Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Manipulated by a despot

I do not recall any forum or prestigious institution in the United States inviting Adolf Hitler to provide an opportunity to speak about his policies in 1937. Then, no declarations of "freedom of speech" or "academic freedom" were invoked to justify giving a platform to a leader with an evil ideology and a dangerous world vision to convey his thoughts.
Like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hitler was actively and effectively pursuing his goals through vicious, cruel and inhuman policies. Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad espouses virulent racism and anti-Semitism designed to destroy the very foundations of democracy and our civilization. Cunning and manipulative, he will use this prestigious forum to "sweet talk" the ever-hopeful, peace-seeking peoples of the world. This Holocaust denier will buy himself time to prepare for another holocaust.
As he speaks at Columbia University, Iran is working to fulfill its rogue nuclear ambitions, which will also protect its worldwide network of terror, and hold the world hostage.
Hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University in 2007 weighs more heavily than would have inviting Hitler. Today, we have the benefit of our experience that appeasing, rather than confronting and isolating this hatred and belligerence, led to the murder of millions of people. By inviting such a vocal and aggressive champion of similar actions, not only is Columbia naively playing into his hands and giving him legitimacy, they are also defying historical lessons of enormous and grave consequence.
To those who call for academic freedom and free debate, it is important to emphasize that not everything is debatable. Democracies rightly insist on freedom of speech, but they must also protect themselves from sedition and incitement. A platform that allows criminals to gain stature and legitimacy should never be permitted.
As a virulent denier of the Holocaust who has unceasingly threatened the very existence of the Jewish state, Ahmadinejad has proven himself a sadistic despot and a dictator on par with the most loathsome figures of the past.
Today, under the leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran is the center and root of most troubles in the Middle East, significantly in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The country's active support of terrorism, indoctrination of youth in hate and murder, and smuggling of military equipment to terrorists such as Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, are but a few examples of its destructive policies. In addition, it pursues an extreme ideology of undermining moderate regimes in the Middle East and aggressively building its nuclear capabilities in the face of unified worldwide opposition, in contradiction to all its obligations.
The country's troublesome policies extend to Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Islamic republics in Central Asia. For more than a decade, the international community has tried to reason with Teheran; every attempt was met with disappointment and failure.
Iran's intentions are no secret to the international community. We are very aware of their policies designed to drive the US out of the Middle East so they can mold the region and the world in their own image.
All of the above raises serious concerns as to why Columbia University would give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a platform. They should have followed New York City's lead when it denied his cynical request to appear at Ground Zero. For quite some time, he has tried to take advantage of his free entry to the US via the United Nations charter to manipulate world public opinion in a legitimate forum, whether at Ground Zero or at Columbia University. New York City had the decency to know better. Too bad Columbia did not.
The writer is a former ambassador to the United States and co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh.

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