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ADL Slams Reinstated Anti-Israel UC Berkeley Class

The Anti-Defamation League expressed its “deep concern” on Tuesday that a new course at the University of California, Berkeley would present students “with blatantly biased views towards Zionism and Israel as fact.”

The student-led, one-credit course, called “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” derides Zionism—the movement for Jewish national self-determination—as “settler colonialism” and falsely claims that all of modern-day Israel was once “Palestinian land.”

The class was suspended last week following an outcry by pro-Israel groups, after which the university administration claimed that the course was not properly vetted, before reinstating it less than a week later. Paul Hadweh, the course’s student facilitator and an active member of the anti-Israel campus group Students for Justice in Palestine, told the blog Electronic Intifada that he only made “cosmetic changes” to the syllabus.

“As the title implies, the class thesis and much of its syllabus is built on the foundation of the denial of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and the attempt to negate the right of Jews, like any other people, to assert their self-determination,” the ADL said in a statement.

ADL Central Pacific regional director Seth Brysk conveyed his hope that the university community would reject the erasure of Jewish indigeneity and national rights embedded in the course, which he called “biased, ahistorical, and illogical.”

“We hope that University of California students, as engaged members of the intellectual community, will exercise critical thinking to understand and reject the extreme, anti-Israel bias the course content reflects,” Brysk said. “Attempts to deny the Jewish people’s connection to Israel and the right to self-determination are modern expressions of anti-Semitism.”

ADL national commissioner Adam Cole noted in a letter to UC Berkeley’s president and chancellor a day before the course was suspended that the course readings are heavily slanted against Israel. One reading refers to Zionism as “settler colonialism” and claims that the country works “with a view to eliminating Indigenous societies.” Another selection, which was published two years before Israel began occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights in 1967, claims that the “Zionist settler-state” is “racist” and “cannot fail to be recognized as a menace by all civilized men.”

Cole warned that the course material may put it in violation of the UC system’s “Principles Against Intolerance,” which reject “anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism.”

In order to determine whether the anti-Zionism expressed by the course was rooted in anti-Semitism, Cole turned to the U.S. State Department’s “3D Test of Anti-Semitism,” which posits that delegitimization, demonization, and the use of double standards against Israel amount to anti-Semitism. He wrote:

On its face, the course delegitimizes Israel by characterizing it as “settler colonialism” that must be replaced. Nowhere does the syllabus even use the world “Israel.”

The course reflects a double standard. To pass muster, we would need to see courses at U.C. Berkeley treating Turkey as “settler colonialism” (for its occupation of Kurds), China as “settler colonialism” (for its occupation of Tibet), etc. and a requirement that students make final presentations arguing for the elimination of those regimes. Those courses don’t exist.

Finally, the course demonizes Israel. The foundations reading says Zionism aims at “eliminating Indigenous societies” and may be “genocidal” (Wolfe, p. 393). The course presents Zionism as “apartheid” (Wolfe, p. 403), a “mirror[]” of anti-Semitism (p.389) and acting out a “chronic addiction to territorial expansion” (p. 400). Lectures assert that Israel perpetrates “ethnic cleansing” (Week 5) and is “discriminatory” (Week 6). In Week 6, students must read a political screed entitled Zionist Colonialism in Palestine by Fayez Sayegh written in 1965, two years before the West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli control. The screen concludes that Jewish self-determination (what the book calls “the political systems erected by Zionist colonists”) is “racist” and “cannot fail to be recognized as a menace by all civilized men” (p.52). A student completing the course would be left with the unmistakable and unrefuted conclusion that Israel is evil.

Calling the course “an affront” to Berkeley and its “Principles Against Intolerance,” Cole urged the university’s administrators to cancel it accordingly.

As previously reported in The Tower, Hadweh, the course’s student facilitator, and Hatem Bazian, the faculty advisor, both have histories of anti-Zionist campaigning.

[The class’] end goal, perhaps not coincidentally, neatly aligns with the calls to action advanced by Students for Justice in Palestine, an anti-Israel group that Hadweh, the course’s student facilitator, is involved with at Berkeley. SJP argues, in the words of its Berkeley chapter, that Zionism—the Jewish national movement for self-determination—is “a colonial, racial and Euro-centric Project.” In campuses across the United States, members of SJP champion the view that the idea of a Jewish nation-state is inherently illegitimate and was born out of grave injustices that can only be rectified with the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state in its stead.

SJP is a main proponent of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign on American university campuses, which seeks to isolate the Jewish state until it implements several unilateral Palestinian demands, including the immigration of millions of Palestinians into Israel. Of course, rather than secure autonomy for both Israelis and Palestinians, this solution would simply turn Israel into an Arab-majority Palestinian state, and render Jews, once again, a stateless minority.

Fittingly, the faculty advisor of “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” is Hatem Bazian, a co-founder of SJP and a lecturer at Berkeley’s departments of Near Eastern Studies and Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies. Bazian, who endorsed the pro-BDS Israeli Divestment Campaign, currently serves as the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, which provides material resources, training, and speakers to SJP campus activists. (Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, testified to Congress in April that AMP employs seven individuals who previously worked for groups that fundraised on behalf of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas. One of these groups, KindHearts, featured Bazian as a fundraising speaker two years before its assets were frozen by the U.S. Treasury over its ties to Hamas.)

[Photo: John Morgan / flickr ]