[I have been up to my ears in various priority tasks, hence my disappearance for the past week or so.]
Lebanon's Marcel Khalife is a gifted artist and an avowed voice for freedom. Apparently, he will not be permitted to perform in a major San Diego venue because he would not be accompanied by an Israeli musician. Astounding, truly. Imagine the ramifications of this precedent should a symphony plan to perform Wagner, or a civic center decides to invite an Israeli dance troupe that celebrates Zionism.
Meantime, the debate over Columbia's hosting of the Iranian president is still roiling, and attention has turned to President Lee Bollinger's extraordinary introduction of Ahmadinejad. Bolliger pleased some by telling it like it is, but he has also been hit with criticism for his rude and uncivil tone. My view is that he could have underlined his disagreement with the university's guest withouth telling him that he was an uneducated lout and a petty dictator. To quote Abe Foxman:
“If you invite someone, you have to be polite,” he said. “Ahmadinejad scored points, especially in their culture. If you permit an enemy to come into your home, you still treat him with dignity and respect. Therefore, we lost. The points that President Bollinger made were fine. But to close with insulting words almost undid everything he said before. It was not a good teaching experience.”
I agree with the criticism of Bollinger. The Iranian president is already a popular figure in the Middle East, even if many Iranians believe he is a lout and a dictator, and the visit to Morningside Heights did nothing to diminish his reputation. Had Bollinger resisted the urge to vent his spleen (and, I suppose, quell criticism of him and his university), the event might well have shined a light on the virtue of academic freedom. Instead, it became a parody.