Journalist Christopher Hitchens delivered the Eighth Annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture to a full audience on Wednesday at Korn Convocation Hall.
The lecture, given annually at UCLA and Stanford, was created to commemorate Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was killed in Pakistan in 2002.
In Hitchens’ speech, titled “Varieties of Anti-Semitism,” he condemned anti-Semitism as a distinct and pervasive form of racism.
Although he said it was ultimately ineradicable, Hitchens urged the audience to fight tirelessly against anti-Semitism and to regard it as a problem for all people, not just those who are Jewish.
“Because anti-Semitism is the godfather of racism, and the gateway to tyranny and fascism and war, it is to be regarded not as the enemy of the Jewish people alone, but as the common enemy of humanity,” Hitchens said.
Visiting UCLA had personal significance for Hitchens as well. Before the lecture, he visited the UCLA veterans memorial, which was created to honor Army 2nd Lt. Mark Daily, a 2005 UCLA alumnus whose decision to enlist was influenced by Hitchens’ writings supporting the Iraq War.
Daily was killed in Iraq in January 2007, three months into his first tour of duty. His college roommate, Daniel Lord, and his widow, Snejana Hristova Daily, attended the lecture.
Just as the family of Daniel Pearl strived to deal with his death by promoting peace and cross-cultural understanding, Hitchens said Daily’s family was another example of “honest, decent, modest, brave people trying to deal with their grief and trying to apply reason to the crises that led to their deprivation.”
Before Hitchens’ speech, Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father, president of the foundation and computer science professor emeritus at UCLA, took the podium. He said that in the years after Pearl’s death, the family wanted to shift the focus away from Pearl’s murder and instead promote the ideals he lived for.
“It would be counterproductive to dwell on the negative, deranged mindset of (Daniel’s) murderers,” Pearl said.
Christina Wilson, a program development assistant at the Daniel Pearl Foundation, said after Pearl’s death, “the family’s response inspired many people because they didn’t have the anger that people expected. They felt strongly that they wanted to fight what took his life, and they wanted to do that through promoting tolerance and cross-cultural dialogue.”
The Daniel Pearl Foundation was founded on these ideals and sponsors events such as this lecture that promote the two main tenets of Pearl’s legacy: journalism and music.
The event was sponsored by the Daniel Pearl Foundation, the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, and the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA.
“The lecture is meant to give insight into forces that are attempting to be divisive in people’s lives; anti-Semitism is just one example,” Wilson said.