Middle East studies in the News
A Classroom Indoctrination
by Lee Kaplan
At the end of last year a friend contacted me who was taking a course titled "Politics of the Middle East" at Diablo Valley College, a small community college located in northern California. My friend knew I frequently write about academic matters, particularly concerning anti-Israel and anti-U.S. indoctrination on US college campuses. And he asked me to help provide some written research materials for him to use for a verbal presentation in his class. He called me later to complain.
"You'll never believe this," he told me. "The instructor, an imam, dismisses the class, then he spreads paper towels from the restroom on the floor and prays facing East in the classroom for fifteen minutes during school hours. Talk about a separation of church and state in the classroom," he complained.
"But was that all? What about the course content?" I asked.
"That's even worse. The instructor taught and insisted that Israel had stolen all its land prior to 1967. My family was actively involved in purchasing the land there during the 1920's, 30's and 40's for the Jewish National Fund and when I told him that in class he insisted it was ‘All lies!'" He also said, "When I told him I had official documents I could show the class, including copies of land sales agreements and deeds to the Jewish National Agency and the Jewish National Fund, he said they were probably ‘forgeries' and he wouldn't allow me to show them."
My friend also informed me that the professor had categorically stated that the Kurds in Halapja in 1988 were gassed by Iran and not Iraq. He said Saddam Hussein was framed by the Iranians for gassing people. "This guy used to work for Saddam," he said.
My friend continued on with a litany of things taught in class that were not true: "The professor stated that the original 1922 Mandate specifically spoke about the rights of the ‘Palestinian people' and that Israel, from 1922 on failed to respect those rights (Israel did not exist until 1948)." He continued, "When I produced a copy of the 1922 Mandate from my briefcase and asked him to point out where it said what he said, he refused to answer and changed the subject."
"He told the class that the US supported Israel against the Palestinians to safeguard America's oil interests and to give the US a Middle East foothold. He denied that the PLO Charter (still not amended) and Arafat wanted the complete destruction of Israel.
"I produced a copy of the Charter also from my briefcase and he changed the subject."
My friend continued, "He consistently stated that Israel was an ‘apartheid state,' that it mistreated its Arab citizens rendering them as second-class citizens (Arab-Israeli citizens have the same civil rights as Christian and Jewish Israelis by law). He claimed Arab-Israelis in Israel's parliament were only ‘tokens' despite being elected and declared anyone who believed Arab citizens of Israel enjoyed the same rights was ‘naïve and ignorant,' even ignoring cases I pointed out where Israel's Supreme Court frequently rules in favor of Arab-Israelis, even Palestinian Arabs in the territories, over Jews.
"The worst was when he taught Islam in class. He told us it was a religion of peace and tolerance. In fact, he handed out a sheet that had several verses from the Koran implying just that. But when I took my copy of the Koran and asked him specifically about verses 190-192 in Surah 2 The Cow (The verse says "slay all non-believers wherever they are found") and I mentioned I'd read several other verses from other books that said the same thing, he went into a dissertation about how translators don't translate properly and I obviously had one of those translations! He said in his opinion, as an imam, the best translation was Pickthall's Glorious Koran, displaying one from his bag. I got that copy and found verbatim what I'd read in class also quoted by Pickthall. When I pointed this out in the next class he changed the subject saying we were not studying the Koran that evening! He also denied Arabs played an active role in the slave trade!
"We started with about 22 students, but after two sessions we were down to 14, by the sixth session down to about ten. The only students who remained seemed to be anti-Israel and anti-US activists, pleased with any anti-Jewish rhetoric. Most were about 18-25 and I was the only ‘adult' left. Other students who left the class earlier confided in me they dropped out because of the propaganda nature of the course. The ones who stayed usually verbally attacked me whenever I pointed out something being taught that was factually and historically incorrect.
"My fifth week I made a verbal presentation on the origin and founding of the state of Israel. That's the one you helped me with some research materials. My report included a history of the Jewish people from biblical times to the present and included government organization, exports, imports, population figures, etc. After I finished the teacher chided me in front of the class for not discussing Israel as an ‘apartheid state' as he taught us, or how Jews mistreated Arabs, etc. I told him I was under the impression this verbal presentation was not supposed to be ‘political,' but factual and he said I obviously had not listened to him during previous classes! He stated my verbal presentation and backup documents presented to the class were unacceptable to him."
My friend relayed that his teacher also told him that the PLO and Hamas were not terrorist organizations but "liberation movements." When he tried to dispute that, the instructor said Israel was an "occupier" of land that did not belong to her and that the PLO and Hamas were only trying to free their land! Despite the fact that it is Israel that has faced successive assaults on its existence since its creation in 1948, the instructor ascribed the blame for the Israeli Palestinian conflict to Israel, claiming that Israel had no right to its land in the first place.
My friend took a long exasperated breath. "This professor spent nearly an entire class on the 1956 Suez conflict. He stated Israel attacked Egypt as the aggressor without any provocation (in fact, Egypt closed off the Straits of Tiran and Israel's sea access and staged continual terrorist border raids in the Negev). He said Israel ‘conspired' with France and England to attack Egypt (France and England attacked when Egypt closed the Suez Canal). When I asked about former Egyptian strongman Gamel Nasser sending troops to Israel's Negev border in the Sinai, the professor said it was ‘all lies' put out by Israel, France and England. I offered to produce official UN and other documents to the contrary but he refused to allow them in class.
"He spent at least an hour on the alleged massacre at Deir Yassin, another concoction by the Arabs like the massacre in Jenin. He told us that Jews massacred men, women and children without provocation. When I tried to introduce the official Red Cross report that reveals there were Iraqi soldiers disguised as women in Deir Yassin and that the report cites that prior to Jewish soldiers entering the village trucks with loudspeakers told civilian occupants they could leave, he disputed the Red Cross report categorically without any proof.
"I finally complained to the appropriate dean about the instructor and the lies he was teaching in the class. I had my mid-term paper prepared entitled ‘The Arab-Israeli Conflict,' but I had not yet given it to the instructor. The dean said that he personally would review it instead of the instructor and advise me what he thought. The following week I met with the Dean and he told me my paper was only worth a "B+" because it appeared it had erroneous information in it. I had cited the PLO Charter as calling for the total destruction of Israel. The Dean had apparently asked the instructor about that and the instructor had told him it was untrue. Right there in the Dean's office I accessed the PLO Charter on the Dean's computer and showed him the exact paragraph in the Charter. The Dean was astounded reading it. I showed him that the other alleged ‘erroneous' information was true as well."
He added, "Ultimately, the Dean offered me a B grade in the course and told me I did not need to return to class for the remainder of the semester, assuring me that even if I got an A grade on my final, I would never get higher than a B grade in the class. My previous G.P.A. in all courses was a 4.0 but I reluctantly took the B grade and left.
"I assumed this professor would not be returning to DVC to teach the next semester, but when I heard he was teaching the same course again I contact you about this for Front Page."
My interest was piqued, so I decided to enroll in this course the same as any other student from the local community. Since I write extensively about Middle East studies on US college campuses I decided to experience this class first hand. Was my friend exaggerating? Had the administration at Diablo Valley made corrections after his leaving the class? I enrolled under my own name without exposing my background. By taking the class, I could not be accused of being some outside journalist looking to create a story.
After plunking down $82 in matriculation costs, then spending $107 on books and $50 for parking as any other student would do, I would be enrolled in the Monday night class, online at first and soon I received a confirmation I was in the class, which comprised approximately 40 students.
The first night of class I met the instructor, an imam, named Amer Araim. Araim bears an interesting likeness to the deceased Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with the same knit brow and flaring nostrils. He is very quiet, however, and appears fragile.
My goal was to experience what any 19 year-old college student would experience in Araim's class. But owing to the fact that I make my living writing about Israel/Palestinian politics, my knowledge of the relevant political issues is better than your average19-year-old's.
When roll was called for my first class, I unaccountably found myself missing from the roster. Instructed by Araim to write down my name so he'd add me to the course list, I did so. Araim passed out his syllabus of what the class would cover, plus a flyer advertising an Interfaith Group that he belonged to. I noticed the flyer for the Interfaith Group spoke about the "Muslim Jesus." He urged us all to attend his Interfaith Group.
The syllabus mentioned a need for understanding "the plight of the Palestinian people" and cited Al Jazeerah—hardly a bastion of balanced information—as an excellent source toward this end.
Araim began his course by discussing Middle East politics. He mentioned the course would cover water rights issues. He also told us he would emphasize democracy as a growing movement in the Middle East—so far so good. Then something began to happen after about a half hour into the course. Araim began talking about Israel. As an example of what he believed was misguided American support for Israel, Araim cited the fact that the United States had attacked Iraq in 1991 because Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. The UN had condemned Saddam's invasion, he said.
To Araim, this was proof that American foreign policy was "hypocritical." After all, he reasoned, Israel had invaded the Golan Heights and the West Bank in 1967. Why should the United States support Israel? "Because they are our friends," commented one young student. Dismissing the comment, Araim contended that support for Israel was something America should not do. It was here, in just the first class, that a pattern emerged in Araim's lecturing. I call this "speaking in ellipses," a technique in which the lecturer leaves out just enough detail to elicit the response he wants from his listeners.
Araim's diatribe was a classic in the form. He never bothered to mention the differences between Israel's taking the West Bank and Golan Heights in the 1967 War and Kuwait being occupied by Saddam Hussein in 1991. Israel endured artillery shells fired on her civilians in the valley below from Syria in the Golan Heights for 19 years prior to their seizure. And Jordan controlled the West Bank prior to 1967 and attacked Israeli population centers first.
For the average 19-year-old, leaving out these details would doubtless create the impression, which Araim obviously sought, of Israel as a rogue state on par with Saddam Hussein's Iraq when it seized Kuwait to grab its oil revenues. "How many 19-year-olds fresh out of high school would know these things?" I asked myself.
Moving beyond ellipses, Araim continued the class with recourse to some outright falsehoods. For example, he advised that the five Arab armies that attacked Israel in 1948 lost that war because they were British lackeys, that the British wanted them to lose (in fact, the British foreign office was pro-Arab and Jordanian troops were led by Sir John Glubb, a British officer. The Israelis won but only because their backs were to the sea. While they gained some territory in the north, they also lost territory). But the biggest whopper he told to the students was that the Israelis had a better armed and trained military than the Arabs. In point of fact, the Israeli "army" in 1948 was made up of underground militias organized while the British controlled the area. They were poorly equipped and armed; many were refugees who came from the death camps in Europe and were handed a rifle and sent straight to the front. The Arab states had tanks, and better trained and equipped armies. Such a statement could only be said to students to deceive them. Nonetheless, determined to find out more about Araim's methods, I held my tongue.
He mentioned that UN Resolutions had condemned Saddam for the invasion of Kuwait. He also mentioned that UN Resolution 242 and other resolutions by the Arab dominated UN against Israel that were ignored. For those who are unaware, Resolution 242 was written by diplomat Eugene Rostow after the 1967 Six Day War. It stipulated in clear language that Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank to negotiated secure boundaries. At the close of 1948 War, Israeli or Jewish settlements in the West Bank had been captured and taken over by Jordanian forces. The entire West Bank was annexed by Jordan and never was set up as a Palestinian state. Nor did the Arabs living there ask that it be made into a Palestinian state as long as it was all Arab. The Arab press frequently says the Resolution requires Israeli withdrawal from every inch of the West Bank which somehow gets twisted into captured "Palestinian land" today. This is also partly a justification by the Arabs for saying the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are "illegal by international law." They are, in fact, according to Eugene Rostow, legal by Resolution 242 which only insists a partial withdrawal by Israeli forces only after secure borders are established and Israel obtains parts of what it considers the Jewish homeland. After all, if the guy who wrote the Resolution says that's what it means, it's pretty clear what it means. The Arab world, particularly in European publicity, has literally changed the wording in many cases to fit its scenario of making Israel give back every inch of land.
When I pointed this out to Araim in class, he claimed it wasn't true, and that I was a "propagandist" (tantamount to calling me, a student in his class, a liar). He then sat down in a chair and for almost an hour began telling the class that Israel was "an apartheid state," where Arabs were not accorded equal treatment to Jews (in actuality, Israel guarantees by law equal civil rights to all Israeli citizens regardless of nationality or religion.) I sat quietly and listened as Araim tried to paint a picture to the class of an Israel that is another South Africa at the height of apartheid. He also discussed UN Resolution 194, which dealt with the "Palestinian refugees" from Lebanon and insisted that Arab refugees from 1948, and their present day grandchildren, have the right to go back and live on the very same spot. The Arab world frequently uses allusions to UN Resolution 194 as justification for the conflict, insisting it says all Arabs must return inside Israel's borders which would overwhelm Israel's Jewish population and turn the country into another Islamic state. But what Araim did not tell students was that Resolution 194 also stipulates that the refugees could also receive compensation to set up their lives elsewhere just as many refugees at the end of World War II did. It is not a justification for endless war.
Araim, who frequently lectured in ellipses during the course, conveniently left that fact out. When I raised my hand and tried to point out such discrepancies during class, he simply dismissed them as untrue. Meanwhile, Araim stressed to all of us in class that next week's class would not be held in the normal classroom, but in a theater across campus where we would all watch "a film about the Middle East." He urged us all to attend this important film for the class. As we all left I asked about the roster and Araim took my name and assured me I would be enrolled. As I left the class, two women and a young girl criticized me for disagreeing with the teacher. To them, the teacher had to be right and I was just interfering with the class. One student muttered to me, "Sure, why don't you disagree with the whole room."
So much for my first class. Araim wasn't seen on paper towels praying during class this semester. Perhaps there were enough complaints to get the college administration to get him to not do so. His wont of re-interpreting of UN Resolutions was something that could be discussed in a later class—or so I thought.
The following week the class was held in conjunction with another course from the film department, titled Ethnic Film in America. The two classes combined filled the auditorium with about 100 students. Araim introduced the film professor, Ken Valentine, then explained to us all we were about to see "an important film about the Middle East." I was still not on the roster as a student enrolled in the class when attendance was called.
Then the lights went down. The "important film about the Middle East" was a PLO propaganda film titled "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land." I'd written about this film being promoted at the Middle East Studies Association Conference in San Francisco just a month earlier. The two-hour film is an interminable bashing of Israel and US foreign policy related to Israel with blatant lies and no counterbalance. It is also anti-Semitic, but in a subtle way: it features every Jewish quisling in the world for the PLO speaking as some of the "experts." And who are the biggest "experts" cited in the film? Noam Chomsky (the defender of Pol Pot and now an up and coming supporter of Holocaust denial), and University of Texas journalism Professor Robert Jensen, who after 9/11 blamed America for the attacks on the World Trade Center and claimed America was as big a terrorist as those who attacked us. Others included Hanan Ashwari, one of the main media propagandists for the PLO who was prominently featured, along with Hussein Ibish, formerly of CAIR, which has been linked repeatedly to Hamas.
This is a film produced by professional propagandists through some of the PLO's 19 propaganda ministries, including PASSIA. And it is truly a work of art in indoctrinating the uninitiated. But that was obviously its purpose; this film was designed to deceive.
The film began by defining Israel as an "occupier" that "punishes the Palestinian people." "Occupation" of course is not defined; in this case it meant all of Israel is occupied by a "colonial power" (all the Arab countries including Israel were once colonies, but to brand Israel a colony today is specious). Nowhere in the film are Palestinian terrorism or suicide bombings mentioned; it is Israel that uses "terror" on an innocent population of Palestinian Arabs. Nowhere is it mentioned that Israel set up a state for the PLO and still provides 70 percent of its operational budget, most of which is stolen by the leadership that encourages war. In this film, the Arabs are just victims of Israeli "aggression," not self-defense. Robert Jensen, of course, someone who your average 19-year-old student (let alone 95 percent of the class) would not know about, explains as an "expert" that Israelis who "retaliate" (he never uses the word defend) always allude to Palestinian violence as "aggression." He repackages terrorist attacks and suicide bombings never discussed anyplace directly in the film as resulting from "illegal military occupation." He accuses Ariel Sharon of making Americans link Israel to America's 9/11 experiences as a type of deception. Yet Israel by proportion of population has experienced 100 9/11's from Militant Islamic Terrorism.
Nor is the fact that Arafat, still alive when this film was made, paid and assigned terrorists to murder Israelis ever mentioned. The film claims that over 2,000 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli army. Yet the statistics cited include every single combat death of an armed terrorist and every single suicide bomber who blew himself up killing Israelis as "civilians." Nobody in the classroom at Diablo Valley College knows this. Similarly, no mention is made of the fact that Israel has experienced over 25,000 individual terrorist attacks since the year 2000.
Instead, the film perpetuates the myth of a massacre in Jenin, claiming 1,800 Palestinian dead there at one point (the final UN tally, also agreed to by the Palestinian Authority, is 56 killed of which 48 were armed terrorist combatants. Unmentioned in the film is that Israel lost 23 soldiers in house to house fighting, having abjured aircraft attacks in order to avoid civilian casualties.). Hanan Ashwari, who is paid $800,000 a year by the PA, claims that innocent children are shot deliberately on their way to school — a patent lie. Israel is ridiculed for launching missiles such as the one that was used to kill Sheik Yassin, the former head of Hamas (without mentioning Yassin was responsible for killing over 350 Israelis, nor does the film mention the daily missiles fired into southern Israel into the town of Sderot, one of which targeted a children's preschool and killed a four year-old boy and others that have killed other children). Every Palestinian Arab killed is "innocent" in the film; every Arab death, the surrounding circumstances notwithstanding, is blamed on Israel. At one point in the film, the deaths of 39 civilians in Bethlehem are mentioned along with the fact they were mostly women and children. What isn't mentioned is that most of those deaths were Arabs killed by other Arabs who claimed the victims were collaborators with Israel. Yet they too are counted as "civilian" casualties supposedly killed by Israel.
But the film doesn't just try to misinform and lie about Israel itself. It goes after Jews in America as well, accusing them of being in control of the US government—a veiled form of anti-Semitism. Robert Fisk, a journalist who writes regularly in support of the PLO, makes the statement in the film that "Israel is in the White House," even accusing the Bush administration of laughing at the plight of the Palestinians (Fisk was a major contributor to the Jenin massacre myth in his articles). Fisk even tries to claim that the democratic state of Israel has a controlled press. In fact, of course, it is the Palestinian Authority, a dictatorship, that controls press freedoms.
The film also contends that Israel somehow prevents access to the holy sites of Moslems and Christians, when in fact the opposite is true. It bemoans "3 million refugees in camps" but makes no mention of the billions in foreign aid given to the Palestinian leadership that is stolen each year. Despite being offered a country at Oslo, and 100 percent of the territories involved in negotiations as claimed by negotiator Dennis Ross, the film revises history and claims the Palestinians were offered nothing significant and claims that having Jews living in a Palestinian state would somehow be objectionable and unfair. It even attacks Dennis Ross personally, someone who continually worked to give the Palestinians as much as possible.
If its allegiance to the historical record leaves much to be desired, the film is nothing if not slick. Besides a parade of Arab flacks like Hussein Ibish, Saeb Erekat, and Hanan Ashwari, the film features every Jewish quisling hack that has ever advocated the dismantling and end of the Jewish democratic state. Radical Rabbi Michael Lerner is featured along with Gila Swirsky and Neve Gordon, who bemoan "checkpoints." At no point is it explained that the checkpoints are there because the Palestinian Authority encourages and refuses to arrest suicide bombers and terrorists. One scene has an interview with a flack from Jews Against the Occupation, an anarchist group in New York City that advocates dismantling Israel, in which he claims that pregnant women are denied any sympathy in trying to reach a hospital at the checkpoints. The fact that phony pregnancies have been used to hide bombs never gets mentioned, nor the fact that Palestinian Arabs get free medical services in Israel for deliveries.
And this film doesn't miss a single trick. Palestinian textbooks have been proven by documentation to preach Jew hatred and murder as well as jihad to destroy Israel. The film falsely claims that Israeli textbooks contain anti-Arab hatred without mentioning that Palestinian textbooks do call for the destruction of Israel. Other blatant untruths: the film claims that Palestinians killed at Sabra and Chatilla were killed by Israelis (they were in fact killed by other Christian Arabs a week after the Christians were murdered by gangs of Palestinians in Damour); Gilo is a settlement where only Jews may live (Israeli Arabs can and do live there and Palestinians work there. Also, it is never mentioned that by law selling land to a Jew in the Palestinian Authority is punishable by death.). Hanan Ashwari repeats the blood libel of Jews shooting down Arabs in cold blood and Israel is accused of destroying Muslim and Christian holy sites when the opposite is true. In fact, anything and everything that has been shown to occur in the Palestinian Authority, from indoctrination and incitement of children to become suicide bombers, to even terrorism, has been turned around to be something Israel, the victim, does.
But the major voice in the film is left to Noam Chomsky. Quoted as an expert, Chomsky takes his usual digs at the United States as "empire" and by extension Israel as its tool. Every student I asked after class about Chomsky and Robert Jensen had no idea who these radical talking heads were, yet here they were quoted as intellectual giants by two professors at Diablo Valley College.
The film is far less charitable toward supporters of Israel. A scrolling list of Jewish organizations that counter misinformation in the media or in college courses like the one I was in, especially CAMERA, Honest Reporting or AIPAC, are said to be "propaganda" organizations controlled by a "foreign government." In fact, most of these organizations, which are in fact run by U.S. citizens, take films such as "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land" and expose them for the mendacious propaganda vehicles they are.
When the lights came up and we were asked for comments, I raised my hand. "This was a blatant propaganda film shown to a young audience who has no idea what they are seeing. It is completely untrue and manipulated," I complained.
Araim then began lecturing the room. He didn't just stand at a podium at the front but walked the aisles personally talking to individual students. "Israel is an apartheid state," he would say to students as if in some remake of George Orwell's 1984. One student, clearly an anti-Israel advocate of Middle Eastern descent chimed in, "Isn't it true the Israelis persecute the Christians over there?" he asked. "Yes, they do" Araim replied standing near the student. "Like at Beit Shaour (in fact, Christians are persecuted by the Arab Muslim majority in the West Bank and subject to extortion and murder. Israel actually protects its Christian minority.).
I spoke up again.
"This was two hours of forced propaganda on students who really aren't getting all the facts. For example, Hanan Ashwari in this film claims Jewish Israelis all arrived on boats from Europe and stole the individual homes of Arabs, yet most of Israel's population are Jewish refugees from Arab lands. In addition, the early Zionists purchased every bit of their land prior to 1948. None of that was mentioned. Jordan was also supposed to be part of the Jewish state but was given away by the British (a documented historical fact). "None of that is true," said Araim. "None of it is true?" I asked. "You're denying historical fact before this entire room of students?" Araim replied, "That's all propaganda."
I continued, "Noam Chomsky is a known communist who actively opposes the West and has supported Pol Pot. Robert Jensen made excuses for the hijackers on 9/11. The students in here do not know the backgrounds or history of these people and you seem to prefer it that way. Will you screen films showing another point of view?"
The film professor, Valentine, tried to shout me down: "You're saying Chomsky is a communist is just simple rhetoric," he said. I pressed on: "This is a blatant propaganda film. Do you intend to show a film to these students from the other side to at least show them what was untrue in this film?" I again demanded.
"All films are propaganda," said Valentine. "So in other words there is no truth?" I asked.
Valentine again cut me off by shouting me down and refusing to let me continue, all with Araim's backing. Some of the students acted as if whatever the professors said had to be the truth and asked me why I was disagreeing. "Because they are not showing you the truth," I told one young girl. One student from Araim's class behind me didn't think it was very important.
If I had attended a propaganda film in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany I doubt I could have had any different an experience. To some of the students I was just a troublemaker, rocking the boat. The class was dismissed. I was still not on the roster. I ultimately had to go in person to be added to the course list.
The next class was fairly uneventful as Araim discussed the other countries in the Middle East. Araim told us he was in favor of democracy in the region. But somehow America was hypocritical in terms of bringing democracy there. He did not praise Saddam Hussein but somehow could never bring himself to praise America either.
Despite his praise for democracy, he felt Sharia Law should still remain in force. He insisted Sharia Law (Islamic Law) was compatible with democracy. When he said that I asked him, "How can you justify Sharia Law under democracy when you have dhimmitude for Christians and Jews, who are discriminated against?" Dhimmitude is the status that non-Moslems must live under in Moslem dominated lands. Women and religious minorities do not get equal treatment. Jews and Christians are routinely persecuted in the Middle East.
"You're just a propagandist," Araim told me in front of the class. "Jews and Christians are not persecuted in the Middle East," he said, annoyed with me.
"Did I hear you right?" I asked. "You say Jews and Christians are not persecuted in the Middle East? They are forced to pay the jiziya tax , as part of their subjugation."
Araim continued to deny there was persecution of Jews and Christians in the Middle East, even in Saudi Arabia. He explained the jiziya tax as something charged Christians and Jews for protection so they wouldn't have to serve in the army. This is partly true. But rather, the jiziyah tax was just one way to subjugate minorities, while others included not allowing minorities to ride a horse but only donkeys so as not to be too high, never to have a house higher than a Muslim's, even to be subject to murder at the hands of a Muslim without justice or recompense in many instances.
I lost count of the number of times Araim called me a "propagandist" in this course. And some of the students openly said they did not like me. "Why don't you just let him teach the course the way he wants?" they'd ask. I explained to them that if things were being taught that were untrue in an academic setting, that it was my duty to point those untruths out to their benefit as well. Too few understood this at the time. The class had dwindled to only about 14 students.
When Araim spoke about OPEC and the oil industry, about non-political facts, and was dealing with areas of the Middle East far away from Israel, his lectures were passable. But he just couldn't help himself when it came to denigrating Israel and to a lesser degree, the US. He told us terrorist movements like Hamas and Hizbollah weren't terrorist organizations but "liberation" movements, just as my friend said he had heard in class. "International law" was always violated by Israel, but terrorist attacks and suicide bombings merited no mention.
Once he was lecturing about Jordan as a democracy, but claimed it was one hypocritically controlled by the U.S.. He explained how Jordan has restrictions in Democratic elections against trade unions within the country. This was another ellipse. The reason the Jordanians do not give equal status to trade unions in their elections is because most of them, like the Engineers' Union, are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the granddaddy of Al Qaeda and a close ally of Bin Laden in the War on Terrorism. Allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power in Jordan would end any democracy there at all. I pointed this out in class and that the students would not know this, and that to attack America and accuse it of hypocrisy in such circumstances was unfair. I was called a propagandist again.
Araim continued with his little digs at Israel: For example, in discussing the Arab Islamic group Organization of the Islamic Conference, he explained it had been created as the result of "Zionist attempts to burn down the Al Aksa Mosque." He obviously got the quote off the OIC website. But how many students would know that the Al Aksa Mosque was set on fire by an Australian Christian man who was mentally ill, not by "Zionists" (Jews), and that he was arrested and prosecuted by the Israeli authorities? The message was subtle but nevertheless there: Zionists (Jews) attacked an Islamic shrine. Was this ellipse intentional on Araim's part?
Things finally came to head one day in class when Araim was lecturing about Iran. He told the class that Iran was a democracy that had been badly treated by America in the early 1950's. I commented that Iran was not a democracy but an Islamic theocracy and that women were stoned in Iran. Araim grew angry and said they do not stone women in Iran and told me again I was a "propagandist."
"They don't stone women in Iran?" I asked. "Would you like me to bring films into class to show the students that they do?" Araim replied. "You always do this. After the film was shown to the class one student told me he had Noam Chomsky's and Bob Johnson's (he meant Robert Jensen's) email addresses and he wrote them and they denied what you said they said."
I replied, "Would you like me to bring proof what they both say about the US, Israel and 9/11? I can bring it into class."
A few of the students objected to my politely contradicting the instructor. I explained that part of academic freedom and discourse included discussing facts and not being indoctrinated in class with untrue material. "If you are exposed to things that are patently untrue in class to indoctrinate you, such as the idea that the attacks on the 9/11 were justified or America's fault, ideas from the very people who support such things, then you are not getting a balanced education, you are only learning what someone wants you to falsely believe. That's not education."
"They should have attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11!" chimed in one student behind me, obviously the educational product of instructors like Araim, who then continued lecturing on Iran. He mentioned how the CIA in the 1950's had tried to encourage the overthrow of the Mossadegh regime that has been considered democratic. I commented that historically the Iranians were making overtures to Stalinist Russia back then and that the CIA thought it was protecting US security. "Hindsight is 20/20 vision," I said.
Then some of the women in class began to harangue me. "Who are you, anyway? Do you work for the US State Department?" said one. Araim had given the class a rule that any exchanges had to be done through the professor, yet Araim seemed to feel no need to enforce the rule when other students in class became vituperative toward me. When I asked him to enforce his own rule, he ignored it. Finally, I told the woman to mind her own business. On earlier occasions when I disputed something in class Araim told me to leave the class if I did not like it. Now he saw an opening.
"I'm throwing you out of class," he said.
The woman interjected, "Oh no, you don't have to do that." But Araim continued to me, "Leave the classroom."
Had I been a 19-year-old student with little experience I might have been intimidated to leave. But instead I simply said, "No."
Araim was shocked at my response. "I'm not leaving the class. I paid my tuition the same as everyone else and I have a right to be here," I said. Araim said, "Yes, you are. I'm the teacher and I can say you cannot be in the class so leave now."
"No, sir," I replied. "This isn't Iraq. I have rights here as a student to get a balanced education and I don't have to agree with you when you tell students things that are untrue. My rights to academic freedom permit me to question things in class I know to be untrue."
Araim threatened, "Get out of the class or I'll call the police!"
I replied, "So call the police. What are you going to tell them, I didn't agree with what you said in class?"
Araim began to yell then ran out of the classroom on class time to look for the police. After a few minutes he returned and tried to call the police on his cell phone.
I continued, "I'm not in Iraq. And I'm not disrupting this class. Get over it."
Araim put down the phone and continued with the class.
The next day I went to see the Dean in the Sociology department at Diablo Valley College accompanied by my friend who had taken the class earlier. "I bet all the anti-Israel kids in class have told the Dean I was a troublemaker, had disrupted the class," I told my friend.
The faculty offices in the Sociology Department at DVC mostly all had posters that read "End the Occupation in Iraq" put out by Not In Our Name, a Maoist communist group. One even read "Justice, Not Vengeance," an allusion to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
The Dean was a nice enough fellow. I went in and said to him "I understand that Professor Araim wants to remove me from class. I'm here to explain to you I've done nothing wrong and was not disruptive, although I did politely show he was not telling the students in class the truth. He replied, "Some of the students came here this morning and said you were." I advised him I had expected as much from the few anti-Israel advocates in class. It was then that I pulled out my business card to show I was an investigative journalist for Front Page Magazine. "I can assure you I did nothing to disrupt the class, although Araim did by trying to get rid of me for questioning things he told the rest of class. He even left the room disrupting the class beyond any measure of my asking questions."
I suggested he read my articles about indoctrination on college campuses. I was immediately met with a cooperative demeanor when he learned I would be reporting on this class to the public-at-large.
"You have a professor teaching a course that is not truthful and has an agenda against the state of Israel. My understanding is you've known about this professor before due to my friend's experiences in the same class during a previous semester," I said.
I then began to recount a few of Araim's lectures and comments in class:
1.Israel is an apartheid nation (repeatedly, at least once in every class I attended). The Dean at first agreed with this assertion until I showed him it was untrue.
2. Women are not stoned in Iran under Sharia Law, it is propaganda. The Dean admitted he himself knew this was not true.
3.Jews and Christians are not discriminated against in Muslim countries. The Dean again admitted he knew this to be untrue.
4. Hamas and Hizbollah are not terrorist groups but liberation movements.
5. Jordan was not part of the Palestine Mandate.
6. Jewish Zionists prior to 1948 stole land from individual Arabs that was in fact purchased legally.
7. Resolution 242 says all land in the West Bank belongs to the Arabs (it does not say that per its author).
The Dean was shocked when I told him about the student in class who had excused the attacks on 9/11. "This is the result of this kind of instructor, one who feeds them this notion of history as being whatever you want to say it is and thus blaming America and Israel," I said. The Dean did not know what to say and only shook his head.
Also, there was the issue of calling an enrolled student (me) a "propagandist" or liar repeatedly for pointing these issues out in class and threatening me during three earlier sessions when he told me to "get out of class" if I didn't approve of what he was teaching.
I told the Dean we also needed to discuss his use of the film "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land" for reasons I wrote about above. I asked the Dean how Araim came to be hired to teach.
The initial response to this was question was that professors are hired on the basis of their qualifications and experiences. Allegedly, Prof. Araim came to DVC as a part-time instructor with a perspective which is part of his "ethnicity, education and upbringing." While the Dean said I may not agree with his perspective, it is valid from his experience. He urged me to attend the class and to continue to raise questions about the facts for the "contentious history of the Middle East." He hoped that would encourage the class to study the area's history in more detail and come up with their own conclusions. I pointed out to the Dean that he was saying if someone came in who was brought up to believe the Earth was flat, it would be valid to teach that the Earth was flat. What he was talking about was permitting indoctrination and misinformation. If Professor Araim was indeed being honest in his own mind in his teaching, then he was at best incompetent to teach Middle East history.
I rather expected he knew what he was doing. I also asked if this particular professor had been called to the Dean's attention for teaching things that could be documented as untrue and not just personal "opinion" or "perspective," why he was still on the payroll? Why had my friend been given a B grade and told he no longer needed to continue attending class? I also was told Araim was hired by friends in the faculty at DVC who belong to his Interfaith Group, although several attempts to ask the faculty person in charge of hiring him if this was true were ignored.
The Dean and I agreed to meet again at a later date to discuss the issue and possibly to even make a presentation to the students with some more balance.
The following week I was out of town and did not attend class. No doubt Professor Araim thought he had succeeded in removing from the class. He took time aside to tell the class that my friend who had alerted me to his class. Araim further claimed that my friend had called his home and made death threats against him and his family. My friend has engaged a lawyer to sue the University over the accusation.
When I returned to the class the following week, something strange happened. Of the three women in class who particularly did not like me, one waylaid me outside of class. At first I thought she was going to complain about me again, about my disagreements in class with Araim. But instead, she told me she had gone to the library and done her own research. "You were dead on," she said. She agreed that the class was being, at best, lied to regarding the history of Israel and its Jewish population.
Another woman in the class, who sat behind me during the screening of the film, also came forward to admit that for a number of weeks she had called me a certain expletive behind my back. But she, too, began to agree that the course was indoctrinating people with untrue facts. Both of these women went to the Dean of their own accord and complained about Araim's teaching.
The midterm examination came around and we were asked questions about the course content. My experience writing about Middle East issues made the test easy. However, I decided to test Professor Araim's ability to be honest. Professor Araim had claimed in earlier lectures that Jerusalem and Hebron were "Arab" cities when the early Zionists came (in fact, both cities have held Jewish majority populations throughout most of history. Hebron was once the capital of Judea under King David).
One question on the exam was "What is the significance of Jerusalem for religions and prospects of peace?" My answer stated the fact that Jerusalem had been the capitol of the Jews for thousands of years (Every year at Passover Jews end the Seder with the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem."). While Jerusalem also has special religious meaning for Christians, its attribution as Islam's "third holiest site" is actually a political position adopted by the PLO to claim ownership of the entire Holy City. The two mosques built on top of the enormous Temple Mount constitute less than 3 percent of the area there. I commented that while Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in the Old Testament, it is not mentioned once in the Koran (a fact). Araim gave me a B+ on my midterm with the only criticism being that I denied that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran. Having written about this issue before, I knew the only link the PLO has tried to use was a passage in the Koran that describes a dream of Mohammed dressed in peacock feathers on a flying horse going to the masjid al aksa (the farthest temple). Another passage mentions al Quds (the holy), but neither specifically mentions Jerusalem—a point on which even many mullahs and imams agree. Yet the PLO uses these two passages to lay claim to all of Jerusalem, even the Temple Mount. Araim told me I did not get an A because I said Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Koran, yet when I asked him to show me where it says Jerusalem specifically he never showed me, declaring my response "political."
I guess he was teaching from his perspective and "valid experience" rather than simple historical facts. But he failed to explain to me how my perspective, based on what the Koran says and what many Islamic leaders say, is any less valid in such a course.
After another meeting with the Dean concerning Araim's conduct in class, this time with one of the women students as well as my friend, the Dean decided to give me a full hour for my verbal presentation to the class on Israel in order to provide some balance (this is to the Dean's credit I would add). I decided to show the class a brand new film, "The Forgotten Refugees," that used actual Arab newsreel footage and interviews with Jewish refugees inside Israel today. In contrast to the course when my friend took it, where he was required only to make a verbal presentation, I was also required to submit a paper so I submitted articles I had put together in helping my friend while he took the class in the previous semester.
The film showed the class that most Israelis are in fact refugees from Arab persecution in Arab Muslim countries. It even included actual newsreel footage from Iraq when it was a Nazi satellite and conducted pogroms against Jews during and after World War II, information Araim never discussed in giving us the history of his homeland. Newsreel footage even showed Jews hung for entertainment in the center of Baghdad in 1972 (while Araim was employed by Saddam Hussein). Many students later told me they had no idea that Israel was made up of Jews from Arab lands. But when the lights came up, Araim's immediate comment was that the film was "propaganda," despite it containing so much actual Arab newsreel footage.
As I attempted to complete my verbal presentation on Israel, Araim interrupted me several times, using up my speaking time. He did not interrupt any other students as much as he did me. He then announced that he would correct what the class had seen during the next session. He then proceeded to take up more class time speaking against Israel again and taking class time so that some students who came to do their presentations were unable to do them.
However, one good thing happened. The woman who had created a stir in class by asking if I was from the state department asked me for some of my materials about discrimination against women in the Arab world. That must have been the key as she admitted the last week of class that she didn't like me earlier, but now understood what I was trying to drive home to the other students. Women in Israel have equal rights.
At the next session, Araim allowed the remaining students to do their presentations. One young student did his verbal presentation on "Palestine." His presentation was put together with false history obtained from PLO websites. For example, he stated "The Palestinian people have been around for three millennia." While the PLO has made an effort to claim today's Palestinian Arabs are the descendents of the Philistines (since dropped by PLO propaganda ministries who now try to claim they are the Canaanites so as to predate the Jews, another myth), even the PLO constitution defines a Palestinian as any Arab who lived in the Holy Land for two years prior to 1948 (most emigrated to the region the same as Jews in the 1920's, 30's and 40's). Araim made no effort to correct this student's presentation.
I later interviewed this student and discovered he was not an anti-Israel activist. This kid actually did not have an agenda but had put his report together solely on information gained on the Web. When I told him I could provide him documentation that what he reported was untrue, he replied, "You have your propaganda and he (Araim) has his propaganda."
His remark and this class say a lot. There is no truth anymore in academia, just "propaganda" for one side or the other. But what's the use of research then? Is education to become a series of opinions rather than truth arrived at through scholarly research? I know my facts are based on recorded history and arrived at not through my perspective but through scholarly research. How can any democracy survive when those who espouse totalitarianism can always dismiss truth as "propaganda" with the excuse that their personal perspective is all that matters? No wonder this 19-year-old bought the line that the Palestinian Arabs predate the Jews in the Holy Land.
With only an hour remaining of the class, Araim began to give a lecture on the Israeli-Arab conflict from 1948 to the present. It was obvious he felt the need to "correct" my presentation of the following week about persecution of Middle Eastern Jews as part of the nascence of Israel.
He began by saying that Israel did not want peace after 1948 (in fact, the Arab League met in the Sudan and formulated the "three No's policy" for the entire Arab world: no peace, no negotiations, no Israel). In discussing the 1956 Suez conflict that included France and England, Araim suggested that Israel had simply attacked Egypt for no reason and never mentioned the continual border terrorist attacks that Israelis had endured since the birth of Israel only eight years earlier, or the fact that Egypt cut off Israeli shipping on the high seas (an act the UN defines as an Act of War). When I raised my hand to point these things out, he replied, "You'll get a chance to speak when I am finished."
Araim droned on about Israel for nearly an hour and concluded by telling the class that Israel expected to dominate the Middle East from the Nile River to the Euphrates in Iraq! In other words, tiny Israel was seeking to conquer and control the entire Muslim Arab world, not the other way around. Not once during the last fifty-five year history that Araim discussed did he mention Arab terrorism. Araim spoke until the class ended and people began leaving, then he told me I could have my say, but the class had already commenced walking out. This was without a doubt intentional on his part.
Later that week, I met again with the Dean, my friend and another one of the women students who had come around to agreeing with what I had been saying all the long. I told the Dean that Araim could not help himself where Israel was concerned. Truth played no part in his presentations and he was just incapable of being objective when speaking about Israel and even American foreign policy in the Middle East. The other two people with me concurred.
I later learned that Araim and the course Politics of the Middle East 155B had been removed from the class schedule for the next semester although the Dean would not say it was due to complaints about Araim. The Dean also agreed to make an alternative presentation next semester about Israel available to all students in the Political Science Department, although he felt there wasn't enough time to reach all the students subjected to the PLO propaganda film during the second class or in the film course. In addition, Valentine was under a different Dean who, when I contacted her, was very cooperative. However, Valentine insisted any film shown to his classes would have to be "vetted" by him personally. When I asked him if he had vetted "Peace Propaganda and the Promised Land" he stated he had. Needless to say, he became testy when I asked him if he could "vet" a film with so many blatant historical and current falsehoods, how could he "vet" a film that showed them to be untrue? Valentine's film class will be an issue for another day, but comments by some of his students reveal this is not an isolated incident: Valentine is known for his interest in Marxist ideology.
The next week we were given our final exam. I never received my grade from Araim on the final. However, I have no doubt my writing and information was of "A" quality. I discussed water issues, the conflict in the Sahara and everything else in extreme detail on all the questions. I was curious to see if Araim would grade me fairly. The final question concerned what I would do if I was running the US State Department to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I wrote I would require the Palestinian Authority to arrest and jail all terrorists and to disarm terrorist groups, and most important I would start an education program in the United States to stop roiling the conflict by allowing Arab professors from abroad to teach untrue history about Israel in the Middle East.
So what grade did this writer, a cum laude graduate from UCLA, get as his final grade in Politics of the Middle East 155B after receiving a B+ on the midterm and a B+ on his presentation?
I received a D, the first one of my life.
How will I ever live it down?
Lee Kaplan is a contributing editor to Frontpagemag.com.
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