What follows is the commentary by Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars and a wonderfully articulate and courageous critic of the pernicious idiocies of political correctness in the academy, on what transpired at a dinner hosted by the Iranian delegation to the United Nations in New York this past September, at which some 150 students and faculty from six colleges and universities, including my own, were present as honored guests of the Islamic Republic of Iran. When I wrote the original op-ed about the dinner Peter refers to, I did not know that when the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appeared at the dinner, the students and faculty, to their eternal disgrace, greeted him with a standing ovation.
November 28, 2012
Ahmadine-jabbing American Students
Posted by Peter Wood
Central Connecticut State University is doing its part for international diplomacy. The campus newspaper, The Central Reporter, tells us that in late September CCSU professor of political science Ghassan El-Eid brought a dozen CCSC students “to attend a dinner with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran,” who was in New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
President Ahmadinejad, of course, has had some practice talking to American college students. Back in 2007, Columbia University occasioned some controversy by inviting him to speak at its World Leaders Forum. Stinging from criticism of the decision, Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger announced he would use the occasion to annoy his guest. As the Chronicle of Higher Education put it:
“Mr. Bollinger said he would introduce the president by issuing “sharp challenges” to his denial of the Holocaust, stated goal of wiping Israel off the map, support for terrorism, defiance of sanctions stemming from Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and suppression of human rights and civil liberties.”
Bollinger has long been a champion of vigorous free speech (The Tolerant Society, 1986; Images of a Free Press, 1991; Eternally Vigilant, 2002; Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open, 2010)–at least in principle. His record in practice is a bit uneven. In 2006, for example, after a group of Columbia students violently interrupted and ended a scheduled talk by members of the Minuteman Project, he had trouble finding anything to say, but after a few months issued an anemic letter saying that Columbia had investigated and taken appropriate steps to discipline the students who had jumped the stage and assaulted the speaker. He didn’t disclose the punishments, but eventually it came out that those found guilty were merely given “warnings” which were put on their transcripts temporarily, to be removed at the end of 2008. One of the students, Monique Dols, gloated, “It’s a light punishment; it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s a victory for free speech and anti-racism.”
When it came to Ahmadinejad’s visit to the World Leaders Forum, however, Bollinger delivered what the Chronicle described as “a blistering critique.” The event remains an odd milestone for the contemporary campus. By inviting Ahmadinejad, Columbia University bestowed a signal honor on one of the worst actors in contemporary world politics, and then tried to reverse the meaning of the occasion by turning the guest into the object of contumely. Bollinger earned both praise for being tough and criticism for being rude and undermining “his own ideals of free speech and academic freedom.”
Ahmadinejad turned Bollinger’s assault to his own rhetorical advantage. He began his speech by reproving Bollinger. The Washington Post’s transcript noted the applause:
At the outset I want to complain a bit from the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite to be a speaker we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before this speech is even given to come in with a series of claims…
… and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty.
I think the text read by the dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here, present here. In a university environment we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all.
Certainly he took more than all the time I was allocated to speak, and that’s fine with me. We’ll just leave that to add up with the claims of respect for freedom and the freedom of speech that’s given to us in this country.
Ahmadinejad, having presided over judicial murder of his political opponents and bloody suppression of public protest of his regime, is no one’s idea of a friend of free speech or academic freedom, but he is a clever tactician. Bollinger played to his own audience of academics eager to hear a blustery put-down of a tyrant. But Ahmadinejad played to a world stage as a man witnessing against the hypocrisy of the West.
Which brings us back to the outing for Central Connecticut State University students. By this point, the Iranian president has perfected his pitch. He knows American college students have a tenuous grasp of history and world politics and that their deepest longing is to be “inclusive.” And he serves up exactly that. The student newspaper reports that the students described him as kind to everyone who asked a question,” “not as radical as the western media portray him,” and–of course–”inclusive.”
This was too much for one of my board members, Jay Bergman, who teaches history at Central Connecticut, and to whom I’m indebted for this glimpse into the vacancy of the soul of American higher education. Bergman recounted the affair in the Litchfield County Times, complete with a Bartlett’s full of Ahmadinejad’s venomous declarations.
Professor Ghassan El-Eid, who arranged the event, is something of a campus celebrity. According to the university he is a political consultant for MSNBC, has “granted numerous national TV and newspaper interviews,” and “has also been heard on NPR and the Pacific Radio Network.” Which I suppose is a way of saying that the honor granted the undergraduate Central Connecticut students to dine with the dictator was no accident.
Republican-American (Waterbury CT)
Honors for a vicious anti-Semite
By Jay Bergman
On Oct. 24, The Central Recorder, the student newspaper at Central Connecticut State University, reported that when the U.N. General Assembly convened in New York in late September, Professor Ghassan El-Eid of the CCSU Political Science Department brought 12 CCSU students to attend a dinner with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. In the article, students described Ahmadinejad as “very smart,” “not as radical as the Western media portray him,” “inclusive,” “kind to everyone who asked a question,” and someone who “really wants everyone to get along, be respected, and learn.” El Eid is quoted as characterizing Ahmadinejad as “a pretty rational leader,” whose views may be “controversial” but who is “very careful to support his arguments with facts.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an anti-Semitic bigot who has denied the Holocaust while repeatedly making clear his intention to carry out a second one:
“Israel must be wiped off the map.” (Oct. 26, 2005)
“Today, they (Europeans) have created a myth in the name of Holocaust.” (Dec. 14, 2005)
“The Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan.” (Feb. 28, 2007)
“I warn you to abandon the filthy Zionist entity, which has reached the end of the line. It has lost its reason to be and will sooner or later fall. The ones who still support the criminal Zionists should know that the occupiers’ days are numbered. … Accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end.” (Jan. 30, 2008)
“They (the Western powers) launched the myth of the Holocaust. They lied, they put on a show and then they support the Jews.” (Sept. 18, 2009)
No “Zionists” were killed in the World Trade Center, because “one day earlier they were told not to go to their workplace.” (Aug. 7, 2010)
“The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor.” (Aug. 17, 2012)
On Feb. 4 of this year, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed “jurisprudential justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel. In that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm.”
The government of Iran savagely persecutes Bahai’s and Christians. It tortures and executes homosexuals. It has killed Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has harassed, arrested, tried and barred from travel Iranian women’s rights activists. In 1983, it approved and funded the bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 Marines. And in 2009, it ruthlessly suppressed the Green Revolution, in which millions of Iranians demanded the freedoms Americans enjoy.
It is appalling that CCSU students were used as props in a public-relations campaign to legitimize one of the most murderous regimes in the world today. I seriously doubt any professor at CCSU, or at any other college or university in America, would arrange a dinner for students with a Ku Klux Klan kleagle. And yet dining with a genocidal anti-Semite who wants to kill six million Jews is perfectly acceptable.
Jay Bergman is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.