Middle East studies in the News
Serious Concerns About Abuse of CSU Resources and Name [incl. Vida Samiian and Manzar Foroohar]
by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith
Dear President Welty, President Armstrong, President Hellenbrand, and Chancellor Reed:
We are co-founders of the AMCHA Initiative, a grassroots organization representing thousands of members and supporters of the California Jewish community, who are united in their concern for the safety and well-being of Jewish students on college and university campuses across the state. We would like to express our serious concerns about the upcoming talks by Ilan Pappe at California State University Northridge (CSUN) on February 20, at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) on February 22, and at California State University Fresno (CSUF) on February 23.
As you may know, Ilan Pappe is an Israeli Jew who harbors deep animus towards the Jewish state, has publicly called for its elimination, and engages in activities to harm its citizens, such as a campaign to boycott Israeli academics, which he helped to found. In addition, he openly supports the terrorist organization Hamas and falsely accuses Israel of "crimes against humanity," including "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing."
Pappe has readily acknowledged that his "scholarship" is driven by his anti-Israel political agenda, and his historical writings have been repudiated by numerous eminent scholars of Israel and the Middle East. Moreover, much of the rhetoric Pappe uses to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state is anti-Semitic according to the working definition of anti-Semitism employed by the U.S. State Department, as is the academic boycott which he promotes in his talks and writings.
Although we are dismayed that Ilan Pappe is coming to speak at three CSU campuses, our concern is not with the events per se, but rather with the fact that these events are being organized and promoted by faculty and administrators of the California State University system, using the name, resources, and imprimatur of CSU, in order to vilify and harm the Jewish state and its supporters.
We will take each campus in turn:
At CSUF, the lecture is being organized by the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Vida Samiian, and sponsored by the Middle East Studies Department. There is little doubt that Dean Samiian is organizing this event for the purposes of propagandizing rather than educating students at CSUF. Like Ilan Pappe, Dean Samiian has made her political animus towards Israel a matter of public record. For example, she has:
Moreover, from at least 2003, Vida Samiian has used her administrative office — first as Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and then as Dean — to organize and promote a number of events that presented only one, virulently anti-Israel perspective. Indeed, when Dean Samiian was approached by CSUF faculty and asked to allow an ideologically diverse panel to participate in the February 23rd event, she refused.
At Cal Poly, Pappe's talk is being organized by History Professor Manzar Foroohar and sponsored by the History Department and the College of Liberal Arts. In an email announcing the event, which Professor Foroohar sent to all faculty in the College of Liberal Arts, she asked them to announce Pappe's talk in their classes and to encourage their students to attend. It is clear that Professor Foroohar, too, is organizing and promoting this event for the purposes of propagandizing rather than educating students, and like Dean Samiian at CSUF, Professor Foroohar's animus towards Israel is a matter of public record. For example:
In addition, since at least 2003, Professor Foroohar has used her faculty position to bring virulently anti-Israel speakers to Cal Poly to lecture in her History classes and at events that are sponsored by the History Department and the College of Liberal Arts.
At CSUN, the announcement for Pappe's talk was emailed widely to the campus community by the Office of Academic Affairs, which, according to the CSUN website, is directed by interim President Harry Hellenbrand. Although co-sponsored by several student groups, the Academic Affairs announcement clearly indicates that Pappe's talk is an official University event, stating: "California State University, Northridge presents: A lecture by Ilan Pappe." In addition, the Academic Affairs announcement provides links to two flyers, which appear on the CSUN web server of the Boycott Israel Resources webpage posted by Professor David Klein, the faculty sponsor for two of the student groups sponsoring the event. Like his CSU colleagues Dean Samiian and Professor Foroohar, Professor Klein's animus of Israel is also a matter of public record. For example:
At a time when California's public universities are reeling from unprecedented financial crises, we are appalled that Dean Samiian, Professor Foroohar, and Professor Klein have been permitted to exploit their University positions and taxpayer-funded University resources to promote their hatred of the Jewish state and their efforts to harm it. We believe the upcoming events at CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN are further glaring examples of this egregious violation of public trust.
Please understand that we are NOT asking that these three events be cancelled or that Ilan Pappe be censored. Rather, we are calling on you to rescind all CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN sponsorship and support from the Ilan Pappe events, for the following reasons:
In addition to ensuring that these events receive no University support or funding, we urge you to widely and publicly acknowledge the Trustee's policy on propagandizing, and to commit to its enforcement on your campuses.
We believe there is much wisdom in the Trustees' formulation, and that its enforcement could make a significant difference in improving the climate on CSU campuses, not just for Jewish students, but for all students.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.
Cc: Board of Trustees
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