Middle East studies in the News
UC Berkeley Reinstates History Of Palestine Course Days After Cancelling It
CBS SF Bay Area
The original decision to suspend the course was made last week after Dan Mogulof, the university's assistant vice chancellor, charged that the course didn't comply "with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the DeCal program."
The DeCal program, according to California Jewish news, J.Weekly, features classes taught by students with a faculty sponsor supervising.
Shortly after the course began, the UC Berkeley Hillel as well as Hillel International accused the course of antisemitism, urging UC Berkeley's president, Janet Napolitano, along with administrators to condemn the course.
A joint statement between Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman explained, "Any perusal of the syllabus will show that this is a one-sided course which puts forth a political agenda."
"It does not tell the truth. It ignores history. It ignores facts, such as the inconvenient one that Jews have inhabited Israel for 3,000 years. This course seems to be a matter of political indoctrination in the classroom and is a violation of the newly adopted principles by the UC regents on intolerance."
Responding to the reinstatement of the course, its creator, US-born Palestinian Paul Hadweh stated, "I'm hoping that this will make the administration think twice before they respond to outside political pressure."
Hadweh also claimed that the controversy over the course inspired students in the course, "I never imagined students would be so eager to do reading," he explained.
The lawyer representing Hadwah, Liz Jackson a Jewish alumnus of the school and staff attorney for Palestinian Legal, called the reinstatement "a victory for everyone across the US who is facing this documented and coordinated attack on the right to study and speak freely on Israel and Palestine."
Jackson also claimed that the course's original suspension could possibly effect free speech.
"For Paul and every other student and scholar on campus who wants to think about ... this international problem from the perspective of Palestinian history, the message that they got from the university is: 'We're going to pay extra attention to you. And you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent to us,'" she said.
Some minor changes have been made to the syllabus however, but Hadweh explained that the course's fundamentals remain the same.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the director of one Jewish group against the course - the AMCHA Initiative - explained on Monday that although the new syllabus has not been reviewed by her, "It sounds like the revisions were not adequate. It's deeply disappointing and suggests that they really are not considering ... what 'indoctrination' really is."
At issue was the course description which said the one-unit course examined the history of Palestine "through the lens of settler colonialism."
"We will explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine, one in which justice is realized for all its peoples and equality is not merely espoused, but practiced," said the flier used to promote the course.
A letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks dated September 13 and signed by 43 Jewish activist groups said the course syllabus revealed reading materials and guest speakers that would ultimately encourage "students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it." It said such a curriculum violated the university policy which prohibits using the classroom "as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest" or for "political indoctrination."
The course's subsequent removal set off an intense debate between pro-Palestine and pro-Isreal activists, both on and off-campus, and petitions calling for its reinstatement.
Student instructor Paul Hadweh said he was blindsided by the move. "I couldn't believe it. I was devastated," the 22-year-old senior told The Guardian. "I knew I followed all the policies and procedures."
On Wednesday, students in the course sent their own letter to Chancellor Dirks and Hesse calling the criticisms unfounded and demanding reinstatement on the grounds of "academic freedom."
"We hold any claims made by campus administration or by outside organizations against the course to be blatantly false, especially any claims or concerns that the course would only tolerate a single or particular view," it said.
In Hesse's letter on Monday, she called the concerns raised regarding the suspension "understandable." The dean said she was basically unfamiliar with Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis at the time of her decision to suspend the course and described the faculty/student meetings that have taken place since then to address concerns and determine "how to move forward."
"The Student Facilitator, the Chair and the Executive Committed of the Department of Ethnic Studies determined that revisions of the course in light of these concerns were necessary and appropriate... I am therefore rescinding my suspension of the course."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.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: email@example.com