Why is a supporter of the 9/11 attacks being hosted at MIT?

We’re being used

The very first person killed on 9/11 was an MIT student, Daniel Lewin, someone I knew well. Before I moved to a dorm or even considered applying to MIT, I was a resident of Westgate Low-Rise, that collection of squat apartment buildings past Next House clustered around a playground. My mother was a graduate student in Course 11 in the late 1990s; Daniel and his young family lived in the apartment above mine. He became a second dad to me after my father was felled by a brain tumor, but my relationship with him was not unique. He was widely loved here on campus.

A Special Forces commando before enrolling at MIT, Daniel was a PhD in Course 6 flying to a business meeting for his startup on 9/11, and he died trying to prevent hijackers on the first plane from entering the cockpit. His startup was none other than Akamai, the Cambridge-based company he founded with Professor Leighton, which now handles up to 35 percent of all web traffic at any moment in time. MIT lost a loved community member and the planet lost a visionary, someone who by 31 years of age had already fundamentally changed the World Wide Web. Today, he is commemorated by “Danny Lewin Square” at the corner of Vassar and Main streets.

I was appalled to learn that next week, Palestine@MIT and the Arab Students Organization will host Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician and politician who openly supports the 9/11 attacks.

Just weeks after those attacks, Gilbert told a Norwegian newspaper, “If the US government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, also the oppressed have a moral right to attack the United States with the weapons they may create.” When asked if he outright supported the attack, he responded, “Terror is a poor weapon, but my answer is yes.” He continued, “The white world does not understand that it is possible to see such an action in a different perspective.”

Only a few short years after the Boston Marathon bombing and the killing of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, how could we possibly welcome a man who praises 9/11 on our campus? Clearly, some members of our community have forgotten that terror is far from a foreign concept here at MIT, let alone to the families and friends of over 3,000 innocent people from over 90 nations killed on 9/11.

The MIT mission statement ends with the following: “We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.” Danny Lewin and Officer Collier embodied these values, whereas promoting and supporting terror could not be more contrary to our mission.

If this speaker is so antithetical to MIT, who is even attending this talk? According to the organizer’s Facebook event, not many of the 1,500 attendees appear to be MIT community members. It’s also unclear where the money to host this speaker is coming from, as neither group co-hosting this event received Finboard funding during this fall cycle. Yet the size of the event requires the hosts to pay for an MIT Police detail. In case you didn’t believe what you just read, I’ll say it again: Palestine@MIT and the Arab Students Organization are requiring the MIT Police to provide protection and support for an event promoting a speaker who supports terrorism. This is two and a half years after terrorists murdered Officer Sean Collier in the line of duty right here on campus.

If MIT students aren’t the main audience, and MIT doesn’t appear to be funding this event, why is this speaker being hosted on our campus? It is to benefit from our space, our police, and most of all — our name. Even if very few of us share Gilbert’s illegitimate, dangerous beliefs, allowing this event to be hosted on our campus for an open audience lends implicit support of those beliefs. It gives them legitimacy. In that way, this event seeks to use MIT’s name and take advantage of the legacies of the talented, caring people who have spent over 150 years building this Institute, including each and every one of us currently contributing to this community.

To our administrators: we don’t need MIT listed on this man’s resume of places where he has been asked to speak. Cancel this event and publicly declare what we know to be true, that MIT will not stand for this hate to be lent legitimacy by our Institute. This event is an affront to the memories of Officer Sean Collier and Daniel Lewin, as well as to all who have lost their lives, a friend, or a loved one to the terror that this speaker supports.

Isaac Silberberg is a member of the Class of 2016.

Anonymous over 2 years ago

Palestinian supporters being douchy? What else is new?

Anon over 2 years ago

Isaac, thank you for your article. I empathize with your loss on 9/11 as do all Americans.

The only thing I wanted to point out was that Dr. Gilbert later apologized for his comments on 9/11. Please see this link in Norwegian: http://www.nordlys.no/nyheter/gilbert-angrer-pa-terroruttalelse/s/1-79-4043463?null

As for your observation about MIT police police providing security, American law enforcement officers provide security for many people who have abhorrent beliefs (for example the security detail for controversial leaders who come to the UN, etc). It's part of their duty and we as the MIT community should thank them for their role in allowing for free discourse of ideas. However, I think it would be a mistake to allow the sensitivities of police officers to limit who comes to campus.

Once again, thank you for your thought provoking letter and once again, I am sorry for your loss when Danny Lewin sacrificed himself when fighting terrorists onboard flight 93.

B over 2 years ago

"Cancel this event and publicly declare what we know to be true, that MIT will not stand for this hate to be lent legitimacy by our Institute."

Lets do it people! Can someone please start a petition to cancel this speaker from coming to our campus?

We have to take action now because this terrorist loving speaker is coming soon. We have to take a stand and say that we do not think it is OK for them to use the MIT name for such a person.

Boston Strong.

Boston Strong over 2 years ago

Isaac, can you please start a petition to cancel Gilbert's event at MIT?

Anonymous over 2 years ago

I am pretty sure that (almost) no one on campus believes that the 9/11 terrorist attack is legitimate and neither does Gilbert: IF the US government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, also the oppressed have a moral right to attack the United States with the weapons they may create.

The truth is that neither attacks were legitimate. The war on Iraq was a huge mistake. The fact the people killed there have nothing to do with you or your community doesn't make their lives less valuable.

No one here is supporting terrorism, on the contrary Gilbert was trying to denounce it on both sides and even apologized when his words were misinterpreted.

I am not sure whether you genuinely believe that PalestineMIT and the Arab Students Organization stand with the terrorists of 9/11 or you are using this to emotionally manipulate your readers to protest against the event for some reason. Either way you shouldn't be throwing accusations at people just because they do not share your opinions.

Anon over 2 years ago

He did apologize for his comment, and condemn all terrorist attacks, so to say that he is a supporter of 9/11 is an overstatement. Though I do believe you misquoted it. He said (copying here):

"The attack on New York did not come as a surprise with the politics the West has followed the last decades. I am upset by the terrorist attack, but I am at least as upset over the suffering that the US has caused. It is in this context that 5000 dead has to be seen. If the U.S. government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, the oppressed has a moral right to attack the U.S. with the weapons they may create as well. Dead civilians are the same whether they are Americans, Palestinians or Iraqis." When asked if he supported a terrorist attack against the US he answered: "Terror is a poor weapon, but my answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned."

Supporter within this context does not mean supporter overall. I believe he is saying that if the US has the moral right to bomb civilians in the middle east, the middle east has the same right in the US. He also said that all deaths are bad, and that he does not support the death of any civilian, so I do not think he expressed support of 9/11, but was rather trying to criticize supporting only one side over the other.

I truly feel sad for your loss, and not having lost anyone in a terrorist attack, I cannot claim I come close to understanding what you're went through. However, you should not use an old, hard to interpret quotation, that was apologized for, as a means to censor someone, because Dr. Mads Gilbert is definitely not a 9/11 supporter, as he later explained.

As for the logistics, there are ways to check where the funding comes from, and there are events that happen on MIT campus where most attendees are not from MIT (BAHfest for example), so why single out this one?

Anonymous over 2 years ago

Well done for speaking up. This is outrageous and I hope the administration sees fit to cancel the event.

TheFallacySpotter over 2 years ago

The amount of "appeal to emotion" in this article is too damn high...

Anonymous over 2 years ago

There is a difference between free speech - aka what CAN be said -- vs. what SHOULD be said.

Even if Gilbert may be allowed to speak at MIT because of free speech, it doesnt mean he should!

Lets use some common sense. There is no place at MIT for a speaker like Gilbert.

Anonymous over 2 years ago

I would absolutely support a petition to prevent Dr. Gilbert from speaking. It is a fair and appropriate means for we as the student community to express our displeasure with someone or something that the faculty or other students are supporting.

Anonymous over 2 years ago

Doctor Mads Gilbert is not a supporter of 9/11 or any terrorist attacks. Please stop trying to cancel an important event just because you were "hurt" by what someone said 10 years ago and apologized for saying later on. You probably know nothing about Gilbert and the incredible work he has done. Thus, I suggest that you actually attend the event and educate yourself more.

It's a privilage for MIT to host someone like him.

2012Alumn over 2 years ago

Issac, insinuating that some members of PalestineMIT or the Arab Students Organization might be supporters of the 9/11 attacks, is a very serious and slanderous accusation, one that is entirely based on fiction and personal bias. As others have pointed out, Mads Gilbert has since apologized for his statements. However, whether you personally believe him or not is besides the point (and whether his apology was sincere or not is also besides the point).

The main problem with your argument is your blatant disregard for the rights of others (i.e. those you disagree with) to express their opinions in a safe space. Every year, MIT hosts hundreds of speakers who express a wide array of opinions (and facts) on a multitude of topics. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen or so annual events that might be deemed "offensive" by some members of the MIT community, for religious, political, cultural, or moral reasons. Yet rarely does anyone go out of their way, as you have done, to emotionally rile up the masses to proactively try and cancel those events. And if we specifically focus on the two student groups you mentioned in this article (Arabs and Palestinians), well then, everything from the Israeli Birthright Trip booth in Lobby 10, to the IAP Hummus Tasting event, to the more recent "Friends of Israel" event can be deemed a tad distasteful to those groups. Yet I don't recall any opinion pieces written by members of those groups that attack those events, or their student hosts. The fact that you have singled them out and attempted to draw a very emotional link between their opinions and those of Mads Gilbert, hints at a calculated attempt on your part to paint those students as supporters of terrorist activities, and THAT is the true affront here. My only hope is that readers of this article rise above the attempted emotional manipulation, and see through the bias and hypocrisy that this article is entrenched in.

For your consideration over 2 years ago


Anon over 2 years ago

Yeah pretty sure quoting someone isn't libel...

No one forced Gilbert to support 9/11 he decided to give that quote all on his own.

2017 over 2 years ago

In response to previous comments, which discuss the apology of the speaker for his comments on 9/11, those comments were made 8 YEARS LATER. That a bit too little too late in my opinion, but obviously, everyone is entitled to their own.

Also, it should be clear that the argument of this article has several points, NONE of which have anything to do with the topic of the actual event. The author is not not arguing the he finds the event offensive and so it shouldn't be allowed on campus, as one of the previous comments seem to imply. In fact he never even mentions the name of the event in his article. Rather, the main argument is that the speaker himself is contrary to MIT beliefs, and the MIT mission, and should therefore not be promoted by our institution. I'm afraid that to state that because there are always events that people are uncomfortable with, we shouldn't single out this one, is completely missing the point of the argument.

Hypocracy over 2 years ago

I read your article this morning and have been since thinking on it and doing some research online, because I did not know anything about Dr. Mads Gilbert until today.

In regards to his quote, it was ill-advised certainly and he has said so himself. And I will not go into how poorly and biased you have represented what he said, since others have already done so above. I will emphasize though that you have to understand where he is coming from. This is a doctor who has dedicated his life to humanitarian service. He values human life above all else. You can only imagine his frustration following the 9/11 attacks where so many died, all as a response to killing in the middle east. Killing spurning more killing. His comment is expressed frustration at this cycle.

What truly frustrates me however, is the self-serving aspect of this article. I asked myself, why is a palestinian group at MIT hosting a norwegian doctor? Turns out if you do some researching on Dr. Gilbert, he is not best known for being a doc, or his 9/11 comments. Instead he is renowned for his humanitarian efforts in Gaza. And rather recently Israel has banned and blocked him from returning to Gaza to perform humanitarian work. I can only imagine the topic of his visit will be regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Now I do not know what your political incliniations are, but it strikes me as entirely possible, that you are distorting this minor controversy for the purpose of censoring a man who may have conflicting opinions regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This may or may not be true, I honestly do not and can not know. And you are under no obligation to divulge your personal beliefs. But it is incredibly questionable, and poor journalism, to not at least address the body of this mans work and what he is actually speaking about.

I can only hope that you have not allowed your personal beliefs to motivate censoring this man. The unwillingness and inability to listen to and learn from both sides of a conflict is small minded and the reason why resolutions can not be reached.

Anony-mouse over 2 years ago


"Rather, the main argument is that the speaker himself is contrary to MIT beliefs, and the MIT mission, and should therefore not be promoted by our institution."

This is the MIT mission as quoted in the article:

We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

Mads Gilbert spent years in Gaza performing emergency medicine in a very violent conflict and has done a great deal to raise awareness of the conflict and its human toll. Whether or not you disagree with his comments (and I think his comments, while not in good taste, aren't entirely wrong), saying that his work doesn't reflect MIT's ideals and 'mission' is just plain wrong.

MIT87 over 2 years ago

I am disappointed to hear a call for the Institute to censor speech purely due to the speaker's ideology. The Institute did not invite the speaker and therefore is not the host. It should stay out of deciding which law-abiding people can speak.You don't like the message? Show up and protest the event.

Dan over 2 years ago


"AA automatically records a random number of calls for Customer Service quality control. The SERO system was checked to see if FA Ong's call had been captured in this fashion with negative results. " I.e fake calls..

Team 7 and DOJ Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls: All Fake


Stephen J. Bridges over 2 years ago

If I am not mistaken, Daniel Lewin was a MIT graduate and student at the time of his demise. I graduated with him in 1979.

Anon over 2 years ago

mads Gilbert has done some good work. Unfortunately, he is a strong ideologue with a penchant for communicating things which are not true, such as the use of Israeli DIME weapons, the nature of the Israeli blockade, etc. It is disingenuous to claim that he should speak because of his insights on the humanitarian situation in Gaza: rather, he is a celebrity because of his consistent and extraordinarily one-sided views. All of that is fine, and I don't think he should be banned for being simultaneously shallow and passionate.

BUT, the fact that he is invited speaks to the social decay of the institution itself. A man who cannot bring himself to criticise the explicitly violent and genocidal religious fascism in power in Gaza, while criticising its military opponent, does not reflect a search for "wisdom" and "creativity".

Hannah over 2 years ago

I do not agree with Gilbert's ideology, but if we start trying to ban speakers from campus based on our political leanings, we risk becoming just like all the other colleges in this country: overly sensitive, sheltering ourselves from other views and expansion of our own minds and those of our peers.

While the doctor should be allowed to speak on campus, I am upset by the extremely one sided views expressed in these comments, either that Dr. Gilbert is a horrible man who supports 9/11 and should be barred from speaking, or that this argument is clearly about Israel, that Israel, without reason (of course) barred Gilbert from Gaza, and the author of this piece is insinuating that PalestineMIT supports 9/11, which was never stated. Dr. Gilbert did rescind those comments, and Israel later barred him from entering Israel - not Gaza - because of a letter he cosigned that was antagonistic against them.

What seems to be true is that Dr. Gilbert is a good man, with good intentions, who cannot see the struggles a tiny country surrounded by aggressors, averaging over a hundred fatalities per year from terrorism, a blindness that seems to be shared by many here in saying that Gilbert must have been banned because of Israeli bigotry. If the same proportion of the US were dying and the same rate that Israelis are, I don't think we would be so quick to judge.

MIT16 over 2 years ago

This article is not arguing that Mads Gilbert should be deprived of free speech. Everyone agrees that he is allowed to speak at MIT. But just because he has the right to speak doesnt mean that right should be actualized.

The real heart of the issue is do we, as MIT students, staff, and the community as a whole, want Gilbert to speak? Do we feel comfortable with him speaking on our campus, and the message that it sends to the world?

I know that as an MIT student, having such a hateful speaker invited to our campus makes me feel unsafe. Although he is allowed to come, I don't feel comfortable with him speaking at MIT.

rina over 2 years ago

As an MIT student, I want Gilbert to speak. I would feel uncomfortable in a place surrounded by people who denied him speaking on campus.

Dr Arthur Weinstein over 2 years ago

As an academic physician, I have found Dr Gilbert's writings and rants repugnant. As a co-author of the one-sided screed" An Open Letter for the People in Gaza" he and his colleagues had the audacity to accuse 95 of Israeli academics as "complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza". Of course we cherish free speech but the audience should demand full disclosure of Dr Gilbert's support for Palestinian anti-Israel causes, unlike he and his colleague co-authors of the Open Letter, two of whom openly supported the David Duke anti-semitic video based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

ls over 2 years ago

It's a damn shame he didn't say something contrary to the present activist-fervor (pick your own #movement) -- otherwise, he'd never be allowed near campus.

TechReader over 2 years ago

I agree with 2012Alumn and those of others. I have not known Dr. Gilbert until I read this article. It's only now I know about him, having read about his work. It will be selective amnesia to ignore his important work towards humanitarian cause and callous target practicing by judging him on the basis of 'open-to-interpretation' statement, which he later apologized for.

Natalie over 2 years ago

As an MIT Alum, I am very disappointed that MIT is providing someone who promotes hatred , violence and the killing of civilians

A platform from which to spread this hatred. This reminds me of Hitler being on the cover of Time Magazine as man of the year....we all know how that turned out

Manus over 2 years ago

It's sad to see all the apologists for Dr. Gilbert.

His comments on 9/11 are not 'hard to interpret' for me.

Also his apology is a non-apology. He didn't say his

words were wrong, they were just 'unwise'.

He denounces terror, but then blames 'economic inequalities'.

Why do we let him speak?

Aviva over 2 years ago

OUTRAGEOUS!!!!! It should be prosecutable crime, to host this person, who openly incites terrorism, and so is a terrorist himself.

Michael Burke over 2 years ago

On 9/11 my brother, Capt. William F. Burke, Jr., Eng. Co. 21, FDNY gave his life. It is clear from the quotes quoted here, especially from commentators supporting him, that Gilbert supported the 9/11 attacks. That's what he said; not the right of the oppressed to defend themselves. In the context in which he was speaking - he was speaking specifically of the attacks. Gilbert's purported sensitivity, like so many of his stripe, is a bit misplaced: I know of one family that received word on what would have been her first wedding anniversary, that their 24 yr old daughter's torso had been identified. She had jumped from the 105th floor, 1 WTC. There were 4 11 yr old school kids on the flight that hit that Pentagon. Peter Hanson was traveling on AA 11, the first plane that hit the Pentagon with his wife (Korean-American) and their 2 yr old daughter. He telephoned his father to alert him that their plane had been hijacked. "Don't worry, Dad," he told him, "Whatever happens will be over quick." But let's sympathize with the maniacs who flew the planes into the buildings. And btw, there were no Iraqis among the hijackers or among Al Qaeda leadership (and what about the Kuwaitis oppressed by Saddam's invading army?). And Al Qaeda does not give a hang about oppressed Iraqis; ISIS, which shares Al Qaeda fundamental beliefs has been slaughtering them by the thousand. Most of the hijackers and Al Qaeda's leadership come from well off, educated families. These terrorists, whether Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram or whomever are not driven by "injustice." They are driven by the fanatical desire to impose their way of life on everyone; by a hatred and jealousy of America's and the West's cultural, economic and military success, by the desire to crush all who disagree with them and by a twisted culture and psychology that finds itself rendered impotent in the modern world. Free speech does not demand that MIT provide Gilbert a forum. He can stand on a soap box and rant to his heart's content. He can start a blog. If he was by some bizarre twist invited to speak, I wonder what kind of reception say, Dick Cheney would get.

gary fouse over 2 years ago

This is an utter disgrace. It speaks volumes about the attitudes of the sponsoring groups, attitudes that are found on too many other colleges.

Let this scum spout his poison in Norway.

RAM over 2 years ago

Evasion is the oldest Islamist trick in the book. People who get fooled wanted to be fooled.

Martin over 2 years ago

Gilert has made very many untrue malicious allegations against Isarel and has made highly crfitical and hateful accusations against the USA and Israel. Or as the Arabs prefer to say, Big Satan and little Satan. The man is an extremeleftwing Communistwith the dogma that has poisoned Norwegian leftwing politics. We have seen the Universities and church in Norway inviting actual terrorists to speak and their supporters while denying the same opportunity to Israelis other than the extreme left wing. Of course Gilbert has apologised, he wants to make capital in the USA. How can you be so naive?

Daniel Wiener '70 over 2 years ago

It didn't take much Googling about Dr. Gilbert for me to conclude that he is a propagandist for the terrorists who are constantly trying to destroy Israel and kill Jews. So I have no sympathy for Dr. Gilbert, and would have no interest in wasting my time attending his lecture. MIT was under no obligation to host him in the first place. But now that he has been invited to speak, I think it would be a big mistake for MIT to be pressured into cancelling his appearance.

As an alumnus of MIT, I do not want to see this Institute go the way of so many other universities around the country by trying to create "safe spaces" for its students that shield them from uncomfortable and controversial ideas. Either ignore Dr. Gilbert, or show up and politely challenge him with questions, or express contrary views in The Tech and elsewhere. But don't be afraid of him, and don't bolster the perception that you are incapable of coping with his arguments.

Back when I attended MIT, I was one of the founders and editors of the independent student newspaper "ERGO" (which by now most people have probably forgotten). We did not hesitate to take on the politically correct views which were then in vogue; in fact that was our main purpose. The clash of opposing ideas was exciting and invigorating! It would be nice if such an attitude still prevailed among today's students at MIT, but I am not optimistic when articles such as this demand that opposing speakers and events instead be quashed.

Tatiana Menaker over 2 years ago

PalestineMIT and the Arab Students Organization are hosting Dr. Mads Gilbert, who openly supports the 9/11 attacks, because they themselves support any attack on the US. All American universities for a long time occupied by Palestinian activists, who under disguises of being students, stay there for 7-12 years, educating one generation after another of students in anti=Israeli and anti-American hatred. They are supported by leftist organizations on campuses, led very often, as funny as it is, by secular Jews converted to communism. They do not care about Israel and are worshiping "justice" for anyone "oppressed" like blacks, Indians. Now their favorite charity case is Palestinians. Those gullible American idiots just do not understand, that they are raising army of their own murderers.

Yvonne Ridley over 2 years ago

While I feel the author's genuine pain for the loss of his friend it is clear he may be more in need of counselling and care to come to terms with that loss. To make such silly accusations against a heroic surgeon and life saver like Dr Mads serves no purpose other than to diminish his friend's memory.

Of course Dr Mads does not support 9/11; no sane person would. He is a heroic surgeon who worked in appalling conditions in Gaza to save lives. Like every other doctor he has signed the Hippocratic oath and treating a patient regardless of his skin colour, faith or origin matters not. This is humanity.

The only other reason for writing such schoolboy nonsense is perhaps even more concerning ... perhaps the author should be honest about the reason for his hysteria and sadly it has nothing to do with the loss of his friend and everything to do with the fact that Dr Mads helps heal Palestinians. They, too, are human and deserve equal treatment, comfort and help.

Michael Friedman, 1989 over 2 years ago

MIT should not ban Gilbert - we do not want MIT banning speakers based on their opinions, however odious.

But, PalestineMIT and the Arab Students Organization have the option to disinvite him. If they do not, then they own him.

The MIT community should make it clear to Gilbert just how odious and disgusting we find him and to PalestineMIT and the Arab Students Organization just how odious and disgusting we find anyone that chooses to associate with someone like Gilbert.

Anon over 2 years ago


Steve C over 2 years ago

MIT affiliated groups must have the right to invite any speaker who is not inciting violence. But those groups will be associated with the viewpoints of the speaker, unless they clearly denounce those viewpoints.

So let Gilbert speak. But across the hall, have a demonstration 10 times larger that points out his one-sided views. Point out how Israel does not target civilians, but the government of Gaza does. Point out how he accused Israel of using experimental weapons, for which there is no actual evidence. Point out how he criticized Doctors Without Borders because they do not take sides. Point out that it took him 8 years to retract his 9/11 statements and say that he is opposed to terror against civilians, and ask if he has ever voiced opposition to Palestinian terrorism.

Let Gilbert speak, but provide the context. If you give members of the MIT community the truth, they can figure out what is right and wrong.