Editor's Note: In Wednesday's op-ed submission about Norman Finkelstein ("Hate Comes to Columbia," March 1), authors Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky referred to Finkelstein as a Holocaust revisionist. While neo-Nazi groups have cited his work when supporting their
theories, Finkelstein has never denied the existence of the Holocaust, and the authors did not mean to suggest that he has done so.
Few things could bring the president of the College Conservatives and the membership director of the College Democrats together in concord. But major issues-those which transcend party and ideology-do, in fact, make strange bedfellows. We write today to voice strident opposition to one Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-America Holocaust revisionist and terrorist sympathizer.
Let it be known that as representatives of free speech, we do not wish to censor him. His asinine comments are sure to embarrass and humiliate far beyond our capacity to do so. Rather, we seek to inform the Columbia community of this blatant hate-mongering.
A Facebook page, organized by those bringing Finkelstein to Columbia, was a self-described "invisible group." "Make sure," it read, "not to invite anyone who might tip those opposed to Finky. He's pretty controversial." That, by any standard, is an understatement. The comments have since been removed; screenshots, however, last.
Those who assume that Finkelstein is just another "controversial" speaker, one of many in Columbia's recent past, fail to grasp the absurdity that is Finkelstein. Taking a job at DePaul University after being fired by New York University for his ludicrous and factually inaccurate book, The Holocaust Industry, this "scholar" makes his living off of absurd statements that garner comfortable speaking engagements. At a recent speech delivered at Yale University, Finkelstein equated the Jewish concern over Holocaust denial with a "level of mental hysteria." Clearly, we must first question his very "professorship." Anyone who so blatantly disregards facts and vehemently supports the murder of innocent children is worthy neither of academia nor of the title of professor.
Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein's crime? It is not that he is a Holocaust revisionist. It is not that he denies the right of the Jewish state to exist. It is not that he cheapened the lives of the millions of innocents lost to the concentration camps by equating their systematic murder to any other large disaster. No, his crime both includes and transcends these radical, depraved stances. Only months after Sept. 11, 2001, Finkelstein asserted his support of terrorism. In that 2001 interview, Finkelstein exclaimed, "Frankly, part of me says-even though everything since Sept. 11 has been a nightmare-'You know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things [Osama] bin Laden says are true.'"
It is this sentiment that forces students to take a stand against Finkelstein's unique blend of pure idiocy and potent evil. Columbia attempts to teach its students to respect all opinions, listen to all viewpoints, and embrace the free exchange of ideas. We will listen, but we will not let a petty ploy to incite tension and turmoil go unnoticed.
Current cosponsoring groups include Safa'a, Turath, Qanun, United Students of Color Council, Arab Students Association (SIPA), Organization of Pakistani Students, Columbia Student Solidarity Network, and Students Promoting Empowerment and Knowledge. It is our sincere hope that these groups will either revoke their sponsorship of the event or continue on with full recognition of the hate this pathetic individual spews.The co-sponsors must make every effort to renounce the radical anti-semitism and anti-Americanism of this speaker, lest we assume these groups share his values.
We must also insist that the event's leadership detail the monetary support provided by the University for this lunatic, fringe speaker. To advance a question posed by the Yale Daily News, would the University "sponsor a speaker who criticized the African-American community for 'exploiting' slavery and segregation?" No-of course not-and rightly so. The same should apply to an individual who claims that the Holocaust should be looked on favorably by Jews, as it "was the negative version of their vaunted worldly success: it served to validate Jewish chosenness."
If these groups want to bring a speaker to campus, we support their decision, but we question the use of our tuition to fund an individual so beyond the pale that academia, left and right, condemns him. It would be just as egregious a moral error if we, the student body, did not show up on Wednesday, March 8 to let this facilitator of hatred, fear, and lies understand just how passionately the students oppose his radicalism. Columbia will never stand for such petty antagonism.
Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky are Columbia College sophomores.