Columnist Nixed as Speaker for Comparing Israel to ISIS

December 29, 2014  

Former New York Times Middle East bureau chief Chris Hedges was uninvited from speaking at a University of Pennsylvania conference following the publication of an incendiary column. 

That column, from December 15, closely compares Israel to the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization. 

Hedges, who now works as a columnist for, was scheduled to speak April 3 at a forum on prospects for peace in the Middle East sponsored by the Philadelphia university’s International Affairs Association. 

Zachary Michael Belnavis, a student leader of the association, complained to the lecture agency that his group felt Hedges was not a “suitable fit” to speak at the 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,” 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, in a column titled, “ISIS – the new Israel,” 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,” he continues. 

“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 responded to the cancellation of his speaking engagement in another column on December 21, 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“This is not the first time one of my speaking offers has been revoked and it will not be the last.”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 also took particular offense to the charge that he does not believe in co-existence between the Palestinians and Israel. 

He wrote that he opposes violence on both sides of the conflicts and has condemned Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel as war crimes. Additionally, he supports Israel’s right to exist “within the pre-1967 war borders.” 

The column goes on to criticize the American Israel lobby for “suppressing debate” and then Israel itself. 

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