Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad IS AT Colubmia [11]: More on the Holocaust , women's rights, and homosexuals in Iran [there are none]

[Still listening to webcast of speech]
Question to Ahmadinejad: why is more research necessary on the Holocaust [as you say it is] if everything has been so well documented?

Oy. Even as this is being asked I see what's coming. This is an example of a poorly worded question: OF COURSE THERE IS ROOM FOR MORE RESEARCH. [Witness the information which has emerged with the publication of the SS album. What else would historians be doing if not discovering new information]

But what Ahmadinejad says is he wants "MORE RESEARCH TO DISCOVER THE FACTS." In other words he is arguing that the truth of the event itself is not fully known.

Ahmadinejad says: Well what about physics? We know a lot about physics but we keep studying it? Who says we already know everything?

He seems to be slipping out of this one.

But Coatsworth, who is chairing the event, is calling him on it. Good for him. [Even if he would have invited Hitler...] Coatsworth responds to Ahmadinejad's answer by saying that we have certain facts which are established about an event. What you, Mr. President, are doing is calling for more research not to "fill in the details" but to "establish the facts." And establishing the basic facts, Coatsworth points out, is NOT necessary since they have been firmly established.

Ahmadinejad is filibustering.

Now on to women: According to Ahmadinejad women in Iran are completely free.... women are more respected than men...

Coatsworth asked him about the execution of homosexuals.

Ahmadinejad gives some BREAKING NEWS: THERE ARE NO HOMOSEXUALS IN IRAN. Ahmadinejad wonders who told you such a thing?

The audience got a good laugh. My guess is that this is what most of the students will remember.

Finally, when asked about negotiations with the US he said they would negotiate with everyone except apartheid South Africa, which has been eliminated, and with the Zionist entity.

Coatsworth did get the last word in by saying that he was sorry there was not enough time for Ahmadinejad to answer all the questions that had been submitted or even some of the ones that had been asked.


Unknown said...

Dear Prof. Lipstadt:

I had the good fortune of studying with you from 1999-2003. During that time I managed to take all three of the courses you taught at that time (Holocaust, Early/Medieval Judaism, and a seminar about your trial).

Our final assignment for the seminar was to write a persuasive later to the then President of Emory University, President Chase, asking him not to allow known Holocaust deniers to purchase advertising space in the Emory Wheel newspaper. This assignment formed my earliest views on the 1st Amendment and free speech generally. I have since gone on to complete law school at the University of Pennsylvania and now live and work as an attorney at a private firm in New York City. I have taken on a few free speech and other 1st Amendment cases on a pro bono basis and continue to have an interest in this area.

My argument for your class was that under American law Holocaust deniers are, in fact, allowed to vocally deny. However, we need not amplify their message by providing them with a forum which serves only to legitimize their ridiculous rhetoric.

As President Ahmadinejad arrived in the US, I remembered this argument. My initial reaction was that it was just insane to provide this man with a stage, a microphone, and international press. However, it then dawned on me that this man ALREADY has the world's stage. He has been legitimized by being the leader of his own country. His words and acts are internationally newsworthy. This is rather different than your average garden variety Holocaust denier who operates in relative obscurity (read: relative to a head of state). So, in this limited circumstance, would it not be better to do as Columbia President Lee Bollinger did, and turn the forum on its head by posing the tough questions and pointing out inconsistencies?

Please let me know your thoughts on this issue. I think of you and your teachings both fondly and often.

Happy New Year and Best wishes,

Emily Saffitz
Emory College 2003

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Dear Emily:
How nice to hear from you even if it is in this rather public forum!

You make a very good argument and IF Ahmadinejad had to be given a platform, I could not have asked for a better challenge than the one given by Bollinger.

He nailed him. But he did get a certain prestige, I believe, not only from the event but, ironically, from all the media hype about the event.

There is an article in today's NYTimes I believe which makes the point that he gets status from all the brouhaha he creates in other countries, particularly the US.

Good to hear from you.

Ian Thal said...

It occured to me that while Ahmedinejad will be immune to any facts or logic that he doesn't wish to acknowledge, and that he will use his appearance at Columbia for propaganda purposes, that once footage of him being nailed with the difficult questions finds its way back to Iran (which it will, perhaps with difficulty), it will likely give great inspiration to Iranian dissidents.

Ahmedinejad may be too much of an ideologue to realize the collateral damage his Columbia address will provide.

Denmark Vesey said...

It's difficult to believe we all saw the same speech.

I watched expecting Hitler and heard a man who spoke more like Martin Luther King.

I felt ashamed of the Americans who treated him so badly.

Lee Bollinger sounded as if he were reading from a script in a desperate attempt to keep his job. It was gratuitous and over-the-top.

The ad hominem hyperbole of the Hate Iran crowd is juvenile and transparent.

hockey hound said...

Lee Bollinger invited--and procured--the president of Iran to speak at his university. I really doubt his job was on the line. His image maybe, but not his job.

You felt ashamed of the Americans who treated him so badly? Are you writing from the Betty Ford Centre?

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Actually, Bollinger did NOT invite him. A member of the faculty did. My guess is that nobody asked his "OK." That's not how things work at universities.