Middle East studies in the News
UC Riverside Lets Undergrad SJP Leader Teach Israel-Bashing Course [incl. Ilan Pappé, Rashid Khalidi, Steven Salaita]
by Sarit Catz
May 12, 2015
AMCHA Initiative is an organization dedicated to investigating, documenting and combating anti-Semitic behavior on college and university campuses. CAMERA is supporting a campaign the group is spearheading to fight a travesty taking place at the University of California, Riverside. An undergraduate student and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) leader is teaching a one-credit course clearly intended to indoctrinate students to hate and act against Israel.
According to the syllabus (downloadable here), the class includes:
- Several weeks on "Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid"
- Discussion "on checkpoints, the wall, and occupation"
- Discourse on Palestinian "Refugeehood and Exile" and the "Palestinian Diaspora"
- A guest speaker on the topic of "the history of the Palestinian struggle and exile"
- Exploring "possibilities for the future of the struggle and Palestinian people"
There is not a single session of the ten-week class that focuses on the Israeli and Jewish perspective. The readings are authored by well known Israel-haters such as Edward Said, Ilan Pappé, Rashid Khalidi, Steven Salaita and Ali Abunimah. The class will watch anti-Israel videos and films such as "5 Broken Cameras".
In addition, the class ignores important elements. The syllabus does not indicate there will be any examination of fundamental realities, including:
- Palestinian Arab cooperation with Nazi Germany
- Arab rejection of U.N. partition plans and later diplomatic "two-state" proposals
- Genocidal pledges to "drive the Jews into the sea"
- Historic and modern day glorification of anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish terrorism and incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews by Palestinian leaders, schoolbooks and official media
- Denial of the Jewish people's ancient and modern ties to the land of Israel
- Arab responsibility for both the Arab and larger Jewish refugee problems
When UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox was asked via e-mail by concerned community members why the University offers a course which engages in political indoctrination, his reply was, in part, "The syllabus for the course was reviewed by a faculty committee which determined that the course meets University of California standards."
In fact, the UC Regents Policy on Course Content prohibits political indoctrination in the classroom. Further, an independentanalysis by a non-partisan, non-profit organization, Verity Educate, found the course to be politically-driven propaganda and indoctrination with no educational value.
The individuals charged with upholding the university's rigorous academic standards determined that a course filled with blatant political propaganda and unbridled calls to political action, taught by an undergraduate activist, "meets University of California standards." This is truly an embarrassment for anyone who holds a degree from the University of California.
The Course Analysis
The Verity Educate report ( available in its entirety here), includes the following points:
- The material presented to students in this course reflects a singular interpretation of the "Palestine-Israel conflict." Nearly every text presents Israel as an "occupying" power and deems it morally repugnant and guilty of "settler-colonialism." No other competing interpretations, arguments, or views are presented through the readings over the course of the semester. Thus, students lack the textual evidence to gain a thorough understanding of "differing perspectives" on the "Palestine-Israel conflict." With only one view presented, the course cannot be considered academically or educationally objective.
- The course evidences a complete lack of historical information about the "Palestine-Israel conflict." Despite the stated learning objective, "develop a historical understanding of the conflict in the Middle East," the course material fails to offer a single work of history that even relates historical events in a chronological format. Thus, students have no solid historical basis on which to evaluate the argumentative and interpretative texts they are presented with each week.
- A majority of the texts actively promote a particular political position vis-à-vis the "Palestine-Israel conflict," specifically the dissolution of the State of Israel and its replacement with a unitary "democratic" state composed of Arabs and non-Arabs.
- The predominant political framework of interpretation in these texts is Marxist. This includes condemnation of Israel simply because it exists within the nation-state and therefore capitalist framework.
CAMERA is one of 27 groups that signed a letter to Chancellor Wilcox. The letter reads:
Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
According to the UCR website,a one-credit course entitled "Palestinian Voices" is being taught as an "R'Course" by an undergraduate student in the English Department, Tina Matar. The UCR web page announcing the course sports a benign graphic of Israeli and Palestinian flags and includes this short description:
"This course is about the history of Palestine viewed through contemporary literature and media from before the creation of Israel to today. We will be discussing the side of the conflict that you don't hear on mainstream media. The stories of the Palestinian people and their struggles don't get mentioned, and this class is made to discuss that. It will allow students to find ways to take part and listen to personal testimonials from people that have lived/ currently live through it."
While the website description of "Palestinian Voices" already makes clear that the course will focus on only one side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the full extent of the course's anti-Israel bias, and its clear intent to politically indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action against it, are only made apparent in the course's downloadable syllabus.
The following aspects of the syllabus are noteworthy and of serious concern:
- According to the syllabus, the title of the course isnot"Palestinian Voices," but rather"Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid". Not only does the course's actual title reveal the student instructor's unambiguous anti-Israel bias, itincludes a patently false canard about Israel frequently used to delegitimize the Jewish state, language which meets the U.S. State Department'sdefinitionof antisemitism. Perhaps even more troubling, however, is the fact that there was a clear attempt to obfuscate the extreme anti-Israel bias of the course by re-titling it for the R'Course web page and including a graphic of Israeli and Palestinian flags that falsely suggests a modicum of even-handedness about the conflict which is sorely lacking from the syllabus and, presumably, from the course itself.
- In the syllabus, Ms. Matar identifies herself as a member of the UCR chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and implies that her work with that group forms the basis for the development of the course. Indeed, Matar is a leader of UCR's SJP group, whose primary mission is to engage in activism to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and work towards its elimination, especially through anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns. Matar herself was an author and proponent of the extremely contentious anti-Israel divestment resolution passed by the UCR student senate last April.
- The faculty sponsor for the course is English Professor David Lloyd, whom Matar also identifies as the faculty sponsor for the UCR SJP group and writes that in that capacity Lloyd"has been working very closely with us for the last two years and has been in constant communication with not only me, but the other students as well. We have had a number of face-to-face meetings throughout the year aboutforming a class like this". Prof. Lloyd, who makes no secret of his animosity towards the Jewish state, is also an international leader of the BDS movement and afounderof the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
- The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel's supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state; these tropes are all considered antisemitic according to the U.S. State Department's definition of antisemitism.
- According to the syllabus, 20% of each student's grade for the course is based on"Event Attendance." Although the number and nature of theseevents are not specified—which itself is worrisome given how much weight is given to event attendance — we are concerned that students may be required to attend SJP-hosted events intended to promote anti-Israel activism such as BDS.
As you are aware, at the beginning of this academic year Provost Aimee Dorr sent a letter to you and the other UC Chancellors reviewing the University's academic policies which prohibit instructors from using the classroom for promoting political propaganda, with special emphasis on the Regents Policy on Course Content,which states:
"Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination… constitutes misuse of the University as an institution."
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines"indoctrination" as"teach[ing] (someone)to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs". Ms. Matar's course syllabus strongly suggests that she will be engaged in the political indoctrination of her students.
We therefore believe there are two serious problems regarding Matar's course that should be addressed immediately:
1) The course appears to be in violation of the University's academic policies, particularly the Regents Policy on Course Content. If this is the case, the course should be eliminated.
2) Given the obvious and egregious anti-Israel bias of the syllabus, this course proposal should never have been approved by the Office of Undergraduate Education and the R'Course Governing Board, which are jointly responsible for reviewing all R'Course proposals before they are taught. The fact that the proposal wasapproved by these offices and that the course is currently being taught without modification to the syllabus suggests that the curricular oversight of R'courses is deeply flawed and must be fixed, in order to ensure that students who take courses at UC Riverside are being educated and not indoctrinated.
We look forward to hearing the results of your investigation into this course and the curricular oversight process that approved it, as well ashow you intend to enforce the University's academic policies prohibiting indoctrination, particularly the Regents Policy on Course Content, with regard to this course and in the future.
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