Journalist and former New York Times Middle East bureau chief Chris Hedges says the University of Pennsylvania disinvited him from a peace conference after he published a column that compared the Islamic State to Israel.
Hedges described the incident in his weekly column for the new website Truthdig, where he writes he had been invited to speak at a conference sponsored by Penn's International Affairs Association scheduled for April 3.
Hedges published the article that got him disinvited on December 15. In it, he wrote, "ISIS, ironically, is perhaps the only example of successful nation-building in the contemporary Middle East, despite the billions of dollars we have squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its quest for an ethnically pure Sunni state mirrors the quest for a Jewish state eventually carved out of Palestine in 1948. Its tactics are much like those of the Jewish guerrillas who used violence, terrorism, foreign fighters, clandestine arms shipments and foreign money, along with horrific ethnic cleansing and the massacre of hundreds of Arab civilians, to create Israel."
Following the publication of the column, Hedges writes, Zachary Michael Belnavis, a member of the student group, e-mailed the lecture agency that set up the event, writing, "We’re sorry to inform you that we don’t think that Chris Hedges would be a suitable fit for our upcoming peace conference. We’re saying this in light of a recent article he’s written in which he compares the organization ISIS to Israel.... In light of this comparison we don’t believe he would be suitable to a co-existence speaker based on this stance he’s taken."
Hedges used his next column at Truthdig to rebut Belnavis' claims, saying that "Being banned from speaking about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, especially at universities, is familiar to anyone who attempts to challenge the narrative of the Israel lobby. This is not the first time one of my speaking offers has been revoked and it will not be the last."
Hedges goes on to say that the "charge that I oppose coexistence cannot be substantiated by anything I have said or written. And those of us who call on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders are, after all, only demanding what is required by international law and numerous UN resolutions."
He lists the various speakers the University of Pennsylvania has hosted that he says "peddle disturbing racist stereotypes of Muslims and justify indiscriminate violence against Muslims" including Daniel Pipes, Nonie Darwish and retired Israeli army commander Efraim Eitam, who told The New Yorker in 2004, “I don’t call these people animals. These are creatures who came out of the depths of darkness," referring to the Palestinians.
Hedges argues that, "Our universities, like our corporate-controlled airwaves, are little more than echo chambers for the elites and the powerful. The bigger and more prestigious the university the more it seems determined to get its students and faculty to chant in unison to please its Zionist donors."
The "crude attempts to suppress debate will backfire on Israel," Hedges says, calling such suppression a "sign of Israel’s desperation."