Wednesday, September 25, 2019

By Daled Amos

Columbia University is facing criticism for inviting the controversial Malaysian Prime Minister to speak today at its World Leaders Conference.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is scheduled to speak about the rule of law and multilateralism at the conference. The controversial part is his history of antisemitic remarks about both Jews and Israel. The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee are among those who came out and condemned Columbia University for the invitation.

Photo
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Source: Youtube screencap


Mohamad’s long history of antisemitic comments is highlighted by his comment in a 2012 blog post where he announced that he’s “glad to be labeled anti-Semitic.”

His other attacks on Jews include:
"Jews rule this world by proxy”
o  “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategize and then to counterattack. We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. ”
o  “The Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.”
In June this year, at the Cambridge Union Society in Great Britain, Mohamad was asked: “Why do you say that the Jewish people in general are inclined towards money?” He responded:
I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends.
The Malaysian leader has also gone beyond words.

In January, he banned Israeli athletes from participating in the 2019 Para Swimming World Championships being hosted by Malaysia. The tournament had to be moved elsewhere.

It should be noted that whatever one may say about preserving the right of free speech, there have been times that speakers who have been invited to Columbia University have in fact been disinvited.

Fire, whose mission is "to defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities" keeps a database of speakers who have been disinvited by US universities.

According to that list:
In 2006, Columbia University invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at its World Leaders Conference. There were objections due to Ahmadinejad's and Iran's human rights record. In addition, there were objections his speech was scheduled for the day before Rosh HaShannah, effectively impeding Jewish students who wanted to protest but would be unable to because of travel and preparations for the holiday. The speech was eventually canceled due to "logistical" issues.

In 2007, after his talk in 2006 was cut short by protesters, Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist was invited back a year later -- and then disinvited. The group is a multi-ethnic civilian organization that patrols the Mexican border, looking for illegal immigrants to turn over to authorities. In the article Columbia Nixes Speech by Minuteman Project Founder, Instead Invites Holocaust Denier, FIRE notes that the Columbia Political Union, which was hosting the debate, bowed out with the excuse that because of the "complex issue, about which many people feel strongly, we felt that it was necessary to consult with other student groups and individuals on campus before making any decisions"

In 2009, Nonie Darwish was invited to speak at Columbia University, but it was canceled:
Darwish’s speech officially was sponsored by a faculty group, the Columbia Chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). SPME faculty members reserved a room holding about 50 people. Once [student Daniel] Hertz realized that there could be a security issue, he alerted campus security (about a week before the speech was to take place). On the Friday before the event, he was told that all he needed to do was reserve a larger room and all would be well. But by Monday morning, he was told that Columbia had cancelled the event because the SPME professors did not have authority to reserve rooms on campus. Apparently, they had been doing so in the past, but Columbia suddenly had decided to crack down. (I wonder why?) Not only that-Hertz was told that Columbia, miraculously, had already scheduled someone else for the original room, so he couldn’t have the event in that room even if he wanted to. (I encourage SPME faculty or Columbia administrators to contact me if they have a different version of events.) Hertz says that Campus Media Watch is now an official student organization and intends to bring Darwish to campus next semester. [Note: though this is mentioned on their site, FIRE does not mention this example on their database]
Among those who have spoken at Columbia University despite strong student objections are John McCain (too conservative), Alan Dershowitz (pro-Israel), Tommy Robinson (controversial anti-Islamist English Defence League) and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit -- the latter in 2010 because of his alleged role in the financial crisis at the time as a banker.

But in these days of spiraling antisemitism and violence against Jews, Columbia University and its students have no problem giving center stage to a proud and outspoken antisemite.

Then there is Paul Krugman.

Back in 2003, The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman excused the Malaysian Prime Minister's antisemitism this way:
So what's with the anti-Semitism? Almost surely it's part of Mr. Mahathir's domestic balancing act, something I learned about the last time he talked like this, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.
Krugman's balancing act itself is no less impressive.

It cannot be easy to keep one's balance standing on one foot with your eyes closed and your hands over your ears.




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