Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges says he was barred from speaking at a University of Pennsylvania conference on the prospects for peace in the Middle East after he compared Israel’s founding fathers to ISIS radicals.
Hedges, a former Middle East bureau chief for the Times, said he had been invited to speak at a conference sponsored by Penn’s International Affairs Association scheduled for April 3.
He was abruptly told he was not welcome after he published a controversial article in the Truthdig.com site, where he is now a columnist, Haaretz reported.
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.
After the column appeared, Zachary Michael Belnavis, a member of the student group sponsoring the event, e-mailed organizers and objected to Hedges’ appearance.
Hedges says he is not surprised that his views on Israel have caused controversy. He says anyone who challenges pro-Israel orthodoxy risks being ostracized.
“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,” he wrote in another Truthdig column. “This is not the first time one of my speaking offers has been revoked and it will not be the last.”
He predicted that “crude attempts to suppress debate will backfire on Israel,” and called such efforts to stamp out opposing voices a “sign of Israel’s desperation.”