Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coward of the Week: Lee Bollinger

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger
Bollinger showed himself to be a spineless coward who cowed under pressure from critics he launched a rude and counterproductive "introduction" of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and undermined the "free speech" that he has said he supported. For someone who is a First Amendment lawyer Bollinger did little to push forward open discussion and instead made Ahmadinejad look gracious because of his reasoned reply.
Disagree with Ahmadinejad? So do I. However, instead of allowing for a dialogue Bollinger front loaded the lecture with invective. Bollinger also publicly agreed with unsubstantiated claims made by the Bush administration about alleged Iranian support of insurgents in Iraq. Although it is feasible that Iran is supporting its key ally, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, it is unlikely that they would simultaneously support the SIIC's rivals, namely Muqtada al-Sadr's rival Shi'i party and militia and the Sunni nationalist and Sunni Salafi insurgents.
Bollinger is also a hypocrite since he is more than happy to welcome other "petty dictators" to his university, such as Pakistan's Generalismo Pervez Musharraf and the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, the latter this past week.
The press comparisons of Ahmadinejad to Hitler are also inaccurate. Did Ahmadinejad murder 5.8 million Jews and 10 million others? No. Has he made outlandish statements about Israel and Zionism? Yes. Is Zionism the same as Judaism and vice verse. NO.
As much as Alan Dershowitz, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League want to convince us that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Judaism, a rational examination of the facts quickly disprove this. One can be critical of Zionism or expressions of Zionism without having any problem with Judaism as a religion or a set of cultures. Case in point, many American Zionists are actually Evangelical Christians who want to help Jesus come back and many of Israel's most vocal critics are Jewish and/or Israeli and have done much work to burst the myths that were propagated early on in their country's history (see Avi Schlaim, Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev, Baruch Kimmerling, and to a lesser extent Benny Morris and for American scholars see Norman G. Finkelstein, Joel Beinin, and Mark LeVine.)

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