"Suspension of Controversial Palestine Class at UC Berkeley Sparks Debate"
--Sam Levin (15 September 2016)
The class, 'Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis', was an (elective) undergraduate
class taught by a student (in the DeCal program) under a faculty member's guidance.
"Hatem Bazian, the faculty sponsor of the course. proposed by undergraduate
Paul Hadweh, said that the class went through standard review procedures
and was approved on multiple occasions before it was abruptly suspended
this week without warning or discussion."
"This was disheartening and insulting and shameful of the university.
They are essentially throwing the student under the bus and responding to political pressure."
--Hatem Bazian (UCB lecturer in Middle Eastern studies and ethnic studies)
Every one of the class's 28 students (including Jews) has signed an open letter
criticizing the class's sudden suspension for violating academic freedom and
demanding the class's reinstatement. Some of UCB's Jewish faculty members
also have called for the class's reinstatement.
"We hold any claims made by the campus administration or by outside
organizations against the course to be blatantly false, especially any claims
or concerns that the course would tolerate only a single or particular view.
We the students collaboratively designed and established community agreements
to ensure that we would engage with course content and each other in a
mature and respectful manner. Any and all participants were welcome to
attend the course, irrespective of background or preconceived perspectives
on the subject matter."
--the students of Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine, a Settler Colonial Analysis
I would make three points. First of all, it's quite legitimate to examine
Palestine (and Zionism) from a 'settler colonial' perspective, and some
Israeli Jewish scholars have done so. Second, I note that none of the
class's 28 diverse students (including Jews) accept the accusations by
outsiders that the class incites anti-Semitism. Third, I regard this incident
as another case in which the USA's dominant pro-Israeli political culture
has clashed with academic freedom (including the right to criticize Israel
or Zionism) and academic freedom (even at fabled UC Berkeley) has lost.
I already know that nearly all Americans seem 'brainwashed' by pro-Israeli propaganda.
Although Israel and its supporters in the USA might have won this battle,
by drawing more attention to the suppression of criticism of Israel in the USA,
they might provoke some Americans to wonder why Israel seems so
frightened to have Zionism critically examined in one undergraduate class.