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There are some things you just can’t say.
The best known example – you can’t scream fire in a crowded theater – was among the first lessons taught me as a graduate student at Columbia’s journalism school.
Indeed, there are some things that just should not be said and some people who should not be heard, such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger, a renowned legal scholar with expertise in free speech and the First Amendment, says the Iranian president has the right to speak. He may be right.
His specialty may put him on a sound “legal” footing, but it has not put him on a moral one. Despite his knowledge and intelligence, Bollinger’s decision lacks common sense, compassion, and good judgment.
Would he, in the name of free speech, advocate inviting pedophiles to speak at PTA meetings so parents could better understand why their kids should not be sent to the playground with no pants on.
Would Columbia invite a world leader to speak who claims black slavery was a myth or who calls for all black people to be “wiped off the map”? The answer is certain. He wouldn’t.
If I remember correctly, Don Imus was fired – justifiably – for calling black female athletes “nappy haired.” He was silenced.
A harmless yenta like Sally Fields was censored at the Emmy’s because she spoke out against the war in Iraq. She was silenced.
Yet, an Iranian leader who sponsors terrorism and who is responsible for the deaths of our troops is given an invitation to express all the perverse evils of his mind.
Tell me – by which of her films did Sally Fields become a greater risk to national security and world peace than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Bollinger’s twisting of the First Amendment serves not to strengthen our Constitution, but rather to deeply hurt many people. As the old saying goes, “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” Columbia’s president has swung his fist and punched many right in the face.
The message he sends our troops is clear, the message he sends Israel, our devoted ally, is clear, the message he sends families torn by 9/11 is clear, the message he sends the denizens of New York and all America is clear, the message he sends Holocaust survivors is clear. Bollinger has swung his fist and the injury is great.
Yes, this is America, and our motto is to welcome the poor, the tired and the hungry, but nowhere does it say “and the terrorists too.” Yes, America is the great door to freedom, but that freedom cannot be be used to turn us into the world’s doormat.
Bollinger’s invitation makes America look weak to the Islamic world, a world that only understands and respects strength. His invitation tells the entire world it’s OK to dance on your streets in joy as you did after 9/11, kill our daughters and our sons, make weapons meant to wipe our ally off the map, enrich uranium to develop nukes, support Hezbollah terrorists and then – as punishment – we will send you an Ivy League invitation to come to Columbia and spit in our faces in person.
The Iranian president laughs in our faces by asking to go down to Ground Zero to lay a wreath in sympathy. It’s like a rapist sending his victim flowers the next day with a note that reads, “Hope it was as good for you as it was for me,” signed, “Love, Mahmoud.”
But, no worries my fellow Americans, Bollinger will ask him some tough questions and – what international pressure, the threat of America’s and Israel’s military and U.N. sanctions and resolutions have been unable to do – Bollinger and the starry eyed students with lunch-loaded backpacks will … and Ahmadinejad will go home a changed man.
My mother always used to say, if someone spits in your face, don’t pretend it’s raining. How much more venomous spit does the Iranian president have to lather up?
Iran already has long range-missiles that can reach Israel. He commands a terrorist organization bigger in manpower and resources than al-Qaida – Hezbollah. It has attacked targets all over the world. His country is currently killing U.S. troops in Iraq with proxy terrorists, bombs and weaponry. His intentions are clear.
Have the liberal minded become so open minded their brains have fallen out? Someone please give Bollinger an umbrella. Remind him it’s still official U.S. policy to not negotiate with terrorists. Ask him, wouldn’t the money New York is spending to provide special security and police protection to Ahmadinejad have been better spent on armored vests and equipment to protect American men and women from the deadly weapons he’s sending into Iraq?
As a Columbia alumna, I have to ask: What message does this invitation send to Columbia students?
Yes, I worry about the hearts and minds Ahmadinejad could change. In “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes,” Mark J. Penn, one of Americas most respected pollsters, writes: “The math can be not just strategic, but also catastrophic. If Islamic terrorist were to convince even just one-tenth of 1 percent of America’s population that they were right, they would have 300,000 soldiers of terror, more than enough to destabilize our society.”
President Bollinger, do the math! America has enough enemies abroad without U.S. college presidents doing their best to breed home-grown ones.
If Bollinger wants his students, as he has said, “to understand the world as it is and as it might be,” let him take his students on a field trip to the Walter Reid Medical Center where our troops are coming home without limbs and without faces because of Ahmadinejad. Let him bring them to the airports where families welcome home their loved ones in a wooden box. Let him take them to the Holocaust museum where they can view how university students their own age were turned into bars of soap and lampshades.
I once prized my Columbia diploma and degree, and in my career as a journalist I’ve done much to make my alma mater proud. But today I am very, very ashamed. I have removed my diploma from the wall and if Ahmadinejad speaks, I will tear it in two. In Judaism, tearing is a sign of mourning. And indeed it is a day of mourning – a day when the integrity of freedom died a little.
Aliza Davidovit is a writer, author, journalist and former TV producer with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She is currently contributing editor at Lifestyles magazine. She specializes in interviewing and writing about the world’s most famous and influential people for cover stories. She worked at ABC News “20/20” for six years with Connie Chung and in the ABC News Terrorism/Investigations Unit with John Miller. She was also an associate producer and booker at the Fox News Channel.