Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's racial discrimination and it's illegal

Anti-Israel British Academic Boycott Movement is dealt a Legal blow:

I welcomed with some relief the news that "Academic boycott campaign is finally defeated - morally, politically, legally". In an article on Engage, David Hirsh explained:

The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel has ended today in an absolute and final political, legal and moral defeat. The University and College Union’s (UCU) own lawyers advised it that a policy to exclude academics who work in Israel from the global academic community – and to exclude nobody else on the planet - would have been a violation of equal opportunities legislation in Britain.

Given this legal advice, the leadership of the UCU had no choice but decisively to end the union’s flirtation with a boycott of Israeli academia. To persist in a ‘discussion’ of an illegal and discriminatory policy would have opened the union up to potentially fatal lawsuits on the grounds of unfair discrimination. Union members could have been held personally liable if they had ignored clear legal advice. The Opinion was given to UCU by a widely respected barrister.

UCU’s Strategy and Finance Committee voted unanimously today to end all consideration of the boycott proposal. The Opinion said:

"It would be beyond the Union's powers and unlawful for the Union, directly or indirectly to call for or to implement a boycott by the Union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions; and that the use of Union funds directly or indirectly to further such a boycott would also be unlawful."

But (there is always a "but"), I felt a little dispirited that the matter was resolved through legal advice rather than through capitulation to the force of unequivocal ethical reason.

I was not the only one to experience these trepidations, as can be observed from the comments section.

Today, Shalom Lappin, provides some sobering perspective on this resolution, in an article which appears on Normblog:

The decision by the UCU's Strategy and Finance Committee to end all consideration of an academic boycott of Israel is a welcome event well worth celebrating. The fact that the UCU has acted in response to advice from the union's lawyers indicating that the proposed boycott violates UK equal opportunities laws makes the decision particularly satisfying. It confirms the view of the anti-boycott movement that efforts to impose a collective sanction on Israeli academics, alone among academic communities of the world, are racist in effect, regardless of the boycott advocates' stated intentions.

Shalom Lappin then addresses the feeling of slight dejection that anti-boycotters experienced at this resolution::

"Oddly, some of the people commenting on the UCU decision on the Engage website have expressed disappointment that the boycott proposal has been defeated through legal means rather than by a popular union ballot."

I don't think the "oddly" is warranted here, since he goes on to explain exactly why some people are "disappointed" or less than delighted about this result. In some way, the resolution through legal action means that the law succeeded where persuasion failed, as Lappin says, in causing the "authors of this campaign to experience some sense of embarrassment at falling foul of laws enacted to ban racial exclusion."

A moral defeat, based on the merit of the case, would have dealt a fatal blow to this foul initiative. "Instead", Lappin agrees, "they give every indication of pursuing their offensive activities without pausing to re-evaluate the wisdom of their basic views.”

And why is this important, this failure of moral persuasion? Not because these people's position has any honourable significance, but because it does not defeat the silence and indifference of "These executives and the current UCU administration [who] effectively stood aside, adopting a position of studied neutrality."

And therein lies the source of anxiety, this absence of a sense of a real closure. The analogy Lappin provides illustrates all the more clearly the frustration of having the law resolve what should be an ethically clear principle and praxis. How much better for the American Southern states would it have been to confront the great injustice of their racist systems, and realize its colossal injustice, and let the power of that clarity overcome their crimes of prejudice.

Norm Geras adds in a footnote:

"... Shalom says:

An innocent observer might expect the authors of this campaign to experience some sense of embarrassment at falling foul of laws enacted to ban racial exclusion. Instead they give every indication of pursuing their offensive activities without pausing to re-evaluate the wisdom of their basic views.

And this is the reported reaction of a leading boycott campaigner to the defeat they've just suffered:

Sue Blackwell, a member of the union's executive and of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, said of the decision: "It is quite ridiculous. It is cowardice. It is outrageous and an attack on academic freedom."

What's the word again? Oh yes, 'chutzpah' - that's one of the more polite words anyway. The boycott campaign is itself a planned assault on the academic freedom of those working in Israeli universities. But now, according to Blackwell, it's... well, it's squawk, isn't it?


No sooner suggested than done.

David Hirsh predicted that:

" It will be claimed by the campaign to exclude Israelis from our campuses, conferences and journals that the end of the boycott in UCU represents a capitulation to ‘bourgeois’ or ‘Zioinst’ law (the two adjectives have become inter-changeable amongst some ‘anti-Zionist’ ‘anti-capitalists’). "

And Shalom Lappin concurs:

One wonders how long it will be before we are subjected to the usual claims of 'well-funded outside lobbies' and 'Zionist' cabals, to explain this latest setback to their cause.

So here it is, in a letter by Dr. Amjad Barham, The President of Federation of Union of Palestinian Universities' Professors & Employees:

"While we do not have the resources of the Israel lobby in the UK, we do think that fair-minded British academics ...."

Well, there is the opening gambit: It's the conspiracy of the Were-Rabbit, the collusion of British Law and the "Israel lobby", that keeps the "truth" from being recognized.

What a depressing clichéd thinking!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Anatomy of a media "scoop"

Monday morning update III:

The JPost explains (sort of)

Khaled Abu Tuomeh has written an explanation of how the Jerusalem Post was gulled on the supposed Gaza "honor killing". It is not entirely inconsistent with my guess of yesterday. Apparently, the reporter was gulled by some phone calls from "Fatah" telling him the video, readily available on the Internet with Iraqi provenance, was of a crime committed by Hamasmembers.

Unfortunately, Tuomeh gives us no proof the phone calls were inded from Fatah, though it is possible; his explanation is insufficient and self-serving. He lays blame on the Israeli military for his own failure to authenticate:

Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the IDF has banned Israeli journalists from entering the area. Consequently, the Israeli media (and many foreign journalists) are forced to rely on local reporters and Fatah and Hamas officials as a main source of information.

As the French say, Qui s'excuse, s'accuse. Or is it the other way around in this case? Tuomeh doesn't seem capable of taking responsibility for what happened and his own role in it. Everything is impersonally written, yet this is clearly a personal event.

Who is Tuomeh and how is he being used and for what end? We also don't know the veracity of his previous report of lurid Fatah videos confiscated by Hamas - or where that came from.
In the larger scheme of things, this is just another small incident, but it is also another chink in the grand myth of media objectivity. Who is reliable? Probably no one.

Sunday night update II:
The Jerusalem Post explains: The story was faked:

As part of a campaign to discredit Hamas, Fatah has been using a video showing the killing of a girl in Iraq as "evidence" of Hamas's "atrocities" in the Gaza Strip.

Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces holding their riffles secure the main square of the West Bank city of Ramallah [illustration].Photo: AP [file]
On Friday, officials from the Fatah-controlled General Intelligence contacted The Jerusalem Post, offering the "exclusive" video and story for publication in Sunday's Post. They claimed that it provided fresh evidence of Hamas's "barbarity."

The officials even gave the Post the phone numbers of two men in
the Gaza Strip who claimed that they had witnessed the "honor killing" of the 16-year-old girl. The two confirmed (by phone) that they had witnessed the lynching of the girl in the Gaza Strip.

Since the Hamas takeover of the
Gaza Strip, the IDF has banned Israeli journalists from entering the area. Consequently, the Israeli media (and many foreign journalists) are forced to rely on local reporters and Fatah and Hamas officials as a main source of information.
The girl, along with her two sisters, was murdered in the Gaza Strip in July for "dishonoring" her family. And according to Palestinian human rights groups, at least 11 Palestinian women have been murdered in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year in what is known as "honor killings."

But thanks to the awareness of readers and bloggers, who responded to an article on the video that was later removed from the Post's Web site on Saturday night, the Post did not carry the article in Sunday's paper and has ascertained that the supposed fresh "evidence" of another such killing is actually a Fatah hoax.

The video was authentic, but was filmed in April in Iraq. It shows members of the Yazidis sect killing one of their young girls for carrying on a romance with a Sunni Muslim boy.
According to Dion Nissenbaum, who covers the Middle East as Jerusalem bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, the same video was feverishly sent around by e-mail and cell phone last month in Syria. Only the Syrians were telling each other this was an honor killing perpetrated by the Druse minority in southern Syria.

The Fatah security officials behind the story claimed on Sunday that they, too, had been misled by some of their colleagues.... (read the rest,

Sunday update I: There is some problem with this story, which I posted yesterday. Seems it is an old incident that took place in Iraq a few months ago and not in Gaza. Someone was playing a hoax on the journalist, for whetever reason. Hopefully we'll know more about it soon enough.

My original post:

"A fence of compassion and mercy"

According to this Saudi cleric:

"Islam protects women and guarantees their rights. Islam has surrounded the woman with a fence of compassion and mercy. It has shown that the twisted nature of women stems from their very creation."

Here's an example of this mercy and compassion:

After more than 20 years in the business, and just when you think you've seen it all, there's always something that shocks you more than ever.

This time it's the brutal murder of a 16-year-old girl in
the Gaza Strip. Her crime: "dishonoring" her family. Of course, there is no way to verify the allegations against her and other females who have fallen victim to "honor killings."

The gruesome murder occurred a few weeks ago, when the girl - who looks much younger than her age - was dragged into the street and handed to an mob of angry young men.
Eyewitnesses told The Jerusalem Post that many of those who participated in the lynch were
Hamas members and relatives of the girl.

A five-minute video obtained by the Post over the weekend reveals the savagery and mercilessness of the killers.

What's really disturbing is that none of those at the crime scene tried to intervene to save the girl's life.

More than 20 young men are seen beating, stabbing and kicking the little girl before smashing her head with large stones.

20 young men killing one girl.

In response to the journalist's query, a Hamas security official responds:

"In any case, we are against these killings because we don't want anyone to take the law into his own hands."

They are against "these killings" not because these are barbaric, wrong and criminal acts, but because they are "vigilante" initiatives. The killing in and of itself might be justified but the process by which it has been executed unsdermines the rule of law. The law inspired, I suppose, by the hadiths, that "provide some of the most decisive evidence that Islam protects women and guarantees their rights."

I wonder if the UN Council for Human Rights will discuss any of this any time soon. Yes, right. And pigs may fly...

Pigs that fly?

The issue is not whether pigs can fly but whether they have a right to fly.

As with the core question immortalized by the Monty Python philosophers in the movie: Life of Brian: What's a man's right to have babies worth if he does not have a womb nor is he likely to acquire one at any time in our evolutionary cycle?

REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a
womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

LORETTA: [crying]
JUDITH: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.
FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight
the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.
REG: What's the point?
REG: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?!

However, according to RFC 1925 in Fundamental Truths of Networking, "with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine." But, caution the redactors of Fundamental Truths "this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead."

This is by way of introduction to this minuscule story that inspired the scholarly meditation articulated above:

The United Nations Human Rights Council has not managed to deal fairly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the council's president Doru-Romulus Costea told a Spanish newspaper on Saturday, according to Israel Radio.

Is the UN Human Rights Council going to change its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Doru admitted that he was dissatisfied with the fact the council
had overly focused on the degree of human rights violations by Israel.

"The body which I head must examine the actions of both sides equally, and we have not done that," said Costea. "Clearly, from now on things need to change."

Israel Radio reported that earlier this week, US President
George Bush criticized the UN Human Rights Council, saying that it had put too great an emphasis on Israeli actions.

So UN Human Rights Council President Costea is beginning to think for himself, is he?

"Thinking again?" the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin.

"I've a right to think," said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried.

"Just about as much right," said the Duchess, "as pigs have to fly...."

( Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 9.)

Oy Vey!

Sufi poet Rumi is 800 years old!

Sign and Sight mentions it:

" Islamic scholar Stefan Weidner commemorates the 800th birthday of mystic poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, who once more has a wide circle of readers. "Founder of the Mevlevi Order in the Turkish city of Konya, home of the famous whirling dervishes, he is still honoured like a saint in his home town. Even in unadorned, rough translations, the vivid language of his poems intoxicates readers. The Persian originals, for their part, are pure music." Weidner goes on to admonish German publishing houses focused on the German classics, stressing that there has not yet been a respectable German edition of the poet's works."

Close the Language-Door / Jelaluddin Rumi

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of
Spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window

The moon won't use the door,
only the window.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A politically-activist art exhibit has let out some genies at New England's heartland.

A stinky affair

"Over the Wall: Censorship or anti-semitism? Inside the furor over an Art Hop exhibit

by Ken Picard

"The Art Hop debate raging this week in Burlington ...[i]s about walls themselves — walls that protect or imprison us, walls we hide behind, and walls that separate us from one another and from the truth. To shift the metaphor: Art is supposed to cast light in the darkness. But whether this controversy generates enlightenment or just a lot of heat and smoke remains to be seen. As does who will get burned.

The trouble started with a South End Art Hop installation by Peter Schumann, the 73-year-old Silesian-born founder and art director of Bread and Puppet Theater. In November 2006, Schumann visited Beit Sahour, a small, mostly Greek Orthodox town near Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank. For 10 days, he tried to teach Palestinians between the ages of 18 and 60 about performance art.

Schumann’s goal, he tells Seven Days, was to hear Palestinian stories about the pains and indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of Israeli soldiers — checkpoint searches, home incursions, property destruction and the deaths of loved ones — and then to turn those stories into street theater. Against this backdrop, Schumann was reading The Wall, John Hersey’s famous account of the extermination of the Warsaw Ghetto Jews by the Nazis.

Out of this experience, Schumann, no stranger to controversial art, created “Independence Paintings,” so named because the street performances were held on Palestine Independence Day. The paintings, done on blackened cardboard in his distorted and free-wheeling style, depict people in various states of anguish and persecution. The figures are juxtaposed with “random” quotations from Hersey’s book and descriptions of the Palestinian street theater.

Local opposition to Schumann’s exhibit was stirred up by Ric Kasini Kadour, a Burlington writer and gallery owner, who circulated emails about the piece before it had even opened. Kadour wrote an essay for Art Map Burlington entitled “Art Hop Exhibition Takes on Palestinian/Israeli Conflict — Wades into Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial.” In it, Kadour repeats many of the charges that were leveled against Schumann in Boston — that the piece equates the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with conditions in Nazi Germany, trivializes the Holocaust and undermines historical fact.

For his part, Schumann has repeatedly denied the accusations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial — after all, he and his family fled Nazi Germany when he was 10. He says his critics not only misinterpret his work but “over-interpret” it.

“I’m not saying that what’s happening in Palestine is the same as what happened in Warsaw . . . but it’s certainly a reminder,” Schumann says. “I don’t understand how a people so terribly violated can now violate another people so badly.”

This fracas unfolds against the backdrop of multilateral assault on a beleaguered Jewish community on a few fronts: Jimmy Carter's highly biased book about Israel, Mearsheimer and Walt's "scholarly" treatise on the insidious power of a "Jewish Lobby" which has a stranglehold over the American administration, the thorny issue of tenure for rabidly anti-Israel scholars who publish books which attempt to deny Jewish history and Jewish identity, Ahmadinejad's invitation to address Columbia.

And then, there is this comment from "Nina Parris ... who turned 80 on September 11 [and] is a VTJP member and a Holocaust survivor.":

If you think back to the 1930s, what happened the other day and the tactics that were used by the group that was creating the ruckus were exactly the tactics that were used by the Nazis in every meeting, whether it was trade unions, artists’ groups or on university campuses,” she says. “When this is a tactic adopted by Jews, something is rotten in Denmark.” which is as close to hate speech as I have seen recently, all the more dangerous coming, as it does, from a Holocaust survivor whose words then appear to have weighty "moral authority". Something is indeed rotten here.

As Oliver Kamm suggests, here, "Historical analogies are never exact but sometimes useful. If they are to be useful, then the precedent needs at a minimum to be stated accurately."

So let's see how this analogy works. Here's a record recounting what happened to trade unions under the Nazis:

The trade union movement fared no better. Hitler declared the First of May a National Labour Day, to which the trade union leaders humbly offered their full cooperation. The official organ of the German TUC, Gewerhschaftszeitung, published an article for its May Day edition with the following scandalous statement: 'We certainly need not strike our colours in order to recognise that the victory of National Socialism, though won in struggle against (the Social Democrats) our victory as well'!

After the National Labour Day mass demonstration of 100,000, Goebbels wrote: 'Tomorrow we will occupy the trade union buildings. There will be little resistance'.
The next day the SA occupied the trade union headquarters, dissolved the unions, confiscated the funds and arrested its leaders. They were loaded into trucks and taken off to the Nazi concentration camps.

And what did the Vermont "Jews" do to merit this comparison with a the might and brutality of the well-oiled Nazi regime?

"The letter [drafted by Members of the Israel Center of Vermont] then urged the board to: issue a public apology for allowing the Kovel lecture; adopt a formal policy that “only art presentations” be included in future Art Hops; conduct formal reviews of Art Hop programs before they’re approved; and open all future SEABA board meetings to the public."

So there is the proposed analogy, a letter written by a Jewish community under attack is analogized to the brutal, physical and legal violence of Hitler's regime. If this is not an example of blatant Holocaust trivialization, which is itself the younger brother of Holocaust denial, I don't know what is. Enough said.

The US has not yet formally confronted the full implications of this "new antisemitism". There is no uniform, universal statement defining and detailing what is antisemitism today by an authoritative body of scholars and litigators. Europe, however, did recognize that the erosion in the safety and freedom of the Jews among them called for a special scrutiny and concern. Which is why they commissioned the research and drafting of this document I'm referring to for consultation in this matter.

In December 2006, The European Union issued a document which set forth a list of definitions and examples deemed antisemitic. Here's a Summary overview of Antisemitism in the European Union .

This document was drafted and published in order to "allow people to copy and past parts of the definition as needed in order to clarify when debate and discussion has cross the line from free speech to hate speech. In the EU hate speech is not protected, it is in fact a crime".

According to this document,

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective - such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non­ Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

"Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self ­determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

I highlighted in red the relevant clauses in this document that can be applied to the Art Exhibit, and to the specific analogy made by Nina Parris, equating Jews with their Nazi exterminators of 65 years ago.

Regrettably, the stench is unmistakable.



Rachel Corrie is mentioned in the Ken Picard's article, in that following manner:

"Neirman was one of several people who circulated flyers at the Schumann/Kovel talk. One flyer took aim at a Bread and Puppet performance called “Daughter Courage.” That theater piece deals with the death of 23-year-old American activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop the destruction of a Palestinian house. Neirman’s flyers featured photos and captions depicting eight other “Rachels” who lived in Israel and were killed by Palestinian violence. "

As usual the information contained in this nugget is wrong.

The kindest way I can assess Rachel Corrie’s Palestinian mission is in comparing her to Pasha Antipov, the idealistic revolutionary from Dr. Zhivago, whose rage of exclusive pity overwhelms his moral values. The suffering he saw turned him from a naive idealist to a brutal, mass-killing revolutionary. He was a lost soul.

Corrie, likewise, aligned herself sentimentally and seamlessly with suffering Palestinians, reserving for them her absolute pity to the extent that suffering Israelis merited nothing but a sneering hatred from her. Corrie’s idealism did not proceed from love but from ideologically induced hatred. She was a de-facto apologist for Palestinian terrorism, and she died trying to prevent the work of an Israeli bulldozer, which was searching for munitions buried in the ground . Contrary to Palestinian reports and what is claimed in the article, the bulldozer was not there to demolish a house, (though houses used as cover for weapon-smuggling tunnels were demolished by the IDF, but not on that particular day). Any which way you slice it, those munitions were there to be utilized in attacks against innocent civilians. Corrie died protecting terrorist weapons. She was completely indifferent to the deaths these weapons spelled at a time when suicide bombings were a matter of daily occurrence in Israel.


Anti-Racist blogged on the same topic, here.

"Don't keep appealing to it"

Norm Geras has done his weekly Normblog profile on George Szirtes whose blog I linked to a while ago.

Here are a few highlights:

What is your favourite poem?

It would be between two Coleridges, 'Kubla Khan' and 'Frost at Midnight', Marvell's 'Horatian Ode', Louis MacNeice's 'Snow', and Eliot's 'The Waste Land'. Oh, very well, Eliot. Today, that is.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate?

Can I do a bundle of four: 1) The freedom of the imagination. 2) Courage. 3) Generosity. 4) Doubt. I know it's not a thesis, Norm, more a set of values, but I'm a poet so claim special privileges. I can put it into rhyme if you prefer.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat?

That God is on your side.

What would you do with the UN?

Get in there and argue most of the time but be prepared occasionally to ignore it. Don't keep appealing to it. It's not Holy Writ. In fact, nothing about it is holy.

The aftermath:

Some interesting reactions to Ahmadinejad's NY visit:

From the official news agency of the Iranian regime:

Strong, scientific and accurate answers of the President of Iran to the questions raised by the academicians in Columbia University made them applause and showed that they are not affected by the propaganda of the American Media. They officially asserted in a poll that they agreed with Ahmadinejad’s statements. The American televisions, which thought tricky questions will surprise the president, showed the program live. These sources, some of which are controlled by the Zionists, were shocked after the results of the poll came out.
According to the poll, the majority of the participants agreed that Columbia’s invitation of Ahmadinejad was a good decision…. Many Americans called the network to emphasize on the importance of freedom of speech in America…

A few people, some of whom were connected to the Zionists, protested against Ahmadinejad’s speech, but the poll showed that these were only a minority in the American society.

Lee Bollinger’s Illusory Idealism

Bollinger’s performance, however skillful, was illusory and narcissistic, precisely because he and his admirers forget that human ideals require the force of political and military institutions to guarantee their relevance. He prefers to think, no doubt, that it is his own idealism—and his knack for projecting it—that is defeating his victim. If Bollinger had to live as Iranian citizens do, he would know that idealism alone does not suffice. Any number of Iran’s jailed pro-democracy dissidents might be just as eloquent as Bollinger, but we can’t hear their voices. They lack the comfort of his illusions.

At Columbia, Bollinger was in the position of an effete mob boss in any number of gangster movies: slapping his victim around while the poor guy’s arms are pinned back. Ahmadinejad is no hero, and he deserves no sympathy. But that shouldn’t stop us from regarding Bollinger as a weakling, and being rather disgusted by the entire spectacle.

TNR's Marty Peretz:

In any case, Columbia is really reeling; and its wobbliness about what it stands for has been magnified since Lee Bollinger became president. He is simply scared out of his wits by Edward Said's less bright heirs on Morningside Heights. I have posted on this matter before. Actually, I am sure that Said would never have condoned an invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a lower class thug and a Shi'a besides, both an offense to Said's elitism and to his ill-fated Christian maneuvering to make Arab nationalism safely secular. I note that, with his usual discretion and allergy to street fights, Rashid Khalidi has not been heard from on the A'jad matter. He has bigger fish to fry: making sure that that vulgar practitioner of critical theory and deconstructor and rewriter of narratives, Joseph Massud, gets tenure. And that the Barnard tenure aspirant, Nadia Abu El-Haj, who believes that archeology proves there were never any Hebrews in the Holy Land, also is tenured. My guess is that, this time, the gang loses.

Unfortunately, Peretz gets it wrong. Rashid Khalidi did pronounce his criticism of Bollinger's comments. And it is my opinion that Edward Said would not have reacted as Marty Peretz suggests he would. In his 1994 book "Representations of the Intellectual: The Reith Lectures" in which he he promotes his ideas about the West's intellectual treatment of the Middle East, he talked about an Iranian friend of his, a person who had shared his political positions perfectly. That Iranian friend, who supported the Iranian Revolution , became disillusioned with it as soon as he witnessed the brutality and fanaticism of the Ayatollahs, like many others, Foucault (Said's intellectual model) included. He then went to Europe and talked to whoever would listen about the terror of this regime. Said considered this person, who remains nameless in his book, a turncoat, someone who betrayed the idea that nourished his "Orientalism" theory. To me, this suggests that Edward Said not only would not object to Ahmadinejad's appearance but would even encourage it. The man's ideas are exactly the kind of ideas that Said was promoting, whether regarding Israel, the Palestinians or American power.

"I burn the toga you gave to me"

An operatic gesture meriting its own Puccini aria:

Ex-Italian President Returns Columbia Doctorate: "I burn the toga you gave to me"

The former president writes to " old-fashioned racialists" Rome, Italy - September:

In protest against the invitation of the president of Iran Mahmuda Ahmadineżada on the New York University Columbia the former president Italian Francesco Cossiga gave back the title of the doctor Honoris Causa of this University. Senator Cossiga wrote that he was indignant organizing the lecture of the Iranian leader by the chancellor of UC , whose he called "a threatening neonazi and a Islamic terrorist".

The former Italian president reminded in the sharp letter to the rector of the University Columbia that Ahmadinejad expressed the thirst of the destruction of Israel. .
"Regardfully for six millions of murdered Jews whose you - racialists old-fashioned, and today also advocates of Islamic terrorists I - catholic , return admitted me the title of Honoris Cause and I burn the toga which you gave to me" - declared Cossiga.

Its own letter finished with words: "without no respect. Francesco Cossiga".

Feted by Chavez: A perspective from Normblog

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gets a warm reception in South America - as the Guardian's reporter puts it, 'underlining how much influence Washington has lost over a region it once considered its backyard'. It underlines one or two other things as well:

In contrast to the insults heaped on him in New
York, the visitor was feted as a strategic ally in the struggle against gringo
imperialism. Cuba and Nicaragua echoed the rhetoric.
Mr Ahmadinejad was
received late on Thursday by Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, in a
pomp-filled ceremony in Caracas. Mr Chávez, who is using oil revenues to
challenge US influence, saluted "one of the greatest anti-imperialist

He praised Mr Ahmadinejad's speeches this week
at the UN general assembly and at Columbia University, New York, where he faced
hostility from students and the university president. "An imperial spokesman
tried to disrespect you, calling you a cruel little tyrant," said Mr Chávez.
"You responded with the greatness of a revolutionary. We felt like you were our

The Iranian, appearing cheerful and relaxed,
responded in kind. "Together we are surely growing stronger, and in truth no one
can defeat us. Imperialism has no other option: Respect the peoples [of the
world] or accept defeat."What this underlines is that, so long as you're an
'anti-imperialist', in a certain quarter it will wash away all your sins.
Holocaust-denier? No worries. Denier of the very existence of gay people in
Iran? Stick to the point, will you; the man's a 'fighter'. See, he respects the
peoples of the world.
And this guy - Chavez, I mean - is the darling of certain 'British left-wingers'. Some lessons take a very long time to learn.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A-propo Ahmadinejad.... Just kidding.

Now for something completely different.

The perfect breast!

Once upon a time, he cooed to his beloved:

"Thy two breasts
are like two young roes
that are twins,
which feed among the lilies."

But now demands seem much more accurate and exacting:

The key aesthetic elements are nipple position and the proportion between the upper and lower halves of the breast, he said.

"The ideal is a 45 to 55 per cent proportion - that is the nipple sits not at the half-way mark down the breast, but at about 45 per cent from the top."

As I perused this important information when it was posted on "Pajamas Media",
I asked myself how many female readers peered down and under worriedly to check
whether their own personal pair conformed to these specifications. And then I puzzled about what exactly went through male readers' minds.

Worry not so, sweet ladies, for I'm pretty sure men tend to be genuinely multicultural and equal-opportunity when it comes to choice of breasts, as this poet affirms:

Ode to thee,
These divine creations,
swaying about,
With hypnotic gyrations,
Directing my eyes,
Ups and Downs,
Comes in all sizes,
In every town,
I adore them all,
jiggling so,
This way and that,
Afar or close,
Dancing in middies,
Winking in cold,
Clapping one another,
Squishy like dough,
Small and large,
Perky is fun,
Colossal or spacious,
Like orangutan ones,
Soft like marshmallows,
Melts in your hands,
Firm as cantaloupes,
Pale or tan,
Cusps like sand dollars,
Cream or chocolate,
Or protruding long,
Like AK bullets,
Whatever the shape,
However the range,
I love them all,
Even the strange.

(Duane M Weide)

Example by Offer Goldfarb (an artist-photographer).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A morning thought:

It's funny, isn't it, how, in large swathes of the Left, the humanity of Israel's enemies has become mega-human, the sum of all humanity, so much so that it trumps whatever humanity Israelis lay claim to. It's a strange conception of "Human rights". Louise Arbour and The UN Human Rights Council are champions of this position. I only mention her in order to drive home the point that this is no longer a position of the marginal crazies. As is evident in the priorities of this UN body:

"The real action comes in the session’s remaining 10 days. Tomorrow the council will address its first country situation with — what else — a special agenda item targeting Israel. Only on Monday will the world’s 191 other countries have the chance to be addressed, though even then only one country — Sudan — is certain to be raised. On Friday the council will discuss Durban and the “defamation of religion” report as well as more on UPR (see above)."

As Michael Ignatieff, in his book “Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry” says:

“Many of these NGO’s espouse the universalist language of human rights but actually use it to defend highly particularist causes: the rights of particular national groups or minorities or classes or persons… The problem is that particularism conflicts with universalism at the point at which one’s commitment to a group leads one to countenance human rights violations towards another group.”

Ah well. I'm in a particularly sour mood today, what with the ready and all-too-willing-to-appease reception of Ahmadinejad in NY and some rather approving editorials and comments I've read about his ideas.

It appears that, given the choice between George Bush and the Iranian fanatic, the Rococo* leftist will root for the Iranian, thus supporting racist, misogynist, homophobic, totalitarian, inquisitional, imperialist, and genocidal docrtine. With Israel as the guinea pig in the experimentation with this "new" thinking.


Rococo is too benign a term for this kind of position. I'd go even further than my usual "Indecent Left" and call it the "Rancid Left".


Later: My mood has brightened, thanks to Kamangir's poker-style humour:

Solid Proof that Israelis are Paranoid

And Kamangir's Rosh Hashana Offering

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More on the wisdom of providing a platform for Ahmadinejad:

Mr Bollinger's devastating mistake Michel Gurfinkiel:

1) The moment you talk to Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or any totalitarian leader, and even if you tell him hard and bitter truths, or scorn him, you recognize him as a valid partner in a democratic debate. And you introduce the subliminal possibility, whatever hard facts you are provided with about him, that he might be right up to a point.

2) To be recognized as a partner in a democratic debate is precisely what Ahmadinejad is looking for. This used to be the tactics of Hitler, who, until 1939, was not adverse to being interviewed by racially Jewish foreign journalists (like the French journalist Bertrand de Jouvenel), and of the communist tyrants. Both Hitler and the communists realized that engaging in some kind of debate with the democratic adversary was a very effective way to inhibit him.

It was the tactics of Yassir Arafat at the White House in 1993. Arafat knew that the mere fact to stand in front of Rabin and at Clinton's side turned him into a respectable leader, and the Palestinians into the winners of the Israeli-Arab dispute. The actual content of the Oslo Accords or whether Arafat would or would not abide by them was irrelevant.

Charlie Rose Interviewed Ahmadinejad yesterday.

Watch it here.

Here is a sampling of viewers reactions, from the comments page:

* "Charlie, I want to hear more from President Ahmadenijad. Thank God there are still some world leaders today with common sense!"

* "The President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad interview on "Charlie Rose": His calm smile is quite effective but, less so than his ever so slippery 'Vaseline' coated winter ice! He is an expert in appearing to respond to your questions -- but, avoiding them completely. A previous comment included his being called a "nut case." But, he is a very smart "nut case." And, this category of person can do tremendous harm. E.g. the leader of the Third Reich. Like Hitler, he can be quite charming (to his advantage.) He used the word "Zionist" (not Israeli) numerous times. As the Iranian economy suffers, he and other Middle East countries need the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, more than ever, to divert attention from the real problems (lack of freedom, democracy, bancrupt economies,... all of which Israel has. Get your population to talk about "the "Zionists" -- and you can ignore the most serious difficulties! "

* "I commend Mahmoud on his willingness to stoop to being interviewed by a lowly foreign TV host, as any world leader would prefer to make a statement or speak only with foreign governmental elites. "

* "I have not had as much fun since listening to "Baghdad Bob's" ranting and raving that the U.S. forces were being "soundly defeated" and pushed back and that they were no where near the city or Baghdad airport. It seems that those in power in the middle east forget that they only control the media in their countries and that the rest of the world has had freedom of speech and press and can spot deceit when we hear it. I can guarantee no western person would be allowed to get the freedom of speech that the Iranian madman has received here in the States. Bitch and moan all you want about the U.S. and its policies but I am thankful that we get an opportunity to hear all sides! "

* "Mr. Rose, I had hoped you would interview Mr. Ahmadenejad. But I thought there is no way in my wildest dream you would under the pressure of the Lobby. "

* As an Iranian who suffered a lot, who has no home and wondering in the world, who left his family and friends and hopes because of the dictators such as this man and his leaders, your way of interviewing this lair and murderer that we all know was involved in Mikonus terror in Germany and Dr. Sami's murder in Iran and executions in 1367 and imprisoning and torchering Iranian intelectuals now, your laughing and joking with him was discusting I'm so sorry.

I noticed at the end of the interview Charlie sat with his hands crossed on his papers, which were lying on his lap. No handshake was proferred at least not for the benefit of the cameras.

__________ _____

Anne Applebaum, of the Washington Post, has a Modest Proposal

"... the university should have demanded genuine reciprocity. If the president and dean of Columbia truly believed in an open exchange of ideas, they should have presented a debate between Ahmadinejad and an Iranian dissident or human rights activist -- someone from his own culture who could argue with him in his own language -- instead of allowing him to be filmed on a podium with important-looking Americans. Perhaps Columbia could even have insisted on an appropriate exchange: Ahmadinejad speaks in New York; Columbia sends a leading Western atheist -- Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or, better still, Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- to Qom, the Shiite holy city, to debate the mullahs on their own ground. "


Andrew Sullivan on Ahmadinejad:

Ever since Michel Foucault's repulsive embrace of the Iranian revolution, the pomo gay left has had a soft spot for Islamo-fascists. This is an email sent out by the Columbia Queer Alliance. It beggars belief. Here's the throat clearer:

"We condemn the human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian government.."

"But then the pomo knee jerk kicks in:

"... we would like to strongly caution media and campus organizations against the use of such words as "gay", "lesbian", or "homosexual" to describe people in Iran who engage in same-sex practices and feel same-sex desire."

Ahmadinejad was right, you see? There are no gays in Iran. Just ask the Queer Studies Department.


Freemania blogged about the Iranian prez:

"The Iranian President - the man who puts the ‘mad’ into ‘Ahmadinejad’ - has taken his sub-Galloway stand-up routine on a US tour...." (Keep reading...)



a blessedly laconic footnote from Oliver Kamm:

No nukes, no gays

Only The Guardian could put it this way:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, told Americans yesterday his country had no nuclear weapons programme, but then called his own credibility into question by insisting it had no gay people either.

"But"? "But"?

Monday, September 24, 2007

This was posted on The New Republic, which is a journal I like to read and find much to agree with, for the most part. I'm posting the entire speech, because I'm afraid it will soon be truncated under the "subscribe to read" rule, which never works for me. I've highlighted in red some of the comments which resonate most with me. It is a very thorough honest speech, cataloguing the best known sins of the Iranian regime with Amadinejad at its helm. It's worth the read.


Michael Crowley wrote earlier today of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial appearance at Columbia University. Columbia President Lee Bollinger, under fire for inviting Ahmadinejad to speak, provided an impassioned and hugely critical introduction of the Iranian president. The transcript, provided by AIPAC, can be read below the jump:

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger Sept 24, 2007

I would like to begin by thanking Dean John Coatsworth and Professor Richard Bulliet for their work in organizing this event and for their commitment to the School of International and Public Affairs and its role -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- and for its role in training future leaders in world affairs.

If today proves anything, it will be that there is an enormous amount of work ahead of us.
This is just one of many events on Iran that will run throughout the academic year, all to help us better understand this critical and complex nation in today's geopolitics.

Before speaking directly to the current president of Iran, I have a few critically important points to emphasize.

First, in 2003 the World Leaders Forum has advanced Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues.
It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas or our weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivety about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas.

It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open our public forum to their voices; to hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.
Second, to those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable.

The scope of free speech in academic freedom should itself always be open to further debate.
As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is an experiment as all life is an experiment.

I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can that this is the right thing to do, and indeed it is required by the existing norms of free speech, the American university and Columbia itself.
Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this day, I say on behalf of all of us that we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.

Fourth, to be clear on another matter, this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any rights of the speaker, but only with our rights to listen and speak.

We do it for ourselves.

We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now.
We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers.

It is inconsistent with the idea that one should know thine enemy -- I'm sorry -- it is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil, and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament.

In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear.

In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech.

Lastly, in universities we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth.

We do not have access to the levers of power, we cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds, and to do this, we must have the most fulsome freedom of inquiry.

Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

First, on the brutal crackdown on scholars, journalists and human rights advocates.
Over the past two weeks, your government has released Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and Parnaz Azima and just two days ago, Kian Tajbakhsh, a graduate of Columbia with a PhD in Urban Planning. While our community is relieved to learn of his release on bail, Dr. Tajbakhsh remains in Tehran under house arrest, and he still does not know whether he will be charged with a crime or allowed to leave the country.

Let me say this for the record, I call on the president today to ensure that Kian will be free to travel out of Iran as he wishes. (Applause.)

Let me also report today that we are extending an offer to Kian to join our faculty as a visiting professor in Urban Planning here at his alma mater in our Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and we hope he will be able to join us next semester.

The arrest and imprisonment of these Iranian Americans for no good reason is not only unjustified, it runs completely counter to the very values that allow today's speaker to even appear on this campus, but at least they are alive.

According to Amnesty International, 210 people have been executing In Iran so far this year, 21 of them on the morning of September 5th alone.

This annual total includes at two children, further proof, as Human Rights Watch puts it, that Iran leads the world in executing minors.

There is more.

Iran hanged up 30 people this past July and August during a widely reported suppression of efforts to establish a more democratic society.

Many of these executions were carried out in public view, a violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.

These executions and others have coincided with a wider crackdown on student activists and academics accused of trying to foment a so-called "soft revolution." This has included jailing and forced retirement of scholars.

As Dr. Esfandiari said in a broadcast interview since her release, she was held in solitary confinement for 105 days because the government believes that the United States is planning a velvet revolution in Iran.

In this very room, last year we learned something about velvet revolutions from Vaclav Havel, and we will likely hear the same from our World Leaders Forum speaker this evening, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile.

Both of their extraordinary stories remind us that there are not enough prisons to prevent an entire society that wants its freedom from achieving it.

We at this university have not been shy to protest the challenge -- and challenge the failures of our own government to live by our values, and we won't be shy about criticizing yours.
Let's then be clear at the beginning.

Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

And so I ask you -- (applause) -- and so I ask you, why have women, members of the Baha'i faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?

Why, in a letter last week to the secretary-general of the U.N., did Akbar Ganji, Iran's leading political dissident, and over 300 public intellectuals, writers and Noble Laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world's attention from the intolerable conditions in your regime within Iran, in particular the use of the press law to ban writers for criticizing the ruling system?

Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?
In our country, you are interviewed by our press and asked to speak here today.
And while my colleagues at the law school -- Michael Dorf, one of my colleagues, spoke to Radio Free Europe, viewers in Iran a short while ago on the tenants of freedom of speech in this country -- I propose further that you let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from Columbia to address your universities about free speech with the same freedom we afford you today. (Applause.)

Secondly, the denial of the Holocaust.

In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as "a fabricated legend."

One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers.
For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda.
When you have come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous.
You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.
You should know -- (applause) -- please -- you should know that Columbia is the world center of Jewish studies -- us a world center, and now in partnership with the -- Institute of Holocaust Studies.

Since the 1930s, we provided an intellectual home for countless Holocaust refugees and survivors and their children and grandchildren. The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history.

Because of this, and for many other reasons, your absurd comments about the debate over the Holocaust both defy historical truth and make all of us who continue to fear humanity's capacity for evil shudder at this closure of memory, which is always virtue's first line of defense.
Will you cease this outrage?

The destruction of Israel.

Twelve days ago you said that the state of Israel cannot continue its life.
This echoed a number of inflammatory statements you have delivered in the past two years, including in October 2005, when you said that Israel "should be wiped off the map", quote-unquote.

Columbia has over 800 alumni currently living in Israel.

As an institution, we have deep ties with our colleagues there.

I have personally spoken -- personally, I have spoken out in most forceful terms against proposals to boycott Israeli scholars (in/and ?) universities, saying that such boycotts might as well include Columbia. (Applause.)

More than 400 -- more than 400 -- more than 400 college and university presidents in this country have joined in that statement
My question then is, do you plan on wiping us off the map too? (Applause.)

Funding terrorism:

According to reports of the Council on Foreign Relations, it's well-documented that Iran is a state sponsor of terror that funds such violent groups as Lebanese Hezbollah, which Iran helped organize in the 1980s, Palestinian Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

While your predecessor government was instrumental in providing the U.S. with intelligence and base support in the 2001 campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, your government is now undermining American troops in Iraq by funding, arming and providing safe transit to insurgent leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr and his forces. There are a number of reports that you also link your government with Syria's efforts to destabilize the fledgling Lebanese government through violence and political assassination.

My question is this:

Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?
The proxy war against the United States troops in Iraq -- in a briefing before the National Press Club earlier this month, General David Petraeus reported that arms supplies from Iran, including 240- millimeter rockets and explosively formed projectiles, are contributing to, quote, "a sophistication of attacks that would by no means be possible without Iranian support."
A number of Columbia graduates and current students are among the brave members of our military who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, like other Americans with sons, daughters, fathers, husbands and wives serving in combat, rightly see your government as the enemy.

Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi'a militia targeting and killing U.S. troops?

And finally Iran's nuclear program and international sanctions: This week, the United Nations Security Council is contemplating expanding sanctions for a third time, because of your government's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

You continue to defy this world body by claiming a right to develop a peaceful nuclear power, but this hardly withstands scrutiny when you continue to issue military threats to neighbors.
Last week, French President Sarkozy made clear his lost patience with your stall tactics, and even Russia and China have shown concern.

Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons verification, in defiance of agreements that you have made with the U.N. nuclear agency?

And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic sanctions, and threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation?

Let me close with a comment.

Frankly -- I close with this comment frankly and in all candor, Mr. President. I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us.

I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.

Fortunately I am told by experts on your country that this only further undermines your position in Iran, with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there.

A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country, as at one of the meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party's defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more.

I am only a professor, who is also a university president.

"In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like you have in your country"

Tough Welcome for Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad smiled as Columbia President Lee Bollinger took him to task over Iran's human-rights record and foreign policy, and Ahmadinejad's statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the disappearance of Israel.

``Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,'' Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.
``When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous,'' Bollinger said. ``The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history.''

"Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestian people?'' he said.
But then he said he was defending the rights of European scholars, an apparent reference to a small number who have been prosecuted under national laws for denying or minimizing the Holocaust.

Here is Ahmadineblog, Continuing coverage of Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University.

A few desultory questions and some surreal answers.


* “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like you have in your country … I don’t know who’s told you we have it.”

On this point he could benefit from the scinitilating scholarship of at least one Columbia Prof, whose book on the subject of Homosexuality in the Arab/Muslim world is reviewed here:

Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics at Columbia University, is a controversial figure. As a protégé of the late Edward Said, who is also of Palestinian-Christian descent, his views on Zionism have made him a target of the Israel lobby, while others have defended him in the name of academic freedom.

In 2002 he plunged into a different controversy with a paper entitled "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World" which sought to marshal a case against gay rights from a nationalist and secular standpoint -- one not based explicitly on a moral judgment of homosexuality itself.

The central thesis of his 25-page polemic was that promotion of gay rights in the Middle East is a conspiracy led by Western orientalists and colonialists that "produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." After several years' gestation he has now produced a book, "Desiring Arabs," which elaborates on this.

** "Coatsworth... asking the President again to explain his thoughts on the denial of the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad responds:

“There’s been more research on physcis then there’s been on the Holocaust but yet we keep researching physics.”

*** Why do you deny rights to women and gays?
"... women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom..."

More, later.


Here is the best excuse I've heard, or argument if you will, for extending that invitation to Ahmadinejad:

Colin Felsman, 20, a currently enrolled student, said the visit was a great opportunity, adding: "He's the president of Iran, not the president of the world. Columbia University is acting in solidarity with the two-thirds of Iranians under the age of 30 who lack the ability to confront President Ahmadinejad."

However, I'm not sure this motivation was uppermost in the minds of Columbia U's administration when they extended their invitation to Ahmedinejad. As it turns out, the whole event was a reflection of the grandiloquent pettiness of this man, and the failure of his ideas and "knowledge" when confronted by robust criticism.