I recently became aware of a course scheduled to be taught at the University of California’s Riverside campus. The title of the course is “Palestine and Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid”.
Simply hearing the name made the hackles on the back of my neck stand up, but reading the actual course description and syllabus made me seriously furious.
I wrote to the chancellor (Kim Wilcox) of the university, as well as Janet Napolitano, the UC President, and received a response from James Grant, an Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategic Communications at UCR.
I have copied my correspondence below in the hopes that this will achieve significant distribution, outrage, and a flood of letters to UC officials and beyond.
I find it incomprehensible that, as Mr. Grant stated, a faculty committee determined that this course meets University of California standards. Simply incredible.
PLEASE take the time to write to Wilcox and Napolitano to express your feelings about this course. Feel free to copy and paste whatever parts of the correspondence below might help you, although your own thoughts and words would be best.
Here is the link to the course description on the UC RIverside website (there is a link in the course description to download the syllabus):
The entire chain of my correspondence to date is copied below. I will add more as it becomes available – PLEASE add your voices – this course is an abomination and should be cancelled. Help make it clear to UC Riverside that it is totally unacceptable to present propaganda as fact.
I urge all of you to write. It is incredible to me that a course like this could not only be offered on a University campus, but that it has been reviewed by the university and judged “objective”.
PLEASE flood them with letters!!!!!
Here are the Email addresses of Chancellor Wilcox, President Napolitano, and Assistant Vice-Chancellor Grant:
From: John Poris
Sent: Saturday, April 25, 2015 12:41 PM
To: ‘James E Grant jr’
Cc: ‘email@example.com’; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’; ‘email@example.com’
Subject: RE: Thanks for your e-mail to UC Riverside – “UC Riverside – “Palestine and Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid”
Thank you for your prompt response.
However, I have to take issue with your perception and understanding of the course. The fact that it has been reviewed by a faculty committee in no way lessens the one-sided presentation as laid out in the course description and syllabus.
From the course description (http://rcourses.wix.com/spring2015): “We will be discussing the side of the conflict that you don’t hear on mainstream media. The stories of the Palestinian people and their struggles don’t get mentioned, and this class is made to discuss that.” It also says that “This class was created to hear the stories of the Palestinian people and their struggles that don’t get mentioned”
The learning Objectives state that the participants will “develop an understanding of Palestinian voices” – what about the Israeli voices? Where are they, other than that of Ilan Pappe, Benny Morris, and Neve Gordon, who certainly do not speak for most Israelis – they are pariahs in Israel, yet, in this course, they are presented as rational voices representing Israelis? Why?
It also states that the participants will “develop the skills to communicate their understanding to others”. Wow. My reading of that is “We will turn you into anti-Israel propagandists”.
Were your contention that students will “be exposed to a spectrum of viewpoints on the issues” true, I would expect that the description might mention that perspectives of BOTH Palestinians and Israelis, including those living across the “Green Line” would be discussed.
A cursory reading of the actual syllabus is even worse. I am copying below lists of the topics, readings and films to be presented. I have deliberately separated them into sections to illustrate clearly the incredibly biased intent of the class. I believe it is easier to see in this format.
Note that nowhere in this course syllabus is mentioned ANYTHING about ANY perspective other than that the Palestinians are the victims of colonialism, Apartheid, exile, and complete and utter suppression and oppression.
The course imposes on the students a belief (not based in law or litigation) that everything happening to the Palestinians is a violation of international law, and that Israel is an aggressor, illegal entity.
The list of authors, while it does include a few Israelis, is impressive in its completeness as a list of those who are at the forefront of the BDS movement AND at the forefront of vilifying Israel and indeed, calling for its disappearance. People like Ilan Pappe, while Israeli, are certainly not “objective” nor do they represent more than a tiny fraction of Jewish or Israeli thought. He or any other author in the list is CERTAINLY not an example of a “Prominent Israeli Author”. Nowhere in this one-sided course is the mainstream Israeli perspective presented.
Where are the counterpoints to the arguments presented by SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) and the BDS movement? They simply do not exist in any way, shape, or form in this syllabus, nor are they possible to be presented by the “instructor” OR the faculty advisor, both of whom are extremely active in the anti-Israel movements. On every level, this course appears to be exactly what it is – absolute propaganda meant to indoctrinate students who are not knowledgeable about this issue, and will walk away with an extremely biased view.
Week 1: Introduction to the Palestine
Week 2: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid
Week 3: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid Part 2
Week 4: Refugeehood and Exile
Week 5: Love Under Apartheid and Women’s Resilience
Week 6: Palestinian Youth Movements and Cultural Resilience
Week 7: Palestine and the International Community
Week 8: Oral History Testimonies:
Week 9: Future Possibilities:
Week 10: Review of course material and presentations
Reading: Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, Introduction and Chapter 1
Reading: Uri Ram, “The Colonization Perspective in Israeli Sociology”, in Ilan Pappe, The Israel/Palestine Question, pp. 53-77 [ARES]. Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage, pp. 182-217.
Reading: Saree Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out and Neve Gordon’s Israel’s Occupation
Readings: Lindholm Schultz, The Palestinian Diaspora, Introduction and Chapter 1 and Steven Salaita, introduction to Israel’s Dead Soul, pp. 1-11.
David Grossman, Writing in the Dark ch.1
Reading: Love Under Apartheid Blogs, Al Qaws and Aswat Statements, Lena Meari, Sumud: A Philosophy of Confronting Interrogation.
Readings: Sunaina Maira, Jil Oslo: Palestinian hip hop, Youth Culture and the Youth Movement Introduction,
Reading: Nora Barrows Friedman: In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in Palestine, Introduction and Chapter 1
Reading: Ali Abunimah, One Country, Chapter five and 6.
Reading: Benny Morris, One State, Two States, pp. 161-201
Watch: Occupation 101 [2006, Documentary, 90 mins: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0807956/%5D
Watch Omar [2013, film, 96 minutes: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2852406/%5D
Watch: Sling-Shot Hip Hop [2008, Documentary, 80 mins:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1157718/%5D
Watch: 5 Broken Cameras [2011, Documentary, 94 mins: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125423/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1%5D
Discussion: An introduction to understanding the occupation of Palestine 1948-present; (Land, Water, Displacement)
Discussion: Understanding how settler-colonialism and apartheid function in Palestine, and the particularities of the Palestinian experience. (Occupation, the wall, checkpoints)
Discussion on the novel (Makdisi’s “Palestine Inside Out” and Neve Gordon’s “Israel’s Ocupation”) and what we discussed last week on checkpoints, the wall, and occupation.
Discussion; Guest Speaker to speak about the conditions for Palestinian refugees in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as well as Palestinian Diaspora transnationally.
Discussion: watch Palestinian hip hop video’s DAM and Shadia Mansour, discuss how artistic expression can become an outlet for cultural resilience, survival and resistance
Discussion: The role of the UN, ICC, International Law and International Civil society in the supporting the occupation and supporting the struggle against the occupation.
Discussion: Guest Community Elder to come and discuss the history of the Palestinian struggle and exile, the importance of archiving our histories and Oral history practice.
Discussion: Outlining possibilities for the future of the struggle and Palestinian people. Considering ways in which the international community can play an ethical, responsible and supportive role in allowing the Palestinian people to achieve full self-determination.
Even the title of the course, which so matter-of-factly damns Israel as “settler-colonialist” and “Apartheid” is disgraceful. Accusing Israel of Apartheid is ridiculous in every possible way, yet, the title of the course says it right up front, and you believe the course is somehow balanced? Incredible.
I strongly urge you and the university to subject the syllabus of this course to an objective body, and either cancel the class, or infuse it with some balance. You are doing a grave disservice to your students by allowing this utterly one-sided, biased and ridiculous content to be presented as objective fact, which it most certainly is not.
From: James E Grant jr [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, April 24, 2015 7:22 PM
To: James E Grant jr
Subject: Thanks for your e-mail to UC Riverside
Thank you for your message to our Chancellor.
I’m writing on behalf of the university to say that we appreciate your voicing your opinion on the course.
The course in question, “Palestinian Voices,” is a student led course at UC Riverside.
The syllabus for the course was reviewed by a faculty committee which determined that the course meets University of California standards.
The syllabus contains a wide range of materials, including the writings of prominent Israeli authors, both historians and creative writers, and the students will accordingly be exposed to a spectrum of viewpoints on the issues.
As a leading public research university, UC Riverside is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to the open exchange of ideas that is at the heart of academic discovery and scholarship.
James E. Grant, Jr.
Assistant Vice Chancellor
University of California, Riverside
From: John Poris
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 12:57 PM
To: ‘email@example.com’; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
Subject: UC Riverside – “Palestine and Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid”
Dear Chancellor Wilcox,
I am writing to express my deep concern and, yes, outrage, at the subject course, scheduled to be taught at UC Riverside.
Universities are supposed to educate, not indoctrinate. There is a significant difference between the two.
When people such as Tina Matar, a leader of the “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP), teach a course which cannot be anything but biased against Israel, this is a clear attempt to indoctrinate rather than educate. It is VERY clear that only one view, that of SJP and the BDS movement, will be presented, and it is just as clear that any in-classroom disagreement with that view will not be tolerated, given the past and ongoing treatment by SJP of students who disagree with them.
The fact that the faculty sponsor for this course, David Lloyd, is a sponsor of SJP, a major leader of the BDS movement, and the founder of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural boycott of Israel, only makes it more likely that this course will simply attempt to brainwash the students attending the course.
I am not a lawyer, and cannot comment on California or federal anti-discrimination laws, laws about anti-semitism, or the policies of UC (although I did attend UCSB). But, it seems to me that it is the job of a university professor to, as objectively as possible, present BOTH sides of highly contested issues, and work with students to reach reasonable conclusions, based on actual history and analysis.
Clearly, that is not the case here. This course will present a lopsided, malevolent perspective on a highly complicated issue, presenting opinions (e.g. that Israel is “Apartheid”, that settlements in the West Bank are “illegal under international law”, etc.) that have not been adjudicated and are patently false in some cases, as facts. Students attempting to disagree or argue will simply be shouted down or will fail the course. We see this behavior on an ongoing basis whenever anyone tries to present a view divergent from that of SJP or the BDS movement.
This really is unacceptable, and I hope you will cancel this class. I would hope that, in an ideal world, you would mandate some sort of survey class on the Israeli-Arab conflict, taught by a rotation of professors willing and able to present the various perspectives, facts, history, and issues WITHOUT the extreme partisanship which the subject course will certainly incorporate.