As my readers will recall, lecturer Ghassan Zakaria, of San Diego State University, gave out a map of the Middle East to his students with the homeland of the Jewish people deleted.
This kind of thing is pernicious because without actually criticizing Israel, Zakaria merely makes the country of our ancestry disappear. This is simply unacceptable. No one who teaches at the university level should be allowed by their department to simply make the Jewish people, or the Jewish State, go poof.
It’s a form of heritage theft and whenever it occurs we need to stand up.
Zakaria teaches the Arabic language and, according to the SDSU Chair of the Department of Linguistics and Asian / Middle Eastern Languages, Professor Ghada Osman, used “Palestine” in place of Israel on the labels of that map to “reflect the view of Arab-speakers in the region.”
I just got off the phone with Nicole Bernstein, the StandWithUs Regional Director for San Diego, and I have to say I am pleased. Nicole pursued this story and was interviewed live by ABC (10 News) correspondent, Cristin Severance.
StandWithUs is an organization, introduced to me by Dr. Michael Harris, that those of us who care about the well-being of the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel can be proud of. They fight strong. They fight smart. And they don’t seem to be ideologically beholden to either the political left or the political right.
Nicole tells me, furthermore, that SDSU has created two scholarships for those who wish to study in Israel and for those who wish to learn more about Jewish history and culture.
This, she says, is a move unprecedented among American universities. In recent years some American universities have turned against the Jewish people, by turning against the Jewish State. Thus Yale University closed its Institute for the study of anti-Semitism (YIISA). This was a very important initiative headed by Professor Charles Small, the director of the program. I, for one, looked to this organization because they highlighted scholars from around the world who concerned themselves with a question that should be of deep concern to all Jewish people.
The University of Pennsylvania, sadly, held a conference at the very beginning of this year to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) the Jews of the Middle East. Columbia University, amazingly enough, hosted Iranian president Ahmadinejad in 2007.
San Diego State University, however, seems to be taking another tack. Instead of caving to anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, SDSU has stood up and said “no” and we should appreciate that fact. It’s important because it represents a bit of a turn in the way that things have been going.
A story like this is important precisely because it gives heart, and it gives hope, to our relationships around the world.
It’s not every university in California that is willing to stand up for the Jewish people in the Middle East and the Jewish people of the Middle East are, in fact, a people under siege.
This story, in my view, represents a hopeful moment and hopeful moments are always more than welcome.
Many thanks to Nicole.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.