The AP notes today that New York Jews are steamed not just about Iran’s president Ahmadinejad speaking at the UN, but also about his address to a Columbia University forum:
he [will] appear at a series of events including the U.N. General Assembly and a forum at Columbia University, where about 40 elected officials and civic leaders decried his visit.
To me this is utterly foolish and Columbia president Lee Bollinger has taken precisely the right approach (J.J. Goldberg are you listening–you had the same opportunity to grill Walt and Mearsheimer but you choked) in addressing their concerns:
…Bollinger has resisted requests to cancel Ahmadinejad’s speech this year but promised to introduce the talk himself with a series of tough questions on topics including the Iranian leader’s views on the Holocaust, his call for the destruction of the state of Israel and his government’s alleged support of terrorism.
…At the protests, New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Ahmadinejad ”should be arrested when he comes to Columbia University, not invited to speak for God’s sake.”
I often mistake Dov Hikind for an Irv Rubin wannabe rather than an elected state official. It’s amazing that his constituency return him to office. You can imagine what kind of views they have if they embrace this racist thug.
Other Jewish legislators seem to feel pressured to act tough toward Columbia. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hopes to penalize the University financially for its temerity in honoring the concept of the free exchange of ideas–even odious ones:
Sheldon Silver, said lawmakers, outraged over Columbia’s insistence on allowing the Iranian president to speak at its World Leaders Forum, would consider reducing capital aid and other financial assistance to the school.
Lawmakers warned about other consequences for Columbia and its president, Lee Bollinger, who has resisted campus and public pressure to cancel Mr. Ahmadinejad’s appearance today, arguing that Columbia’s commitment to scholarship requires the school to directly confront offensive ideas.
“There are issues that Columbia may have before us that obviously this cavalier attitude would be something that people would recall,” Mr. Silver said. “Obviously, there’s some degree of capital support that has been provided to Columbia in the past. These are things people might take a different view of … knowing that this is that kind of an institution.”
Mr. Silver faulted Columbia for “attempting to legitimize this individual…”
Silver is forgetting that Ahmadinejad isn’t David Duke or Lyndon LeRouche–he’s the president of one of the most important Muslim nations in the world which currently is in danger of embroiling the world in conflict. Hearing him speak and telling him what we think of his ideas as Bollinger will do does nothing to “legitimize” those ideas. Who in the Columbia audience will be persuaded that a nuclear Iran is a good thing??
And perhaps, Speaker Silver should remember that he is not just penalizing Columbia by punishing them in this way. He is also penalizing the city of New York and the entire Columbia community, some of whom are his constituents. Columbia is one of New York’s pre-eminent academic institutions. Such an act would be cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.
And lest anyone mistake my views for support for Iran, think again. I don’t support either Ahmadinejad or Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But I don’t support potentially launching World War III over them either.