(JTA) — Former New York Times Middle East bureau chief Chris Hedges said he was disinvited to speak at a University of Pennsylvania conference following a column comparing Israel to ISIS. Hedges, now a columnist for the Truthdig.com website, was to speak at an April forum on prospects for peace in the Middle East sponsored by the university’s International Affairs Association.
Zachary Michael Belnavis, a student leader of the association, wrote to the lecture agency that his group didn’t see Hedges as a “suitable fit” for the conference. “We’re saying this in light of a recent article he’s written in which he compares the organization ISIS to Israel (here’s the article in question),” Belnavis wrote. “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 responded in a Dec. 21 column on Truthdig titled “Banning dissent in the name of civility.”
“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. “This is not the first time one of my speaking offers has been revoked and it will not be the last.”
Hedges had written in a column titled “ISIS – the new Israel” that “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.”
Hedges said he objects to the charge that he does not believe in coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel. He said he opposes violence on both sides and has condemned Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel as war crimes. He also said he supports Israel’s right to exist within the pre-1967 war borders, which is required by international law and United Nations resolutions.