The Hate Not Taken Seriously

Sruli Fruchter

The Commentator

Wed Oct 23 2019

...Let us not forget Columbia University’s disconcerting invitation to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to speak at its recent World Leaders Forum on Sept. 25, 2019. Though Mohamad had previously peddled anti-Semitic rhetoric — describing Jews as “hook-nosed” and claiming that they “rule the world by proxy” — Columbia University President Lee Bollinger defended the university’s decision. Despite significant student backlash, Bollinger insisted that “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.”

In her opening remarks at the event, Vishakha Desai disavowed Mohamad’s anti-Semitic views on behalf of the university. Nonetheless, in the midst of a question and answer session at the forum, Mohamad defended his past comments, asking the audience, “Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews?” Moreover, after denying ever questioning how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, he proceeded to do just that, parroting the claims of Holocaust deniers. By welcoming Mohamad to its World Leaders Forum, Columbia University provided a platform for an influential anti-Semite to express his hateful views. In doing so, the university implicitly validated his hateful rhetoric, isolating Jewish students in the process.

Had another public figure associated with a racist ideology been invited, wouldn’t the university backtrack upon such student backlash? Could it defend giving a microphone to hate speech with an appeal to the “utterly serious mission” of the university? Would such a figure ever be invited in the first place?

Hateful expressions against Jews never seem to be seen in the same light as those against other minorities; the crossroads of intersectionality always seem to pass over us, excluding us from practically every demand for change.

Anti-Semitism has become a cliché, viewed as an exaggerated complaint or a mere talking point. We must acknowledge it; we cannot deny the rising tide of anti-Semitism or pretend that it will just go away. Jewish history has shown that when people say they want to kill Jews, we need to believe them. Anti-Semitism cannot stand alone; it must be taken seriously. As a Jew, I don’t want to feel safer; I want to be safer.

The Hate Not Taken Seriously