Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Case Against Ahmadinejad at Columbia

While monitoring the continuing controversy over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to New York, be sure to read Caroline Glick's phenomenal essay outlining the moral case against the Iranian president's speech at Columbia.

Glick lists all of Iran's outragreous actions and statements, on the Holocaust and Israel, on human rights, on regional security, and so on. These actions - which represent Iran as the true international pariah that it is - make a clear justification for denying Ahmadinejad a platform. But Glick's objections go further, to an even more fundamental ethical issue in the controversy:

THE PROBLEM with Columbia's action, the reason that there can be no moral justification for the university's decision, is because by inviting Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia has made the pros and cons of genocide a legitimate subject for debate. By asking Ahmadinejad challenging questions, Bollinger has reduced the right of the Jewish people to live to a question of preferences.

No doubt, Bollinger prefers to see the Jewish people remain alive. But this is beside the point. The point is that by debating the issue with Ahmadinejad, Bollinger just put the right of the Jewish people to exist on the table.

Here it is important to note Ahmadinejad's uniqueness. It is true that in supporting the annihilation of Israel, Ahmadinejad is no different from his terrorist underlings Hassan Nasrallah, Khaled Mashaal and Farouk Kaddoumi. Moreover, Ahmadinejad's desire to wipe the largest concentration of Jews on earth off the map simply because it is Jewish is shared by all of his colleagues in the Iranian regime and most intellectuals and religious leaders in the Arab world.

But still there is a difference between Ahmadinejad and all the others. Through his words and his deeds, Ahmadinejad has become the symbol and the leader of the growing international movement which supports and engages in activities to advance the destruction of the Jewish people. Through his words and his deeds, Ahmadinejad has become the poster boy for genocide.

As a result, what was said yesterday at Columbia is of no consequence whatsoever. What matters is that by inviting Ahmadinejad to its campus, Columbia University announced that supporting or opposing the genocide of the Jews is a legitimate topic for discussion. In so doing, as an institution Columbia has taken itself beyond the pale of legitimate discourse. As an institution, Columbia has embraced depravity by renouncing the intrinsic sanctity of human life.

Glick argues finally for the resignation of Columbia's Lee Bollinger, for campus alumni to end their financial support of the university, and she urges students to rise up in a campaign of moral indignation against this depravity.

This is a powerful essay - indeed, one of the most penetrating analyses on moral right I've ever read.

I still can't help thinking that there remains a free speech issue here in that no matter how despicable an idea, airing a view makes the idea compete in the marketplace of ideas and values. As any truth-thinking person knows, the existential essence of the Jewish people - the fundamental matter of Jewish life - is not a matter for debate. Thus, for the world to hear Ahmadinejad once again state his views - that the Holocaust "needs more research" - the West will be able to continue to build the case it needs to topple the Iranian regime, which kills Americans in Iraq, supports the annihilation of Israel, continues apace in its nuclear development program, and massacres in citizens in a brutal campaign of massive human rights violations.

There's no redeeming value in what Ahmadinejad spouts, but his words are on record in the international court of public opinion. I'm convinced that we'll hear and see more of Iran's evil deeds, all the more evidence justifying preventive strikes on the state's nuclear program, and ultimately the decapitation of the regime.

No comments: