Israel denounces Sweden’s silence on IDF organ harvest article (Israel is the only “democracy” that do not respect other countries laws and press. supprise?)

sraeli officials demanded that the Swedish government denounce a recent article by a top Swedish newspaper alleging that Israel Defense Forces soldiers kill Palestinian civilians in order to harvest their organs.

On Friday, the Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan met with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Scandinavian country and urged his government to issue a denunciation of the article. Deputy Foreign Minister Frank Belfrage emphasized his country’s freedom of speech and how it limits the ability of the government to respond to articles in the media.

Dagan rebuffed Belfrage’s explanation, saying that in the past the Swedish government responded to similar articles and their reluctance to do so in this case has made it unclear what their stance is.

The stance of the Swedish deputy foreign minister was backed up on Saturday by the country’s prime minister.

A Netanyahu aide said that “Israel does not wish to infringe upon the freedom of the press in Sweden. However, as much as the Swedish press is entitled to freedom, the Swedish government should enjoy the freedom of denouncing such reports.”

The article claims that as far back as 1992, the IDF had removed organs from Palestinian youths killed in clashes. It also makes a link to an alleged crime syndicate in New Jersey, which includes several members of the American Jewish community, as well as one Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who faces charges of conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant.

Belfrage told Dagan that Bildt had responded to the article in a blog entry, which Dagan told him was not sufficient because it is unclear in a blog whether or not he is speaking as a private citizen or as the foreign minister.

Dagan then told Belfrage that the historical legacy of the Holocaust made the issue all the more important to Israelis, in that hateful words and anti-Semitism can often evolve into violent actions. Dagan also expressed his fear that the article could lead to violence against Jews.

Dagan told Belfrage that Israel believes the responsibility for cooling tensions over the article lies with the Swedish government, and said it was imperative for Sweden to resolve the crisis before the country’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visits Israel on September 10th.

The meeting had been scheduled before the article was published, officials in the Swedish foreign ministry told local news agencies on Friday that it would now be used to address the escalating tension between the two countries.

Swedish officials said Thursday that comments by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in response to the article “had aroused anger” in Stockholm.

The article in Sweden’s biggest-selling newspaper, first reported internationally by Haaretz.com on Tuesday, has sparked fierce widespread debate both in Sweden and abroad.

Lieberman on Thursday criticized Sweden for not intervening in “the blood libel against Jews.” He said that “the affair is reminiscent of the state’s [Sweden’s] stand during World War II, when it also did not intervene.”

On Thursday, Bildt rejected Israeli calls for an official condemnation of the article.

Lieberman had asked Bildt to print a a state rebuttal to the piece. Dagan was expected to make a similar request during his meeting with Swedish Foreign Ministry officials.

Bildt denied the request, however, writing in a blog post late Thursday that he would not condemn the article as “freedom of expression is part of the Swedish constitution.”

“Freedom of expression and press freedom are very strong in our constitution by tradition. And that strong protection has served our democracy and our country well,” Bildt wrote.

“If I were engaged in editing all strange debate contributions in different media I probably wouldn’t have time to do much else.”

Bildt said he understood why the article stirred strong emotions in Israel, but said basic values in society are best protected by free discussion.

The article has enraged Israeli officials, who called it blatantly racist and said it played on vile anti-Semitic themes.

Bildt, meanwhile, says the rejection of anti-Semitism is “the only issue on which there has ever been complete unity in the Swedish parliament.”

Israeli measures

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem had been doubtful that the Swedish government would publish a condemnation of the article, and was considering other measures. One idea is to cancel an upcoming visit by Bildt to Israel, set take place in 10 days.

Another idea was to allow Bildt to make the visit, but to use the trip as a well publicized criticism of the article, and for Israeli officials to refuse to speak with him about any subject other than the article.

Foreign Ministry officials the crisis would not end without official Swedish condemnation of the article.

Lieberman has informed Foreign Ministry employees to consider the cancellation of government press cards given to Aftonbladet reporters in Israel, as well as to refuse to assist the paper in any way whatsoever in covering Israeli news.

It also emerged Thursday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering a libel lawsuit against Donald Boström, the writer of the article. Boström has reportedly been trying to publish a version of the article about Israel harvesting organs since 1992.

The Swedish government on Thursday distanced itself from a statement by its ambassador to Israel, in which she criticized the article saying that “the condemnation was solely the judgment of the embassy [in Tel Aviv], and designed for an Israeli audience.” The comments came in a statement released Thursday by the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

“The article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is as shocking and appalling to us Swedes, as it is to Israeli citizens,” said Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier on Wednesday.

“Just as in Israel, freedom of the press prevails in Sweden,” Bonnier said. “However, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are freedoms which carry a certain responsibility.”

Ref: Haaretz

Also read:

Israel fury at Sweden organ claim

Israel is to lodge an official complaint with Sweden over claims in a newspaper that Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians to sell their organs.

….

Amazing as it is, it´s true!

Israel is bulling another country to think, act and talk as Israel wants. Everyone that do not do what Israel wants is a “palestinian”. Everyone that the jews + zionist do not like is an antisemite. Meanwhile the ethnical cleansing of Palestine  and the israeli organ theafts countinues.

But let´s not talk about that.

Facts are boring when  you are an israeli.

/a


Debating Ahmadinejad at Columbia

A tall man with white hair, wearing a US-flag print shirt and pants, patrolled the sidewalk at 116th and Broadway. He waved a huge American flag as he marched, in movements that were nearly metronomic in their consistency. Stacks of brochures sat on a bare and rickety table, waiting to be handed out to anyone who didn’t look away quickly enough. Bystanders stared.

I hadn’t been back to my former school almost since I graduated. Returning as an alumna of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the school that sponsored Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s talk here on Monday, I felt the puff of pride that Columbia had not backed down in the face of media pressure. I also felt just a little bit cheated that it was happening now, when I was attending as an outsider, rather than the first time his talk had been announced, in 2006, when I was still a sleep-deprived student.

The police officers stationed in and around the university, beginning at the platform of the subway that I had taken to get there, looked at everyone suspiciously. Women in dark, severe suits monitored the entry of the press, taking signatures and examining credentials. Everywhere, people in uniforms directed the human traffic and at certain entrances demanded identification. Fliers lined the walkway to the main quadrangle and littered the brick paths. Students milled around the campus, talking excitedly in tight groups or listening to the speakers outside Low Library. Homemade placards offered silent counterpoint to some of the speeches delivered at the podium. “Ahmadinejad Is not Iran Just Like Bush Is not America,” said one. “We Say No to War on Iran,” proclaimed another. And a third, my favorite, in black paint on a wood sheet: “Free Speech for All, Even Douche Bags.”

Debating Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Jayati Vora

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A tall man with white hair, wearing a US-flag print shirt and pants, patrolled the sidewalk at 116th and Broadway. He waved a huge American flag as he marched, in movements that were nearly metronomic in their consistency. Stacks of brochures sat on a bare and rickety table, waiting to be handed out to anyone who didn’t look away quickly enough. Bystanders stared.

I hadn’t been back to my former school almost since I graduated. Returning as an alumna of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the school that sponsored Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s talk here on Monday, I felt the puff of pride that Columbia had not backed down in the face of media pressure. I also felt just a little bit cheated that it was happening now, when I was attending as an outsider, rather than the first time his talk had been announced, in 2006, when I was still a sleep-deprived student.

The police officers stationed in and around the university, beginning at the platform of the subway that I had taken to get there, looked at everyone suspiciously. Women in dark, severe suits monitored the entry of the press, taking signatures and examining credentials. Everywhere, people in uniforms directed the human traffic and at certain entrances demanded identification. Fliers lined the walkway to the main quadrangle and littered the brick paths. Students milled around the campus, talking excitedly in tight groups or listening to the speakers outside Low Library. Homemade placards offered silent counterpoint to some of the speeches delivered at the podium. “Ahmadinejad Is not Iran Just Like Bush Is not America,” said one. “We Say No to War on Iran,” proclaimed another. And a third, my favorite, in black paint on a wood sheet: “Free Speech for All, Even Douche Bags.”

Representatives of various organizations were eloquent in their denunciation of Ahmadinejad’s professed views on Israel and the treatment of women and homosexuals in Iran, yet many supported his right to speak at the university. Many declared that they had never felt prouder to be associated with Columbia. Some said that they had never felt more ashamed.

Matteen Mokalla, an Iranian-American student at SIPA studying the Middle East, spoke of the mood on campus. “Before the talk, the entire campus was electrified,” he said. “Everybody was talking about it. When we were standing in line, we joked, ‘Is this the line for the Rolling Stones?’ Because it felt like that.”

But that pride and excitement was tarnished by the opening remarks of Columbia President Lee Bollinger. In his statement, combative and unduly vicious, Bollinger accused his invited guest of being nothing more than a “petty and cruel dictator,” of having a “fanatical mindset.” He claimed that this exercise was valuable in knowing one’s enemies and understanding “the mind of evil.”

These words were prefaced by his describing the invitation to Ahmadinejad as the “right thing to do.” As abhorrent as Bollinger’s parroting of Bushisms is, the invite was the right thing to do. Not because the Iranian president has a right to share some of his more odious views but because of “our right to listen. We do it for ourselves.”

But where were all these references to freedom of speech just last year, when Bollinger first endorsed, then rescinded, the SIPA invitation to Ahmadinejad? Then-SIPA dean Lisa Anderson had invited the Iranian leader to give a lecture. Bollinger has claimed that the invitation was taken back because he wasn’t sure that the exchange would reflect the “academic values” that the platform stood for. He also called Ahmadinejad’s views “repugnant.” Campus gossip, however, put the reason as outside pressure. What else could it have been, the whispers went, when the university president at first endorsed Dean Anderson’s invite but backed off the next day?

That’s why it was all the more disappointing when students showed up to hear their president uphold all the values of free speech in the face of withering media criticism–only to hear him stoop to name-calling.

“Bollinger’s remarks were uncalled for,” said Julie Payne, a second-year SIPA student and co-editor of SIPA’s student newspaper, Communique. “There was no need for a fifteen-minute tirade, nor for using some of the adjectives he did. Everyone disagrees with [Ahmadinejad’s] rhetoric, but debate shouldn’t be so debased by using that language.” Bollinger’s opening remarks changed the nature of the discussion at Columbia. After the talk, said Mokalla, “the discussion was not about Ahmadinejad at all. Bollinger was outrageous. If he feels this way about him, why invite this man? Twenty of us were talking about it for two hours afterward. It was a bit embarrassing because he sounded like President Bush or like a neoconservative ideologue.”

Bollinger’s comments were radically different from other introductions he has given in the course of the World Leaders Forum, an annual cluster of talks hosted by Columbia, where visiting heads of state are invited to address students on campus.

I remember attending a similar lecture two years ago, in the fall of 2005, in my first semester as a SIPA student. It was a talk by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a leader closer to my home country. As one of many Indian students at the event, I burned with questions I was dying to pose about democracy, women’s rights and peace with India.

Then, as yesterday, we arrived more than an hour in advance. On each of our seats was a pamphlet with a brief history of the leader. I was astonished to find that, according to his biography, Musharraf “assumed the office of chief executive of Pakistan in October 1999.” There was no mention of the coup through which Musharraf seized power. Not once did Bollinger refer to the military man, who had overthrown the elected government and then refused to hold elections as promised, as a dictator–a word he seemed to have no problem using to describe Ahmadinejad. The question of how Musharraf “assumed office” was delicately avoided, a diplomatic skill that has clearly been forgotten in these two intervening years. No one seemed curious to know how Musharraf’s rhetoric about democracy fit in with his continued reign as a dictator–at least, no one with access to a mike.

Neither Bollinger nor the press has been so forgiving of Ahmadinejad. He has been attacked in all quarters–from the front pages of New York’s daily newspapers to the sidewalks outside Columbia’s main gates to the podium where he was invited to speak. He has been called “thug,” “madman,” “tyrant,” “dictator” and more. And in this volley of words, an important opportunity was lost.

Sitting with a bunch of his Iranian friends on the lawn with the thousands who couldn’t get into the lecture hall, Bill Berkeley professed himself disappointed with the direction of the debate. An adjunct professor at Columbia’s School of Journalism, Berkeley is the author of a book on Rwanda and is currently at work on another on Iran. “I didn’t feel the discussion moved forward,” he said.

For in the melee of questions about the Holocaust and wiping Israel off the map, Ahmadinejad got off with mouthing generalities about loving all nations and admitting that the Holocaust had indeed taken place. (“Given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time,” said the Iranian president, “we should have research to approach this from different perspectives.”) He got a free pass on issues that many Iranians would have liked to see raised, such as women’s rights, homosexuality (according to Ahmadinejad, homosexuals simply do not exist in Iran) and the misdeeds of the Revolutionary Guard.

Iranian SIPA student Hani Mansourian knows what his question would have been. “I would have asked him, ‘If you support a referendum in Palestine, and if you say that women are free in Iran, why don’t you hold a referendum in Iran and ask women whether they want to wear the hijab or not?'” For all his evasion of questions posed to him, on some points Ahmadinejad was eloquent and passionate. His support for the Palestinian people dominated the speech. “For sixty years, these people are being killed. For sixty years, on a daily basis, there’s conflict and terror. For sixty years, innocent women and children are destroyed and killed by helicopters and airplanes that break the house over their heads.”

He was persuasive when it came to Iran’s nuclear policy. Recalling the after-effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he asked, “What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity?”

In this face-off between Bollinger’s prefacing remarks and Ahmadinejad’s speech, the university president “made Ahmadinejad look the winner,” said Mansourian, “and that’s not what I wanted.” The Iranian, like the rest of us, wanted a real debate, one in which Bollinger would practice what he had preached the previous year in a campus-wide e-mail to students.

“In a society committed to free speech,” it had said, “there will inevitably be times when speakers use words that anger, provoke, and even cause pain. Then, more than ever, we are called on to maintain our courage to confront bad words with better words.”

Sadly, what Bollinger had in his arsenal were not better words but Bush’s words.

Ref: the Nation

Also read iranian-university-chancellors-ask-bollinger-10-questions

Ahmadinejad’s speech at University of Columbia

Columbia President Bollinger Introduces Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad at Columbia University

Updated, 3:04 p.m. | President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran completed his appearance by thanking his audience. “I ask Almighty God to assist all of us to work hand in hand for a future filled with peace, justice and brotherhood,” he said. “Best of luck to all of you.”

John H. Coatsworth, the acting dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, said he regretted that Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have time to answer all the questions from the audience (and did not fully answer some of the questions that were asked). Then he thanked the Iranian president, and the audience.

3:03 p.m. | The final question from the audience was: What would it take for Iran to engage in talks with the United States or the West? Mr. Ahmadinejad did not give a direct response, but spoke in general terms. He concluded this way: “If the U.S. government recognizes the rights of the Iranian people, respects all nations and extends a hand of friendship to all Iranians, they will see that Iranians will be among their best friends.”

He added that Columbia’s faculty members were “officially invited” to come to Iran to speak — to which the audience gave a rousing round of applause. “You are welcome to choose any university in Iran,” he said. “We’ll give you the platform, we’ll respect you 100 percent, we will have our students sit and listen to what you have to say.”

2:59 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran’s nuclear program was not intended at the development of weapons. He maintained — without providing evidence — that inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency had “verified our activities are for peaceful purposes.” However, he said, some “two or three” world powers want to “monopolize all science or knowledge” and “they expect the Iranian nation to turn to others for fuel, science and knowledge that are indigenous to itself” and “to humble itself.”

He asked of the United States: “If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and tested them already, what position are you in to question the peaceful purposes of others who want nuclear power? We don’t believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity.”

He added that politicians interested in nuclear weapons “are backward, retarded.”

2:53 p.m. | Asked what he hoped to achieve when he expressed a desire to visit the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Ahmadinejad said he wanted to “show my respect.”

He added: “Regretfully, some groups had very strong reactions, very bad reactions. It’s bad to prevent someone from showing sympathy to the families of the victims of the 9/11 event, a tragic event.” He added that he was puzzled when told that some viewed his desire to visit ground zero as an insult. “This is my way of showing my respect,” he said. “Why would you think that?”

2:51 p.m. | In response to a question about the treatment of homosexuals in Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad was initially evasive, instead talking about the death penalty, which, he pointed out, exists in the United States. “People who violate the laws by using guns, creating insecurity selling guns, distributing guns at a high level are sentenced to execution in Iran,” he said. “Very few of these punishments are carried out in the public eye.”

Pressed by Dean Coatsworth on the original question about the rights of gay men and lesbians in Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad said: “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country.”

The audience booed and hissed loudly. Some laughed, uncomfortably.

“In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon,” Mr. Ahmadinejad continued, undeterred. “I do not know who has told you that we have it. But as for women, maybe you think that maybe being a woman is a crime. It’s not a crime to be a woman. Women are the best creatures created by God. They represent the kindness, the beauty that God instills in them. Women are respected in Iran.”

2:46 p.m. | The third and fourth questions concerned the Holocaust and the rights of women in Iranian society.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said that the Holocaust should not be closed off to academic inquiry just as scientific fields continue to merit research.

On the issue of women’s rights, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, “Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom,” but he did not offer many specifics, other than citing several examples of women in high levels of government.

2:43 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad, in response to a second question from the audience, denied that his country sponsors terrorism, but he did not offer specifics.

“We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those root causes,” he said, adding that in the Middle East, “It’s clear what powers incite terrorists, support them, fund them.”

He added:

Our nation, the Iranian nation, through history, has always extended a hand of friendship to other nations. We’re a cultured nation. We don’t need to resort to terrorism. We’ve been victims of terrorism ourselves. It’s regrettable that people who argued they are fighting terrorism — instead of supporting the Iranian nation — are supporting the terrorists and then turn the finger at us. This is most regrettable.

Updated, 2:36 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad just took the first question from the audience: Does he still call for the destruction of the State of Israel?

He declined to answer directly, but began his answer by saying, “We love all nations. We love the Jewish people. There are many Jews living in Iran, with peace and security.”

Instead, he turned his remarks again to the issue of Palestinian self-determination.

John H. Coatsworth, the acting dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, challenged Mr. Ahmadinejad to give a straight-up “yes or no” answer to the question of Israel.

Mr. Ahmadinejad retorted that he was being asked to give a certain answers. Where’s the free expression in that? he asked. He called for a “free referendum” in Palestine. “Let the people of Palestine freely chose what they want for their future,” he said.

2:35 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad concluded his speech by defending his country’s nuclear program. He said Iran once had contracts with American, French, German and Canadian contractors to provide nuclear energy.

“Unilaterally each and everyone of them canceled their contracts with us as a result of which the Iranian people had to pay the heavy cost in billions of dollars,” he said. “Why do we need the fuel from you? You’ve not even given us spare aircraft parts that we do need for civilian aircraft, under the name of embargo and sanctions under the pretext that we are against human rights and freedom. We want the right to self-determination, to be independent.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad concluded his speech thus: “We are a peace-loving nation. We love all nations.”

2:31 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad took up the issues of Israel and the Holocaust, among the most explosive issues he has discussed. He said:

You know that my main job is as a university instructor. Right now, as president of Iran, I still continue teaching graduate and Ph.D.-level courses on a weekly basis. My students are working with me in scientific fields. I believe that I am an academic myself, so I speak to you from an academic point of view. And I raise two questions. But instead of a response, I got a wave of insults and allegations against me. And regretfully, they came mostly from groups who claimed most to believe in the freedom of speech and of information.

You know quite well that Palestine is an old wound –- as old as 60 years. For 60 years, these people are displaced. For 60 years, they are being killed. For 60 years, on a daily basis there’s conflict and terror, for 60 years, innocent women and children are destroyed and killed by helicopters and airplanes that rake the houses over their heads. Children in schools are being tortured, for 60 years, the slogan of expansionism, from the Nile to the Euphrates, has been chanted.

Given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?

Interestingly, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not call the Holocaust a “myth,” as he has in the past, but instead argued that the Palestinians were paying the price for other people’s crimes:

We need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role in it. Why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price for an event they had nothing to do with?

They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish and Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn’t have any problems. Today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood in many parts of the world. Why is it that Palestinians should pay a price -– innocent Palestinians -– for five million people to remain displaced and refugees abroad, for 60 years? Is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime in itself? Why should an academic like myself face insults for asking questions like this?

2:23 p.m. | In his most pointed arguments yet, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that science and research had been used in the West as tools of oppression.

“They even violate individual and social freedoms in their own nations under that pretext,” he said. “They do not respect the privacy of their own people. They tap telephone calls … They create an insecure psychological atmosphere, in order to justify their war-mongering acts in different parts of the world.”

He added: “By using precise scientific methods and planning, they begin their onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations, which are the result of thousands of years of interaction, creativity and artistic activity. They try to eliminate these cultures in order to strip people of their identity.”

He said that Western science was often used to instill “intimidation” and values of “mere consumption” and “submission to oppressive powers.”

He also added, “Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers.” (Pointedly, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not speak to his own country’s uranium enrichment program.)

“Without the cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war is waged between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place?”

2:18 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad has been making an argument about science, but not one grounded in the Western empirical tradition. “In the teachings of the prophets, one reality shall always be attached to science: the reality of purity of spirit and good behavior,” he said. “Knowledge and wisdom are pure and clear reality. Science is a light.” He added that “only a pure researcher” free from “superstition, selfishness, material trappings” can discover that reality.

The protests outside, on the Columbia campus, have been largely quiet during the duration of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech inside Lerner Hall. Hundreds of students are sitting quietly, watching a live television simulcast on the southeast lawn of the campus, in front of Butler Library.

2:13 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad has devoted his talk so far to arguing that God is the source of knowledge. The Almighty is the ultimate “teacher of human beings, who taught human beings what they are ignorant of,” he said, adding that the Prophet Muhammad was “appointed as their prophet to ‘read for them the divine verses, and purify them from ideological and ethical contamination.’ ”

It was the wisdom of the prophets, from Abraham to Muhammad, that “delivered humans from ignorance” and from “corrupted ways of thinking,” he added.

2:10 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke about the importance of scholarship, but did not address Mr. Bollinger’s criticism of the Iranian regime’s crackdown on academics in Iran.

“The key to understanding the realities around us rests in the hands of researchers: those who seek to discover areas that are hidden,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “The unknown sciences, the windows of reality they can open, is only done through the efforts of scholars and learned people in this world.”

Without the instinct for learning and knowledge, he said, “Humans would have always remained stranded in ignorance and would never have discovered how to improve the life we are given.”

2:07 p.m. | Mr. Ahmadinejad began his speech by reciting verses from the Koran in Arabic. Addressing Dean Coatsworth and the audience, he said he was grateful to God for the opportunity to speak in an academic environment.

Mr. Ahmadinejad began: “At the outset, I want to complain a bit about the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a person 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 the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims…”

The room erupted in applause.

Mr. Ahmadinejad added: “…and to attempt to provide a vaccination of sorts to our faculty and students. The text, more than addressing me, was an insult to the audience 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.”

2:04 p.m. | “Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for,” Mr. Bollinger told Mr. Ahmadinejad. “I only wish I could do better.”

The auditorium erupted in thunderous applause.

2 p.m. | In the style of a relentless cross-examination, Mr. Bollinger confronted Mr. Ahmadinejad over his statements about wiping Israel “off the face of the map” and on allegations that Iran has provided financing and support to terrorist groups.

“Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?” he asked.

Mr. Bollinger, finally, confronted Iran about its aid to Shiite militias in Iraq and about its nuclear buildup.

“You continue to defy the world body” by claiming peaceful intent in a nuclear program while the world expresses concern about Iran’s military aims, Mr. Bollinger said.

Mr. Bollinger concluded: “Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions, but your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mind-set that characterizes what you say and do.”

He added that he believed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s failure to provide answers would only undermine the hard-line regime’s power in Iran.

1:56 p.m. | Mr. Bollinger asked Mr. Ahmadinejad: “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator, and so I ask you, and so I ask you, why have women, members of the Baha’i faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?”

He asked whether Mr. Ahmadinejad was using a nuclear confrontation with the West to distract from his incompetent leadership at home. He also asked to be allowed to lead a delegation of scholars to Iran to speak freely, as Mr. Ahmadinejad can do today.

He confronted Mr. Ahmadinejad over his description of the Holocaust as “a fabricated legend,” calling him either “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.” He called Columbia a world center of Jewish studies that since the 1930s has provided a home for Jewish refugees. He called the Holocaust “the most documented event in human history.”

1:53 p.m. | In a speech notable for its forcefulness, Mr. Bollinger just confronted Mr. Ahmadinejad on the crackdown of Iran’s scholars and intellectuals. He asserted that Iran had a poor human rights record and that “Iran leads the world in executing minors.” He also spoke of a “wider crackdown” on student activists, including the jailing and forced retirement of scholars.

1:48 p.m. | Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia’s president, just took the stage. “If today proves anything, it will be that there is an enormous amount of work ahead of us,” he said, referring to the “critical and complex” role of Iran in world geopolitics.

In a remarkable and wide-ranging talk, with Mr. Ahmadinejad sitting just feet from him, Mr. Bollinger gave a passionate defense of free speech.

Mr. Bollinger said that since 2003, the World Leaders Forum had been a “major forum for robust debate” on global issues. “It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore” implies an endorsement of those ideas or a naïveté about the potential dangers of those ideas, he said.

“To those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable.” He said, “It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.” He added, “This is the right thing to do and indeed, it is required by the existing norms of free speech, of Columbia University” and of academic institutions.

He added that he regretted if people were hurt by the speech, and he called for the “intellectual and emotional courage” to “confront the mind of evil.”

As academic institutions, he added, “We cannot make war or peace. We can only make minds.”

1:44 p.m. | After a short delay, the event has just begun. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, took his seat in the Roone Arledge Auditorium.

John H. Coatsworth, acting dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia, told the audience to turn off their cellphones and reminded the crowd that flash photography was prohibited. He said that audience members may leave but would not be allowed by the Secret Service to reenter.

“We have today an extraordinary opportunity to directly engage the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr. Coatsworth said.

He urged the audience to display “civility and restraint.”

1:31 p.m. | Hundreds of students have gathered on the southeast lawn of the Columbia University campus in Morningside Heights, where the university has set up a live telecast of the speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who is scheduled to speak shortly, at 1:30 p.m.

This campus has been sharply divided on whether Mr. Ahmadinejad should even be allowed to speak here.

“I feel most people do not understand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ideology,” said Chris Jo, 20, a junior from San Diego. “Why shouldn’t he be allowed to speak on campus?” Mr. Jo said that he supported the decision by Columbia’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, to allow Mr. Ahmadinejad to speak, and added that he believed most students were energized by the news. “I think everyone’s secretly excited that he’s here, even if they’re opposed to it,” Mr. Jo said.

Rabbi Charles E. Savenor, an associate dean at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a student at Columbia’s Teachers College, had a very different point of view.

“This isn’t just a matter of free speech, it’s a matter of hate speech,” Rabbi Savenor said. He said that Mr. Ahmadinejad was taking advantage of the kind of academic freedom that is denied in Iran, noting that last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad hosted an academic conference that primarily consisted of scholars denying the Holocaust happened. “He’s one-sided,” Rabbi Savenor said.

Despite his opposition to the speech, Rabbi Savenor said, “We can’t ignore what he has to say.” He called Mr. Ahmadinejad a dangerous figure, likening him to Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. “This is 1938 all over again,” Rabbi Savenor said.

For many Columbia students, this is likely to be the most exciting event of the school year.

Many, like Jessica Garcia, 20, said they skipped class to listen to what they believed would be an historic event. “I support Columbia for bringing him here,” said Ms. Garcia, a junior from Queens, who said she was missing a physics class to listen to the event on the southeast lawn. “It’s a forum. It’s not like Columbia is endorsing him. He’s the president of a nation and should be allowed to speak.”

The 600 tickets for the event were given away quickly late last week and so many journalists have asked to cover the event that Columbia officials set aside a large room in the Columbia Journalism School building for journalists who could not fit in to the Roone Arledge Auditorium at Lerner Hall, where Mr. Ahmadinejad will speak.

Ramin Mehdizadeh, 30, been in the United States for a year as a student in architecture at Columbia. (Previously, he had been denied a visa to do research at Harvard.) He and a group of fellow Iranian students gathered on the main steps at Columbia University, holding signs like “Ahmadinejad is not Iran like Bush is not America.”

“We appreciate the invitation at Columbia,” he said. Mr. Mehdizadeh said he did not support Mr. Ahmadinejad, but did support free speech at the university. As far as the threat of military action against Iran, he says, “It’s our problem. We have to solve it.”

Negar Mortazavi, 25, is getting her master’s at Brandeis University and is currently doing an internship in development at the United Nations. She has been in the United States for four years.

“I don’t believe the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Pure and simple,” she said. As far as being afraid to speak out because she will have to go back to Iran, she said, “It’s not as bad as the protests at the university,” referring to the student demonstrations in Tehran several years ago.

Ms. Mortavazi said that if she could ask Mr. Ahmadinejad a question, she would ask, “Why is the economy going down the drain?” She added: “He’s here to be heard, but it’s an opportunity for him to be challenged.”

Roja Heydarpour contributed reporting.

Ref: NY Times

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