Critics: Columbia should be ‘ashamed’ for inviting Malaysian PM who said ‘Jews rule the world by proxy’
- The Prime Minister of Malaysia will be speaking at Columbia University on Wednesday as part of an ongoing lecture series that features speeches from various world leaders.
- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has previously called Jewish people “hook-nosed” and asserted that “Jews rule the world by proxy.”
- Critics say the school should be “ashamed” that anti-Semitism “is being preached” from its stages.
Columbia University is receiving some harsh criticism for its decision to host Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday.
Critics say that the university should not have invited Mohamad because of past remarks he made calling Jewish people “hook-nosed” and asserting that “Jews rule the world by proxy.”
Mohamad was invited by Columbia’s World Leaders Forum, an effort that University President Lee C. Bollinger described as a means for the Columbia community to “be able to hear—in undiluted form—about the critical issues facing other nations, and the world at large, from those in positions of authority and responsibility,” designed to be “a continuous open forum” for discussion and “vigorous debate.”
Previous speakers include the Dalai Lama, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Malaysian prime minister is in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly.
“Unfortunately, it comes as no shock that the same institution that hosted the Jew-hating president of Iran, Mohamoud Ahmadinejad, will be hosting the unabashedly anti-Semitic Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said, according to the New York Post.
“Columbia University should be ashamed of themselves,” Lauder continued. “It is no surprise that incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise in New York City when it is being preached from the stages of one of its premier universities.”
However, Bollinger says that the invitation is not an “endorsement” or “validation” of Mohamad, instead characterizing the decision to host the prime minister as an exercise in intellectual inquiry.
“I find the anti-Semitic statements of Prime Minister Mahathir to be abhorrently contrary to what we stand for, and deserving condemnation,” the school president said, according to the New York Post. “This form of open engagement can sometimes be difficult, even painful. But to abandon this activity would be to limit severely our capacity to understand and confront the world as it is, which is a central and utterly serious mission for any academic institution,” Bollinger said.
Students from the Columbia chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) have launched a petition calling on Bollinger to immediately cancel the speech in order to “ensure the safety and well being of Columbia’s Jewish students,” insisting that speaking at Columbia is a “privilege, not a right.”
“Universities should present divergent and radical opinions, but they are not environments in which absolutely anything goes. A language that encourages racism, bigotry and hate speech has no place in academic discourse,” the group wrote.
“We are proud of our students at Columbia that stand up to hate on a campus where it isn't easy to support the State of Israel,” SSI National told Campus Reform. “The SSI Movement is disappointed with the response of the University stating that they are aware of the anti-Semitic comments of the speaker but in the name of freedom of speech he can still come. It proves once again that there is one standard towards other groups of minorities, and that there is a completely different standard for the Jewish people.”
Campus Reform reached out to Columbia for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan