Middle East studies in the News
by Karys Rhea
Last week, two significant anti-Israel programs were blocked within 24 hours of being publicized.
The first was a pro- Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) event scheduled to take place on Friday, September 16th on Capitol Hill, with support from an anonymous congress member. The presentation was to feature speakers who are active in the notorious BDS campaign against Israel, which is considered by many to be an anti-Semitic movement.
The event was announced Monday and drew bi-partisan outrage from citizens and other congressional members. Initially, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who had sponsored the event, refused to reveal herself publicly. But on Tuesday, after House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi got word of it, Lee withdrew her sponsorship and the presentation was canceled.
The event would have been the first forum in favor of boycotting Israel on Capitol Hill. The event was to be moderated and sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a known anti-Israel organization that garnered controversy after hosting democratic congressman Hank Johnson who compared Israeli settlers to "termites." The organization has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as "a coalition of anti-Israel groups that promotes divestment from Israeli companies, organizes anti-Israel events, and lobbies the U.S."
The second anti-Israel undertaking was a one-credit student-run course titled "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis," which was to be offered at the University of California, Berkeley. On Tuesday, 43 Jewish and civil rights groups wrote a concerned letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks claiming that the course was in violation of the UC Board of Regents policy on course content and amounted to political indoctrination.
That same day, Chancellor Dirks suspended the course on the grounds that it "did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley's academic standards."
The swift response on the part of Congress and the university to take action against displays of bigotry is commendable and will hopefully serve as an example for the future.
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