Israel

UC Berkeley Suspends Anti-Israel Course for Failing to Adhere to Academic Standards

The University of California, Berkeley has suspended a scheduled anti-Israel course because its facilitator failed to ensure that the syllabus lived up to the school’s academic standards, the office of the chancellor said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

The office of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks explained that the proposed class, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” did not undergo “a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards before it was opened for enrollment to students.” The course was therefore suspended pending a proper review and approval process.

The chancellor’s office also expressed its concern about any course that “espouses a single political viewpoint and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing rather than an opportunity for the kind of open academic inquiry that Berkeley is known for.”

The statement from the chancellor’s office was issued in response to a letter sent by 43 Jewish, civil rights, and education advocacy groups, which argued that “the course’s objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government’s criteria for antisemitism, and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it.” The letter was coordinated by the AMCHA Initiative, a watchdog group working to fight anti-Semitism on U.S. university campuses.

The letter pointed out that the course’s student instructor was a well-known member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a leading anti-Israel campus group that supports the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, while its faculty advisor was Hatem Bazian, a co-founder of SJP. Bazian is currently the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, a leading sponsor of SJP which, according to congressional testimony provided by Jonathan Schanzer in April, employs several individuals who formerly worked at organizations that fundraised for the terrorist organization Hamas. In 2004, Bazian himself served as a fundraising speaker for the group KindHearts, which had its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury two years later over its links to Hamas. “KindHearts officials and fundraisers have coordinated with Hamas leaders and made contributions to Hamas-affiliated organizations,” the Treasury wrote at the time.

In a statement released by AMCHA, Tammi Rossman Benjamin, the group’s director and a UC faculty member, was quoted saying that the proposed course presented an “egregious and unconscionable abuse of the classroom.” She added, “And sadly this is not the first time anti-Zionist students and professors have successfully gamed the UC system to inject anti-Israel propaganda and anti-Semitic hate onto the campus in the guise of academics.”

AMCHA noted that a similarly biased course, “Palestine & Israel: Settler Colonialism and Apartheid,” which featured “egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films,” was offered last year by UC Riverside and taught by a member of SJP.

A study released by AMCHA earlier this year found that anti-Semitic activity on U.S. campuses, which strongly correlates with the presence of anti-Israel organizations and faculty, had increased 45% this year over the same time last year.

In On Many Campuses, Hate is Spelled SJP, which was published in the October 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Daniel Mael offered a brief history of Bazian and the campus group he helped establish.

SJP is an outgrowth of an organization called the General Union of Palestinian Students, originally founded in Egypt in the 1950s, and established at San Francisco State University in 1973. In 2001, after graduating from San Francisco State and moving across the bay, a UC Berkeley graduate student—now professor—by the name of Hatem Bazian launched his own chapter of GUPS, just as the second intifada and its campaign of suicidal terror were going full swing. He renamed the group, and refashioned it in his own image.

According to Accuracy in Academia, a nonprofit research group, Bazian’s extremist rhetoric can be traced at least as far back as 1999, when, in a presentation at an academic conference, he favorably recited a famous anti-Semitic passage from the Quran: “The Day of Judgment will not happen until the trees and stones will say, ‘Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’” (He later denied having done so.) In 2011, he helped organize the “Never Again For Anyone” speaking tour, during which the Holocaust was invoked and the Palestinians likened to the Jews persecuted by Nazi Germany. The link drawn between Israel and Nazi Germany is, of course, a staple of modern European anti-Semitism.

[Photo: Charlie Nguyen / Flickr ]