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What do Columbia U’s Lee Bollinger and the ADL have in common?

On the ADL web site, there is a section called “No Nuclear Iran.” The slogan is ‘Get informed. Get active.” One page is entitled “AHMADINEJAD: IN HIS OWN WORDS.” It provides some of his most “virulent statements” about the Holocaust, Israel, etc. etc. And they are pretty horrific, disgusting statements, indeed.

Like other Jewish groups, the ADL insists that the man cannot be ignored. It wants to expose him and show why he is wrong and dangerous. That is why, on Sept, 5th, it announced:

Over the next few weeks and months, the Anti-Defamation League will roll out a public awareness and advocacy campaign aimed at focusing attention on the gathering threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to Israel, the Middle East and the world

With the slogan, “No Nuclear Iran,” the campaign focuses on Iran’s clear and present threat to Israel, America and the global community through high-profile eye-catching posters, advertisements in national and community newspapers, and other awareness initiatives using e-mail and the Internet to spread the word.

Isn’t that precisely what Columbia University President Lee Bollinger tried to do yesterday, when he harshly criticized Ahmadinejad just before the Iranian President delivered a speech at Morningside Heights? Wasn’t that an “awareness initiative?” And since the denunciations came from a university president, in a confrontation that was broadcast all over the world, didn’t they have more credibility and impact than arguments made by American Jewish activists, i.e., the usual suspects?

In the last few days, thanks to harsh denunciations of Bollinger by Abe Foxman, other Jewish leaders and a bevy of politicians, the international media were focused primarily on arguments over whether Columbia should have invited the Iranian President. Those arguments just mitigated the impact of arguments against Ahmadinejad’s message. What should have been a story about a brutal dictator became a story about free speech. In today’s USA Today, Foxman wrote, “Columbia should have taken a stand that some ideas are simply not acceptable.”

But if they are not acceptable enough to be presented at Columbia, why are they acceptable enough to appear on ADL’s web site, where there is a page of quotes without any refutation of any kind?

As Richard Silverstein put it:

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??

Philip Weiss makes a similar argument. Even the New York Sun, a harsh critic of just about everything Islamic, praised the Columbia Pres. today, calling the event a “teaching moment”:

…By our lights Bollinger did pretty darned well. It may have been a mistake to welcome the Iranian demagogue to campus in the first place, but it will be a long time before any figure, here or abroad, gives such an eloquent rebuke to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s face.

…Mr. Bollinger spoke to some of the elements in which Jewish particularity is engaged, asserting that Columbia has become a “world center of Jewish studies” and, in partnership with the YIVO Institute, of studies of the Holocaust, which Mr. Bollinger called “the most documented event in human history.” He spoke directly, as well, to Iran’s assertion that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” and noted that Columbia has more than 800 alumni living in the Jewish state. He noted that more than 400 college presidents have joined in his call against the proposed boycott of Israeli scholars and universities. “Do you plan on wiping us off the map, too?” Mr. Bollinger asked. He then addressed Iran’s state sponsorship of terror, funding such groups as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Sounds like a very affective “awareness initiative” to me. When Philip Weiss, Richard Silverstein and the NY Sun agree on something, it is probably correct. The ADL should put the Bollinger-Ahmadinejad confrontation on its web site.

22 thoughts on “What do Columbia U’s Lee Bollinger and the ADL have in common?

  1. This is the most sensible commentary I have read about this whole affair. Thanks. I often feel like Jewish leaders live in a kind of faux universe,a close approximation of reality but not reality itself. Foxman’s obsession with “the invitation” instead of the message of the invitee was a good example of that.

  2. I migh have agreed with you, except I’m troubled by the fact that so many Columbia students applauded the Iranian leader. That is what will be broadcast around the world, and in the Middle East. The whole thing just added to his popularity. Incidentally Today he spoke at the UN about “Zionist terrorists.” He had and will have plenty of opportunities to make his case. Don’t quite see why a University should help him.

  3. When the very same Abe Foxman was attacked by Mort Klein for hosting Tom Friedman at a dinner in 1998, he said that inviting someone to speak does not mean you are endorsing them or giving them legitimacy…Hmmm

  4. It was a gift that we had the opportunity to see Ahmadinejad speak.

    I say that for the sake of my own clarity as to his perspective, attitudes, strategies, ethics. And, also to experience first hand the response of many that somehow regarded his comments as benign, on the basis of the same objective experience.

    We all saw the same thing.

    It became apparent to me that Iran regards Israel in a non-compromising manner, that it will NEVER cease attempting to remove Israel from the map, literally.

    Specifically, he stated “we are willing to negotiate with any state”. When asked, will you negotiate with Israel, his response was paraphrased, “There were two entities that revolutionary Iran vowed to never negotiate with, the apartheid South Africa and the Zionist entity. Now there is only one.”

    Later, in interviews and UN presentation, he clarified that he/Iran does not regard Israel as a state, and therefore his statement about negotiating with any state is somehow not inconsistent.

    My wife described his responses as “wily”.

    “We don’t have homosexuals in Iran”. My wife’s response. “They are all dead or too scared to have an erection.”

    I skipped Bollinger’s comments.

    Who knows if Iran is building nuclear weapons or not?

    The speech upset me greatly. I keep getting shocked out of my naivete.

    It scares me more though, that leftists in the two discussion groups that I encounter “serious” leftists share their contempt for Israel, and in the spirit of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, rationalize that Iran is somehow victim or benign.

    That failure on the part of the left, mirrors the apologetic approach towards dealing with pre-WW2 Germany.

    The binary approach conflicts with humaneness. (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”)

    No, actually there are a lot of idiots in the world. Politics is in three’s, four’s, five’s.

    One of the points of Orwell’s 1984, was just that, that the binary approach to politics (two-parties, two-super powers, atheist/theist, etc.) doesn’t resemble reality now, if it ever did.

    In 1984, the three powers changed dancing partners to result in different binary coalitions.

    From my understanding, the multiplicity of mutually antagonistic groups in Iraq is the reason that it is a permanent quagmire.

    Israel/Palestine or Lebanon for that matter, is not all that different.

  5. Richard,

    You’re right about the far left’s inexplicable romance with the Iranian Prime Minister. It’s not just a matter of “The enemy of the enemy is my friend.” It’s more like, “I hate my enemy so much that I will refuse to believe that anyone who shares my hatred is not my friend. And I will refuse to believe that anything the enemy of my enemy does is worse than what my enemy does.”

    And so there is relentless quest to “prove” that he has been misquoted, he means no harm, his negative image has been propped up by CAMERA and American Zionist progagandists. Some of them are like the LaRouchies who spend energy trying to “prove” that the Queen of England is a drug dealer…

  6. When I heard Ahmedinejad’s remark about homosexuals I instanly thought of Robert Mugabe who said that homosexuality was against African tradition, therefore it didn’t exist or shouldn’t be tolerated. His remarks should have been educational for those who were not already pro-Iranian.

    I think part of the furore was because Columbia University refuses to allow ROTC on campus because the U.S. military doesn’t allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military. But to allow Ahmedinejad to speak there was slightly hypocritical, although on balance a good educational service.

  7. I didn’t realize Ahmedinejad was a “brutal dictator”. I thought he was elected, and only to a postition of second or third in the country’s chain of command. If you’re getting your info on Iran from the ADL site, I’d advise against it — their emotional stake in the matter means they’re not likely to be reliable.

  8. Ahmedinejad was elected but in a system in which those who don’t meet the approval of the religious guardians are eliminated as candidates. But he in fact isn’t a dictator because the presidency in Iran is a weak office, only slightly more powerful than the presidency in Israel. The real dictator in Iran is Ali Khameinei, the supreme leader–his title says it all.

  9. I looked for statistics as to the number killed and/or arrested and/or displaced in the 3 years following the Iranian revolution, but couldn’t find even any number.

    Do you know of any accurate citation that describes that?

    There clearly was a purge, and the Islamic revolution cleaned house of Marxist, social democrats, civilists, as well as any vestige of pre-revolutionary loyalists to the Shah or even Bani-Sadr.

    There is MUCH discussion on the left of the CIA orchestrated/assisted ousting of Mossadegh (a democratic leader), but very little of the ousting of Bani-Sadr, or other less liberal replacements.

    Somehow all we have is the apology for the Shia theocracy, as somehow more democratic than Israel.

    If the numbers killed in revolutionary Iran are in the tens or even hundreds of thousands (which I suspect), that puts that regime at an entirely different scale of suppression.

    Certainly, tens of thousands of Jews were either chased or escaped the prospects in revolutionary Iran. The Jewish population of Iran under the shah was considerably more than the 25,000 (liberally) now there. And, I doubt that any more than a very rare few were Savaki by any stretch.

    I don’t get the ignorance of the actual conditions in their state. “Its nice there, now.”

    Clearly, the same phrase applies to the abuses of Palestinians in the areas of the settlement blocs.

  10. Israeli art student,

    You’re right about the poorly chosen phrase “brutal dictator.” He is not a dictator, as he is not controlling a brutal regime. But, tell us, does anything about the Iranian government offend you? How about the suppression of free speech and torture of dissidents? Surely you don’t think all of the news reports that showed university students furiously protesting against government-sanctioned thought police were concocted by the ADL?

  11. What about Israel’s nuclear weapons.Why doesn’t Israel just pledge to do away with it’s nuclear weapons,then invite all countries in the region to join in a regional agreement banning such weapons.
    Perhaps if Israel did not have nuclear weapons other countries in the region would not feel the need to acquire their own.
    Perhaps if the west and the UN took Israel to task for their nuclear weapons(in direct violation of the UN and international laws and conventions) Iran and other countries in the area would not see a double standard and would be more willing to deal.
    Iran is years away from the bomb,there is plenty of time to change the dynamics in the region(i.e Israels possession of Nuclear weapons and the continuing brutal occupation of Palestinian land)
    Take these two factors out of the equation the Middle East would be a totally different place.Arab countries would then be more inclined to trust/lasting peace.These are the two main issues that inflame the region.
    Iran at best is a nuisance,she is no serious threat to any country in the region.The President has no real power,who cares what absurd things the guy might have to say.
    And last time a checked Iran has the largest Jewish community in the region outside of Israel,they even have an MP in the Iranian Parliament.Who are not treated any worse than the Arab population of Israel proper.
    The latest series(popular) on Iranian TV involves an Iranian diplomat in Paris helping Jews to escape from the Nazis
    This is not about excusing Iran or vindicating their President absurd speech.
    It’s just an attempt to tone things down,Iran is a country of many contradictions, a war against Iran will not change anything,it will definitely not make Israel safer.There are two sides to the story.
    Anyway just a few thought,I am sure many here will just reject them out of hand thinking some how I am excusing or apologizing for Iran(which couldn’t be further from the truth by the way).

  12. Inviting Ahmadinejad to speak and allowing ROTC to recruit on campus is apples and oranges. If Columbia allowed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to recruit on campus, then you would have valid grounds for asserting hypocrisy.

    Speaking of hypocrisy, has anybody seen Bollinger’s praise of Pervez Musharraf – never mind his own history of political repression and support for terrorism in Kashmir & Afghanistan -when he came to campus:

    “President Musharraf is a leader of global importance and his contribution to Pakistan’s economic turnaround and the international fight against terror remain remarkable – it is rare that we have a leader of his stature at campus”

    For more on this, see here:

  13. Dirk,

    You write, “Iran is a country of many contradictions, a war against Iran will not change anything,it will definitely not make Israel safer.There are two sides to the story.” I agree with that. But, at another point, you are way off the mark when you write: “Iran at best is a nuisance,she is no serious threat to any country in the region.”

    If that were true, why are the rulers of just about all of Iran’s neighbors concerned about it? They are not basing their views on ADL propaganda. They are worried about the possibilty of an Iranian “nuclear umbrella” as well as the buildup of its conventional arms–which means that if Iran does have nuclear arms or a quantitative and qualitative military edge, it will provide a shield that would encourage its military adventurism.

    I suppose if you consider Hizbullah and Hamas “nuisances” to Israel, then the fact that Iran supports them with money and arms is a minor irritation. If you consider the Iranian-supported Shiia militias in Iraq that are killing American soldiers to be “nuisances,” and it doesn’t bother you that these groups makes Iraqi power-sharing and reconciliation much more difficult, then it is possible to hold that Iran is not doing much harm.

    But if that’s what you believe, I think you are minimizing the threat Iran poses to the interests of a great many nations and peoples, not just Israel…Having said that, again, I agree that pre-emptive war is not going to solve anything. But neither is ignoring the geopolitical problem.

  14. Anyone know how many were killed, wounded, arrested, displaced during the post-revolutionary purge period?

    How does it compare to Israelis harmed? To Palestinians harmed? To Jews displaced from Arab countries?

  15. Dan, leave the whole Jewish, Israeli thing aside for a second. The fact is that the Iranians are actively engaged in killing American soldiers. That should mean something, even at Columbia.

  16. Richard,
    The usual figure for deaths in the first Gulf War (aka the Iran-Iraq War) is between .75 and 1 million dead. It is usually estimated that Iran’s casualties were between two and three times that of Iraq’s.

    The dead from the Arab-Israeli wars from 1948 to 1973 was about 30,000 Arabs and about 10,000 Jews. Figure about another 5,000 Arabs killed in the two Lebanon wars and about 2,000 killed in the intifadas, compared with about 1500-2,000 Israelis killed in those events.

  17. I was asking about something different than the Iraq-Iran war.

    That is, following the Iranian revolution of 1979, there was a large purge of non-Islamicists, in which many were killed, many were imprisoned, many were exiled.

    I’m looking for figures on that period.

    It is relevant to gain objective perspective into the nature of the Iranian regime.

  18. I highly recommend a new book by Trita Parsi, “Treacherous Alliance – Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US “. Parsi’s argument is that Iran & Israel portray themselves as being in a titanic ideological struggle, it’s really a resolvable strategic rivalry.

    Parsi’s website is here:

    There’s also a very interesting article by Parsi here:

    I’ll quote an excerpt:

    “What was conspicuously absent from the internal debate in Tehran, however, was the very ideological motivations and factors that Iran uses to justify its stance on Israel. Neither the honor of Islam nor the suffering of the Palestinian people figured in the deliberations.

    Rather, both the terms of the debate and its outcome were of a purely strategic nature. Both camps aimed at giving Iran the initiative in the confrontation with the US and Israel, rather than see Iran suffer the fate of Iraq, where from 1991 until the invasion Washington remained largely in firm control of events. Both Ahmadinejad and his major rival, National Security Council Adviser Ali Larijani, believe that Iran cannot make headway by playing nice with the Bush administration. In their view, Iran committed a mistake when it accepted suspension of uranium enrichment for two and a half years during negotiations with the Europeans.”

  19. To Tom Mitchell (#18):

    Did you know that describing Jewish deaths under the Nazis as mendaciously as you describe Palestinian deaths under the occupation could land one in prison?

    (It is interesting to observe the utter silence your lies evoke from the “liberal” audience of Realistic Dove.)

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