President Ahmadinejad in his much anticipated speech at Columbia this afternoon, stated the Holocaust did occur but that research on this and any other topic should not be silenced. I agree.
He was asked repeatedly why should reseach on the Holocaust be tolerated if the “facts” are known. He stated facts can change and new research may alter original assumptions. I must admit I was bemused that a head of state from Iran would have to remind an administration at one of the nation’s preeminent universities that no area of human inquiry should be off limits to continuous academic revisionism. Thank you President Ahmadinejad!
President Ahmadinejad averred that even though the Palestinians were not the perpetrators of the Holocaust, they have suffered the tragic results of displacement by a Jewish state, that in large measure, was the result of the Jewish experiences in Europe during the war. President Ahmadinejad has stated this before and conceded the existence of the Holocaust well before this address and I think it is a telling argument to ask: “If the Holocaust happened in Europe, then why do Palestinians pay the price of Jewish suffering for some sixty years?”
The indomitable Shi’a president denounced the incarceration in Europe of those who dare question, deny or revise aspects of the holocaust. I agree and have defended David Irving’s right to speak and publish history without his repulsive imprisonment in Wien. President Ahmadinejad was clearly defending academic freedom, which is frequently denied in his own country, for those who wish to study World War II’s only taboo topic: the parameters of the Jewish genocide during the war.
President Ahmadinejad stated his own country was the victim of terrorism. He cited the 100,000s that were killed after Iraq under President Saddam Hussein invaded his nation that precipitated the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. He spoke about the Iranian victims of chemical weapons’ attacks.
In one of his more poignant and eloquent moments, he questioned the legitimacy of the United States in insisting upon restricting Iran’s nuclear development. While stating that a nuclear option was not his nation’s goal, he noted the U.S. introduction of these weapons during World War II and its “fifth generation” of these devices. He insisted that Iran was not in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1970)- – which Israel has not even ratified- -and that it is adhering to International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguard inspection regime.
Dr Lee Bollinger was frankly abusive in his introduction. He even stated that he knew in advance that the Iranian president would not answer questions that dealt with the issues of “terrrorism,” Israel, the Holocaust etc. President Bollinger berated his guest in a manner that I have never seen before. I realise Columbia University is under great pressure from the Israel Lobby to prevent speech and critical thinking that is controversial or offensive, and that he had to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. Fair enough but to introduce a major head of state in such a sardonic and aggressive manner is contrary to normal professional discourse with a guest on a university campus.
The main reason I would condemn President Bollinger is that when a university president expresses such passionate positions on issues of the day, it could have a chilling effect on academic freedom and dialogue on a campus. Recognising Columbia’s strong affirmation of free speech in inviting President Ahmadinejad, I don’t think we should “balance” positive actions with negative actions in order to placate the enemies of free speech.