Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks, has bowed to pressure from pro-Israel Jewish groups and suspended a course that discusses the history of Palestine since the late 1800s to the present day in the context of “settler colonialism.”
The suspension came amidst accusations that the course has an “anti-Israel” bias that seeks to study “ways to ‘decolonize’, that is – eliminate – Israel,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
According to a campus statement, “The course has been suspended pending completion of the mandated review and approval process,” and concern that it offered “a single political viewpoint and appeared to offer a forum for political organizing.”
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According to the newspaper, 43 Jewish and civil rights groups sent a letter to Dirks complaining that “all the course readings … have a blatantly anti-Israel bias.”
The letter further stated that all course materials and its instructors are one-sided in their view against Israel and were performing “political indoctrination,” which violates the UC Board of Regents’ policy on course content, which prohibits using courses “as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest.”
The Palestine course is among 194 student-taught classes this semester at Berkeley, which are proposed by students and approved by a committee every year.
Within hours of receiving the letter, Dirks issued the statement suspending the course, saying it “did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards.”
The letter called the faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, “a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine.”
However, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Courses and Instruction did evaluate and approve the course, Academic Senate chairman Bob Powell told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The decision to suspend a course, in this case “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” is rarely taken, but censorship of anti-Israel views by university faculty members and students in the United States is well-documented.