Columbia Jewish Students Call for Protection Ahead of Upcoming Speech on Campus by Antisemitic Malaysian PM
A Change.org petition protesting an upcoming Sept. 25 speech at Columbia University by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — who has a long record of antisemitic statements — had received more than 800 signatures by Friday afternoon.
“Universities should present divergent and radical opinions, but they are not environments in which absolutely anything goes,” the petition — an initiative of the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at Columbia — says. “A language that encourages racism, bigotry and hate speech has no place in academic discourse.
“Free speech is an important fundamental right to any individual living in a free society,” it continues. “Mohamad can say anything he wants, of course — that is free speech. But being able to speak at Columbia University — or at any university, for that matter — is a privilege, not a right.”
“This is not a matter of free speech, or of scholarly freedom,” the petition notes. “It is a matter of basic academic decency.”
The petition concludes by urging Columbia President Lee Bollinger to “undertake immediate measures to ensure the safety and well being of Columbia’s Jewish students.”
“Such measures should be canceling Prime Ministers Mohamad’s expected speech at Columbia, or at the very least, denouncing, on stage, the Prime Minister’s vile and antisemitic remarks,” it demands.
SSI — joined by fellow campus groups Aryeh and J Street U — also penned a letter to Bollinger, calling for such action.
Another campus leader told The Algemeiner that the planned lecture was “an affront to Jewish students and to anyone committed to equality and human dignity.” Brian Cohen, executive director of Hillel’s Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, also noted that “the Prime Minister referred to Jews as ‘hook nosed,’ claims the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust is exaggerated and took pride in being labeled ‘antisemitic.'”
“Certainly there are others more deserving of an invitation to address the Columbia University community,” Cohen added. “I call on Columbia’s Administration to fully condemn the Prime Minister’s hateful views and past remarks, in his presence, when he comes to campus.”
The 94-year-old Mahathir’s most recent public antisemitic outburst occurred in June, during an appearance at Cambridge University in the UK.
The event moderator asked him, “Why do you say that the Jewish people in general are inclined towards money? There are lots of Jews who care about human rights, care about social justice, care about democracy.”
Mahathir answered: “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends.”