UC Berkeley suspends student’s course labeled anti-Israel by critics
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UC Berkeley suspends student’s course labeled anti-Israel by critics

UC Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley (Charlie Nguyen/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

SAN FRANCISCO (J. Weekly via JTA) — The University of California, Berkeley, has suspended a student-led course, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” following an outcry from Jewish community leaders who called it biased, anti-Zionist and in violation of the university’s academic standards.

The university made the decision Tuesday after determining that the student facilitator, Paul Hadweh, “did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the DeCal program” for student-led courses, said Dan Mogulof, the school’s assistant vice chancellor.

A day earlier, Berkeley Hillel and its international umbrella group had called on the university’s president, Janet Napolitano, and administrators to condemn the one-credit course in a strongly worded statement.

“Any perusal of the syllabus will show that this is a one-sided course which puts forth a political agenda,” Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman said in the statement. “It does not tell the truth. It ignores history. It ignores facts, such as the inconvenient one that Jews have inhabited Israel for 3,000 years. This course seems to be a matter of political indoctrination in the classroom and is a violation of the newly adopted principles by the U.C. regents on intolerance.”

The course was to be offered as part of the university’s DeCal program in which students propose and teach one-credit courses under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. Other DeCal classes offered this academic year include “Cal Pokeman Academy,” “Art Anatomy” and “Science in Oakland Elementary Schools.”

The course syllabus said it would cover the history of Palestine from the 1880s to the present and “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism.” Students were to be required to attend an event “relating to Palestine” during the semester and make a final presentation proposing a “decolonial alternative” to the region’s problems not restricted to the two-state solution.

Forty-three Jewish and educational organizations signed a letter by the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that monitors anti-Semitism in higher education, addressed to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks expressing deep concern about the course.

“A review of the syllabus … reveals that the course’s objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government’s criteria for anti-Semitism and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish State and take action to eliminate it,” the letter said.

The letter called the faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, “a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine.”

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