Jewish Civil Rights Group Warns Columbia University President Over Illegality of Planned Banquet for Iranian Leader

Jewish civil rights group Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center has sent a warning letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger advising him that Columbia’s plan to host a banquet for visiting Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs afoul of U.S. anti-terror laws and will subject the university and its officials to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Israel or elsewhere. The letter explains that Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States (22 U.S.C 2656f) and that the provision of any support by U.S. persons, including the planned banquet for Ahmadinejad, is considered unlawful provision of aid to the outlawed regime. The Law Center stated that victims of Iranian terrorism will file civil actions and hold Columbia liable for their injuries.

The letter, signed by New York attorney Robert Tolchin and Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, notes that the Law Center represents individuals and families who have been victims of Iranian-sponsored terror groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in legal actions around the world.

The attorneys cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which held that it is illegal to provide any support to a terrorist organization even if appears to be innocuous, as well as pending actions seeking civil and criminal penalties against those who provide support to designated state sponsors of terrorism.

The letter accuses Ahmadinejad of personally directing Iran’s terrorist and nuclear proliferation activities and human rights abuse as well as calling for genocide against the Jewish people. It notes Iran’s massive support for Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and Hamas, which have killed thousands of American citizens.

As the letter to President Bollinger states: “Hosting Ahmadinejad at a banquet is not merely morally repulsive: it is illegal and likely to render Columbia University and its officers both criminally and civilly liable. Iran is official designated under U.S. law as a state sponsor of terrorism, as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and as a perpetrator of human rights abuses. Ahmadinejad is Iran’s chief executive and personally directs Iran’s terrorist and nuclear proliferation activities and human rights abuse . . .While for Columbia University and certain of its officers hosting Ahmadinejad at a banquet might appear to be nothing more than a harmless Radical Chic parlor game such conduct is in fact very serious business that can and will have severe, real-world criminal and civil consequences for Columbia and its officers.”

According to Shurat HaDin director Darshan-Leitner: “It is shocking that President Bollinger and Columbia University would once again seek to honor this infamous terrorist leader and bolster his efforts at legitimacy. The law in the United States is clear that providing this type of support to the leader of a designated state sponsor will render the University and its officials both criminally and civilly liable. For the thousands of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism we intend to ensure that Columbia either cancels the terror banquet or faces both criminal and civil prosecution.”

For a copy of the warning letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger click here.