Deborah Lipstadt: Inviting Ahmadinejad to Columbia University was a mistake

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Ms. Lipstadt is Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving.]

I am listening to the Columbia forum. Bollinger began with a truly hard hitting statement expressing his revulsion at all that Ahmadinejad represents. He challenged Ahmadinejad to invite him and a group of students and faculty to come to Iran to speak to university students about free speech, in the same way that Ahmadinejad is benefiting today.

Bollinger was first rate.

He told him his Holocaust denial makes him ridiculous.

He attacked him for his persecution of scholars, women, and dissenters.

He called him to account for his threats to destroy Israel.

It was powerful and it was moving. If this event had to happen, this was the best beginning possible.

I am sure there will be those who will critique Bollinger for being so hard hitting.

I say bravo but also dissent from his attempt to fold this into the tenets of free speech.

As soon as Ahmadinejad began to speak it was clear that he was not prepared for such a statement. He made it sound like he did not even know who Bollinger was. Said it was insulting to have to listen to such things.

Ahmadinejad probably never had to sit through such a hard hitting critique of his record. It reminded me of a miscalculation made by David Irving when he chose the courtroom as his venue to make his argument. There was a judge there with the authority to make him stop his polemics and who could point out when he was making things up out of whole cloth [i.e. lying].

So too Ahmadinejad had to sit there and listen to his record in a way that he probably never has had to do. It also points out why the Scott Pelley's of the world are such poor excuses for interviewers. He could have asked some of these questions instead of his idiot queries.

Now Ahmadinejad is engaging in a religious discourse. My guess is that most students present have no idea where he is going with this. I think it is his attempt to sound like an intellect and some who believes in the pursuit of truth. It is a real miscalculation of his audience, I think...

Too bad his record contradicts everything he is saying....


On Morning Edition [NPR] a Columbia student was just quoted as saying, "I don't know what to think of him if I don't really know what he stands for. Let him come and speak and then I can be really angry." [I am paraphrasing slightly]

Could someone explain to me what this student is doing at Columbia if she doesn't know what Ahmadinejad stands for? Doesn't she read a newspaper? Is she living under a rock?

Here is a check list for her:
1. Religious freedom in Iran [except for fervently religious Muslims]
2. Academic freedom in Iran [except for those who follow the government line]
3. The existence of Israel ["wipe it off the map"]
4. The historical fact of the Holocaust
5. Iraq's right to decide its own future

This only a partial list.

I wonder if she knows that Haleh Esfandiari, the much respected director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was jailed in Iran for a number of months and that other scholars still sit in jail.

I guess this airhead Columbia student never heard about any of these things. I doubt that she will hear them from Ahmadinejad at today's talk. I do suspect that Bollinger will raise the issue in his introduction.


Columbia's Dean John H. Coatsworth, in the name of defending the university's invitation to Ahmadinejad, told Fox News that the institute would have invited Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler to appear before students had he been willing to participate in an open debate.

This is one of those posts that needs no comment.


As I observed in the previous post, Ahmadinejad is going to speak tomorrow at Columbia University. This morning on NPR Columbia President Lee Bollinger was quoted as saying that, while he was going to introduce Ahmadinejad by listing his human rights abuses, addressing his Holocaust denial, and castigating his calls for the destruction of Israel, he believed that Ahmadinejad had a place at Columbia because university's are places for "dialogue."

Bollinger has issued a statement in which he describes Columbia "as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas.... Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious."

What Bollinger and a lot of other very smart people don't understand is that you cannot dialogue with a liar. They make up facts, create their own reality, and leave you twisting in the wind.

Columbia has given Holocaust deniers everywhere a tremendous victory. He has made their claims and "other side" of a debate.

Secondly, while I hate the glib comparisons to Hitler [from the right and from the left], a not so off the mark comparison has been made between inviting Hitler in the 1930s [early 1930s] and inviting Ahmadinejad today.

For elaboration of this see Raphael Medoff's column at the website of the David Wyman Instittue Columbia University has a record of being open to Nazi representatives throughout the 1930s. It, of course, is not alone in this regard. Harvard did as well. And my guess that lots of other universities did the same.

All in the name of dialogue.


Seems that Ahmadinejad is going to speak at Columbia University. I find it galling. I just listened to some Columbia faculty and students talking about how universities are places for "dialogue" and for people to talk "with one another."

True. But this is a man who has called for the destruction of Israel [wipe off the face of the map] and who has denied the Holocaust.

If he had denied American slavery or the Armenian Genocide would these same students be saying we should "dialogue" with him?

I think not.

The people at Columbia who invited him have minds that are so open their brains fell out.

Read entire article at Excerpts from recent posts from Ms. Lipstadt's blog

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Muslims Against Sharia - 10/5/2007

Muslims Against Sharia condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the decision of Columbia University to provide a speaking venue for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Apparently letting Akbar Rafsanjani speak at the National Cathedral was not the height of American Dhimmitude, because providing a venue for the world's foremost anti-Semite, whose proclaimed goal is the destruction of the USA and Israel, definitely takes the cake. What is surprising is that we don't hear any complaints from Columbia alumni who should be ashamed of their silence.

More on the subject:
1. Why Does Columbia host Ahmadinejad?
2. Absolutely The Most Brilliant Commentary on Ahmadinejad & Columbia (R-rated language)