The University of Missouri is currently offering an adult education extension class called, “A Window into Palestine,” available to adults over 50-years old. This class has four sessions, and is being co-taught by three teachers – all volunteers, and all members of an anti-Israel organization called, “Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine (MJP).” In other words, MU has essentially recruited an anti-Israel organization to teach an adult education class on “Palestine.” The class description reads, “We have chosen a series of four films whose art illuminates the Palestinian people and their historic homeland – what is now Israel… in marvelously diverse styles, from delicate, good humored satire to elegiac melancholy to shocking abuse and violence… The dispossession of the Palestinian people over the last 70 years is the subtext of all the films.”
One of the teachers, George Smith, is a retired biology Professor who spends most of his free time slandering the State of Israel. MJP and Smith are well known for their virulent anti-Israel activism on campus. In 2015, the school paper, “The MU Maneater,” reported that 36 organizations wrote a letter to the MU Chancellor out of concern for the Jewish student community, which also mentioned MJP and their events by name.
A second letter was sent by 16 organizations solely against George Smith, when, in 2015, he attempted to teach an honors class at MU called, “Perspectives on Zionism.” In response, these 16 organizations sent a letter requesting that the class be cancelled, stating, “We are 16 organizations concerned about bigotry and misinformation about Israel and Jews on American campuses. Therefore, we are deeply disturbed that Professor of Biology George P. Smith is scheduled to teach an Honors Tutorial… We urge you to cancel this course.” Ironically, the class was cancelled to due to lack of enrollment. The letter was completely ignored.
But Smith is staying busy in his retirement, again volunteering at the University of Missouri to “teach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The letter from 36 organizations urged the university to formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, because nearly every single event promoted by Smith has fit that definition of anti-Semitism. For example, the State Department defines calling for the destruction of Israel to be considered anti-semitic. Smith repeatedly calls for the destruction of Israel.
So far, MU has not adopted the State Department definition. In addition, MU ignored the second letter from the 16 organizations requesting that Smith not be allowed to teach a class on Zionism or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead, MU felt that it would be a better idea to give Smith more classes on the subject, and for him to bring in staff from his anti-Israel organization.
Smith loves to explain how he is not an anti-semite, and it appears that MU agrees with him, having now approved two classes for him to teach regarding Jews and Israel. So in order to help the University to see why these decisions are problematic, I have outlined 10 things that Smith has said personally, or that have been said at MJP events, but that apparently weren’t enough to disqualify Smith from teaching on any subject related to Israel.
- In 2011, in the Israeli settlement of Itamar, five members of the same Jewish family were butchered. The father was stabbed, the mother was stabbed and shot, an eleven year-old boy had his throat slit, a four year-old was strangled, and a three month-old infant was decapitated. Smith response to this family being chopped to pieces by Palestinian terrorist, was to publish a letter explaining that the Israelis should, “naturally” expect such consequences when they “oppress” the Palestinians. Smith concluded, “When you oppress people, they naturally resist — sometimes, though rarely in the case of Palestine, with hideous violence.”
- In 2013, MU Christians United For Israel hosted an Israeli eye-witness to the steady rocket attacks coming from Gaza and aimed at Israeli civilian populations. Smith showed up and hand-distributed a flier which stating that these rocket attacks were justified because the average Palestinian has to “go through a checkpoint every time he has to take a sh*t.”
- In 2014, During The Gaza War, Smith helped host a protest against Israel and personally wrote a press release which declared Hamas innocent. Smith wrote, “The crisis was initiated by Israel, not Hamas.”
- In 2014, Smith helped host Professor Saree Makdisi to give a lecture called, “The Everyday Occupation of Palestine.” Makdisi brazenly called for the destruction of Israel and asserted, “all that has to happen is to remove the borders.”
- In 2015, Hen Mazzig, a member of the IDF whose job it was to aid Palestinians, spoke at MU. In a later interview, Mazzig described how he was heckled by Smith, who kept asking, “Why do you kill Palestinians? How many U.N. schools have you attacked?”
- In 2015, Smith gave a lecture called, “Palestine in Context.” The flier for the event showed a famous propaganda image with four false maps. The first fictional map shows “Palestine” in borders, as if it were a country in 1947. I organized a letter to the Chancellor explaining that the maps were complete fiction, “These four fictional maps are not an accident, they are intentionally misleading… The maps show a non-existent country, and then shows the Jewish State destroying this ‘country.’” Smith was shown the letter, but the Chancellor did nothing, and Smith was allowed to use the false maps. At the lecture, Smith proclaimed, “Zionism is doomed.”
- In 2015, Smith and members of MJP helped host an anti-Zionist – Israeli-Canadian journalist named, David Sheen to give a lecture called, “Racism in Israel.” Sheen is well known for comparing Israeli Jews to Nazis. As expected, “The MU Maneater,” reported the event; Sheen, “compared the late Israeli leader Meir Kahane to Adolf Hitler.”
- In 2016, MJP hosted a Lebanese-Palestinian speaker named, Amena Ashkar. In an interview Ashkar explained the purpose of her speaking tour, “I came here to say that Israel has no right to exist.” Smith was interviewed by the local news and he didn’t deny the claim. Instead Smith openly admitted, “What I mean by ‘Israel doesn’t have a right to exist’ is that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist as a specifically Jewish state.” During the event, I asked Ashkar if Israel had the right to exist, which she refused to answer. After I asked my question, a member of MJP, Jalal El-Jayyousi, took the microphone and compared the state of Israel to a rapist and the Palestinians to a rape victim. He said, “You don’t ask a rape victim if she recognizes the rights of her rapist.” El-Jayyousi is also a co-teacher for the class.
- Several days after the event, Ashkar gave a radio interview in which she praised Hezbollah. She and the host discussed the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. The host said, “It is worthwhile pointing out that Israel got their butts kicked by Hezbollah. Is that not true?” Ashkar answered, “Well, yeah, that’s true.” The host responded, “haha, I like to hear that… Al-ḥamdu lillāh (Praise be to God).”
- In 2018, MJP hosted the anti-Israel film, “With God on Our Side.” The film is supposedly a documentary, which tries to claim that Zionists use the Bible to justify stealing Palestinian land. The film is primarily the story of a young American Christian recounting how he realized that Christian Zionism is evil. The films which will be shown in the class are not listed on the course website. Regardless, these type of films are created by activists, not academics, and the description of the course clearly states that the goal of all of the films is to make the case that the Israelis are guilty and the Palestinians are innocent.
Apparently, arguing that the decapitation of a Jewish child is justified, making fun of Jewish victims of terrorism, heckling a Jewish soldier, declaring Hamas innocent, intentionally sharing false maps to trick students, hosting speakers who compare Israeli Jews to Nazis and rapists, as well as a Hezbollah supporter… is not enough to disqualify Smith from teaching a class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And for that reason, MU is implicitly condoning Smith’s statements. The logical conclusion of this approval is that Smith’s actions should not be deemed anti-Semitic. In contrast, all 10 of the above-described actions are defined by the State Department as anti-Semitic. And all of this would be prevented if MU adopted the State Department criteria. Yet, MU refuses.
Appendage: For those interested in hearing the complete story of these anti-Israel events at the University of Missouri, I suggest reading, “Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS.” I contributed one of the essays to this book, which contains roughly twenty essays collected from faculty and students. I believe this is the first time any group has produced such a comprehensive portrait of the war being waged against Israel on campuses. We have also created a Facebook group by the same title as the book, and we hope the group, and the book, will become powerful tools to fight anti-zionism on campuses across the county.
“Anti-Zionism on Campus” can be purchased here.