As a historian and a representative for several nongovernmental organizations to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva since 1986, I wish to make the following comment on the scandalous events that took place at Georgetown University on Oct. 22, 2002 (in the Reiss Building 103, 7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.). This relates to the lectures and question and answer session on the theme, “Ideology of Jihad, Dhimmitude and Human Rights,” and the comments attributed to the Director of Communications for the Georgetown Israel Alliance, Salomon Kalach-Zaga (COL ’03); its president, Julia Segall (COL ’05); and the president of the Jewish Student Association, Dan Spector (SFS ’04).

1) My exchange of e-mail correspondence with a representative of the Georgetown Israel Alliance (Ben Bixby, a friendly and efficient young man) totally contradicts the statements made by Mr. Kalach-Zaga, as reported by The Hoya, (“Event Draws Ire, Organizers Unhappy With Speakers’ Portrayal of Islam,” Friday, Oct. 25, 2002, The Hoya, p.8) and the information provided in the letter signed jointly by Segall and Spector of that same issue (“Students Apologize for Offensive Speakers,” Oct. 25, 2002, The Hoya, p. 2).

2) The various fliers in my possession were prepared and widely circulated by the organizers (we considered some of them rather provocative, and said so). They confirm that all three persons were fully aware of the subjects and themes to be addressed by the two speakers. One of these fliers refers to Bat Ye’or’s testimony to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (May 1, 1997) on the theme of “Religious Persecution in the Middle East,” as well as to the testimonies by Ye’or and myself to the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus (Feb. 8, 2002) on the theme, “Human Rights and the Concept of Jihad.”

3) In view of the “sensitivity” of the subject, the organizers agreed to have special security for the event (confirmed twice by e-mail), as had already been decided for Bat Ye’or’s Yale University event on Monday, Oct. 28. They, therefore, knew that the subject would be controversial.

4) Bat Ye’or and I met Bixby and another student at the Cosmos Club a week before the lectures, and gave him copies of Bat Ye’or’s books (all three mentioned on their fliers), which were to be offered for sale at the end of the lecture. More than a dozen articles by Bat Ye’or and myself – some published recently by the National Review Online – were also provided. Anyone glancing at these publications would know precisely the thrust of the subjects and themes of the lectures that covered several aspects of “The Ideology of Jihad, Dhimmitude and Human Rights.” The organizers had expected 150 to 200 students; about 70 to 80 actually came.

5) On the morning of Oct. 22, three of the organizers (Segall, Kalach-Zaga and Bixby) joined us for breakfast at the Cosmos Club. We spoke about the evening event and all of them made various suggestions. I decided to develop the talk I had given at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a copy of which they already had – to be photocopied for participants.

They were offered Ye’or’s Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (2002).

6) After Bat Ye’or’s presentation, and during the heated debate that followed, Spector came up to me and whispered in my ear to the effect that, due to the very grave development, they would prefer that I not deliver my scheduled address. I informed him that I had never been muzzled at the Commission on Human Rights in my 16 years at that United Nations body, and if he tried to close the meeting I would denounce him publicly then and there. He said nothing more. After I had spoken, a further attempt was made at 9 p.m. to stop the question and answer session, on the grounds that the microphones had to be removed. I stated aloud that the event had been scheduled to end at about 9:30 p.m., and that no microphones were needed. With the approval of Dr. Alan Parra of the School of Foreign Service, the moderator, the debate continued – with microphones. Many questions then followed from those serious students who remained after the troublemakers had left – with much noise and demonstration. But one of the Muslim students who had been very upset stayed on after and spoke with Bat Ye’or for at least 10 minutes in a very constructive dialogue.

7) These facts are irrefutable; thus, all the comments and other insinuations made by the organizers referred to in (1) above are false. It would appear that the pressures to which they have been subjected had reduced them to a state similar to that of “dhimmitude” – the condition of Jews and Christians under Islam over the centuries. That this could happen within 24 hours at Georgetown University’s campus will not come as a surprise for many, but it is symbolic of a grave academic crisis in the U.S., similar to that developing in Europe – and at the United Nations, which I described in an article, entitled: “Islamism Grows Stronger at the United Nations” (Middle East Quarterly, Sept. 1999), which was available on Oct. 22.

(8) One Muslim student regretted loudly that Professor John Esposito was not present to answer Bat Ye’or. Therefore, any time next year, if invited to Georgetown University, Bat Ye’or would willingly debate with John Esposito on the comprehensive subject of “Jihad and Dhimmitude.”

9) Due to the gravity of these allegations and insinuations, which attack the dignity and honesty of both Bat Ye’or and myself, we request you to publish, in a forthcoming issue of The Hoya, this rejoinder.

10) We put our trust in the sacred principle of “freedom of expression” – within U.S. law – as well as that old Latin adage: “Magna est veritas et praevalebit!” (Truth is powerful and will ultimately prevail!). As a Jew I would add the wise advice of Hillel the Sage, reported 2,000 years ago and now a commonplace: “Do not to others as thou would not have others do unto thee.”

David Littman has served as a NGO representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He can be reached at

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