October 1: Whose victory was it?

A lie written in Persian or Arabic in a country that oppresses its people is very hard to counter.

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September 30, 2007 20:24
4 minute read.
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Whose victory was it? Sir, - My initial impression as I read Meir Brooks's "Humbling Ahmadinejad" (September 26) was that his liberal approach to the controversial visit of the Iranian leader had merit. As I finished the op-ed, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Brooks had missed a very important consideration, one that invalidates his conclusion that "Ahmadinejad was defeated, and Columbia won a victory for freedom." A similar article would never be published in Iran, where there is strict censorship. But the photo of Ahmadinejad shaking hands with Columbia's Dean Coatsworth could make page 1 of the Iranian newspapers, and any accompanying Persian text would be believed whether it was true or not, because Iran does not tolerate dissent. It could say: "Dean Coatsworth is seen congratulating President Admadinejad on having the courage to bring the truth to the US by denouncing both Israel and America. We appreciate his straightforward views." A lie written in Persian or Arabic in a country that oppresses its people is very hard to counter. Last week the Iranian president was handed an unprecedented propaganda victory. P. YONAH Shoham Sir, - The point everybody forgets to make is that Columbia University and its dean, Lee Bollinger, appeared as bullies. They knew Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a dictator, that he was no match for their intellect, that would not answer honestly and openly - yet they bombarded him with questions he would not have had enough time to answer even if he had had the intelligence and honesty. I doubt President Bush could have done better under similar circumstances. It was Columbia's character and integrity at risk here. The question is, What did all this publicity accomplish? What did either side gain? Columbia lost something very fundamental. Ahmadinejad did not have much to lose, and he may even have gained some sympathy. SEPIDEH ESHRAGHI Vancouver Sir, - In criticizing the Iranian president, Lee Bollinger said: "When you come to a place like this, it makes you seem simply ridiculous." But the same can be said for Mr. Bollinger, Columbia University's president, who invited a man who advocates genocide. BARRY LYNN Efrat Sir, - Only a fool would have thought Ahmadinejad would explain forthrightly why Israel must be wiped off the map, why he asserts the Holocaust is a myth, and why he believes that in a nuclear exchange, 50 percent is an acceptable price for his fellow Iranians to pay for the destruction of Israel. How could they expect candor and honesty from a man who yearns for Armageddon so an Islamic caliphate may rule what is left of the world? Academic freedom - which I always thought meant the exchange of ideas that can withstand intellectual and ethical scrutiny, concepts that enlarge our reservoir of knowledge - was shredded when John Coatsworth, dean of Columbia's School of Public and International Affairs, conceded that he would have invited Hitler to Columbia. The Columbia incident was not about freedom of either speech or academia. None of us would have invited Ahmadinejad into our homes. Why did Columbia? ALAN KATZ Melville There's a problem, let's admit it Sir, - Rabbi Eric Yoffie claims "there is no shortage of voices prepared to tell us that fanaticism and intolerance are fundamental to Islamic religion." One of the more credible of those voices is the Danish linguist Tina Magaard, whose comparative study of the basic texts of 10 religions over three years concluded: "The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with. There are hundreds of calls in the Koran for fighting against people of other faiths. If it is correct that many Muslims view the Koran as the literal words of God, which cannot be interpreted or rephrased, then we have a problem." Events validate these conclusions, and the sooner we admit we have a problem, the sooner it can be fixed ("Will Rabbi Yoffie's message resonate?" September 30). D. KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont She's a treasure Sir, - Caroline Glick is a national treasure. All her columns, notably "Columbia's choice - and ours" (September 25) and "Ahmadinejad's overlooked message" (September 28) are full of rare factual information. Her views deserve to be disseminated worldwide. M. RUBIN Beersheba Sir, - Congratulations to Caroline Glick on "Columbia's choice - and ours," one of her finest columns. With her usual incisive analysis she distilled the essence of the evil of Columbia University's honoring Ahmadinejad with a platform to speak. Like it or not, we are all participants in World War III. The arrogance and stupidity of Columbia's leaders in believing that civilized debate within the confines of their ivory tower could influence the march of Islamic radicalism that Ahmadinejad represents is as pathetic as Neville Chamberlain's belief that the documents he signed with Adolf Hitler could halt the force of Nazism at the onset of WWII. HILLEL HURWITZ Ra'anana Sir, - Caroline Glick is exactly right: "By inviting Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia has made the pros and cons of genocide a legitimate subject for debate." In other words, someone is saying he is willing to exterminate the Jews, and the world is answering that it is willing to look the other way. I already saw this movie 70 years ago. I want to leave the cinema NOW. TUVIA FOGEL Milan Throw 'em out Sir, - Natorei Karta's claim that Ahmadinejad is "a man of peace" shocks no less than the neo-Nazi hooligans arrested recently in Israel. Both seem anti-Israel to the nth degree. So just as there has been a demand to deprive the neo-Nazi louts of their Israeli citizenship and deport them, the government should do the same with the followers of Natorei Karta, who are venomously poisoned against Israeli society ("Ahmadinejad is an advocate of peace, Natorei Karta insists," September 26). ALEX LOVINGER Kfar Saba


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