he has gone beyond words and worked hard to put his plan into action. Ahmadinejads Iran is one of the worlds foremost sponsors of international terror, especially the Hizballah posse of killers, and he is now hell-bent on building thermonuclear weapons with which he might just accomplish what Hitler could not: the annihilation of half the worlds Jews with the push of a single button. Ahmadinejad is also directly responsible for the murder of untold numbers of American troops in Iraq, whose killers, according to reams of reports, he is arming and funding. Two years ago, Harvard President Lawrence Summers lost his job for insinuating that women were not as intellectually competent in math and science as men. Yet Ahmadinejad presides over a government that brutally suppresses women, inflicting corporal punishment if they so much as go out in the street without a head covering. But none of this has prevented him from being feted by American academia (Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post , September 25).
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson: Columbia University gave a public forum today to a tyrant to spread his lies and deceit. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a mockery of free speech by standing in front of an auditorium of academicians and students and denying the existence of the Holocaust and his deadly intentions toward Israel. I find it ironic that Irans president accepted an invitation to speak at Columbia University, since students who dissent on Iranian campuses are not met with debate, they are met by a gun and imprisonment. A few months ago, eight college students were imprisoned in Irans notorious Evin Prison for publishing articles and cartoons critical of Irans government in a student-run newspaper. The Evin facility has been described as Irans most feared prison and is known to stone women to death. We need to do our best to empower freedom-loving people throughout Iran (Fred Thompson statement , September 24).
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 cant 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).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The ZOA has already expressed its condemnation of the justifications that have been advanced by Columbia president Lee Bollinger for inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address Columbia University. Ahmadinejad is only the most vocal of Muslim leaders calling for Israels elimination, which means calling for the murder of the Jews of Israel, and uttering obscenities like denying the Nazi genocide of Europes Jews. What makes Ahmadinejads repeated calls for and predictions of Israels 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. Now, he has addressed Columbia. Was justice or the cause of peace or even elementary human understanding served by Columbia giving him a platform? Of course not.
Ahmadinejad didnt fully answer the sharp challenges Bollinger put to him or else simply lied. Thus, he simply denied that homosexuals even exist in Iran. He denied that he intends to destroy Israel or obtain nuclear weapons, statements that simply contradict the evidence and his own statements in Persian at home. What did we learn from hearing lies and misinformation? President Bollinger and Dean Coatsworths arguments that free speech, debate and other lofty values were served by giving Ahmadinejad a platform have been shown to be empty.
Not only were these values not served, but they were actually perverted and devalued. Since when was free speech strengthened by injecting lies and misinformation and hate propaganda into public discussion? Ahmadinejad was permitted to turn the occurrence of the Holocaust as an issue for dispute. Elsewhere, he has called for the destruction of America and Israel. By allowing him a platform, Columbia simply permitted the obscenity of Holocaust denial to be presented as legitimate viewpoint with which people may agree or disagree. His other views on Israel and America were also implicitly legitimized by this invitation to address Columbia.
It needs to be understood that this is not a freedom of speech issue at all. Freedom of speech does not require any organization, university church or synagogue to invite any specific individual to speak any more than it obliges a newspaper to publish all op-ed submissions. For example, ZOA or Yeshiva University is not obliged to invite Ahmadinejad to speak. Freedom of speech simply means that one is not denied the right to express oneself publicly — whether on a street-corner, publishing ones own magazine, distributing leaflets or starting a newspaper or making statements on call back radio or TV. It does not mean that anyone is obliged to provide a platform to speak or publish to anyone else.
There is no question that the Bollinger/Coatsworth argument in defense of doing this is hollow and something they would not support in other circumstances. For example, Columbia just recently denied a platform to Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrest to talk about securing Americas borders. It has also denied a platform to Columbia alum David Horowitz to address the issue of academic freedom. Clearly, Columbia sometimes does decide that certain views are unacceptable and that speakers holding them should be denied a platform.
To take another example, Columbia would not permit neo-Nazi and clansman David Dukes to spout his racist bile at Columbia. Not only is Ahmadinejads Holocaust denial worse, but he is a head of state which has put itself on record as seeking to perpetrate a new Holocaust. David Dukes racist views on African-Americans were properly excluded from Columbia. Here, however, Bollinger and Coatsworth have overturned principle and decency by making an exception for Ahmadinjads hate propaganda. Worse, Coatsworth has said in so many words that he would have invited Hitler to speak.
The offensiveness, hypocrisy and inconsistency of Columbias attitude to providing platforms and its decision to provide one now for Ahmadinejad is the last straw. The ZOA believes that it is high time that donors and all people of goodwill make known to Columbia their abhorrence at its lack of principle and decency by considering withholding further support from the university. The Columbia administration seems impervious to any other reasoned expression of criticism or counsel on this subject. Accordingly, the time has come for donors to stand up and be counted in this vital battle against the perversion of the function of the university and free speech. All people of goodwill should reconsider sending their children to Columbia and Barnard College. Columbia must understand that donors and parents will not stand by while the university allows itself to facilitate the propaganda efforts of totalitarian anti-Semitism, hatred and psychological warfare to our students.
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Center for Law & Justice
We work to educate the American public and Congress about legal issues in order to advance the interests of Israel and the Jewish people.
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