Comparing the images of children killed in the recent Israeli war on Gaza to the Holocaust has opened the gates of hell against sociology professor William I. Robinson, and American Jew, and brought accusations of anti-Semitism.
"That’s like saying if I condemn the US government for the invasion of Iraq, I’m anti-American," Professor Robinson told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday, April 30.
"It’s the most absurd, baseless argument."
In January, Robinson sent an e-mail to 80 of his students including 25 images of Jewish victims of Nazis and similar images taken from Gaza after Israel’s three-week onslaught.
"Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," Robinson wrote in the mail, entitled "parallel images of Nazis and Israelis."
"We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide."
Israel’s three-week war killed more than 1330 Palestinians, mostly women and children, damaged 14,000 homes, destroyed 219 factories and damaged 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals.
Robinson’s mail drew accusations of anti-Semitism from two national Jewish groups and triggered a campus investigation.
"I was shocked," said Rebecca Joseph, one of his Jewish students.
"He overstepped his boundaries as a professor. He has his own freedom of speech, but he doesn’t have the freedom to send his students his own opinion that is so strong."
Robinson, a UC Santa Barbara university professor for nine years, disagrees.
"The whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students uncomfortable."
He has hired an attorney while a hearing was scheduled on May 14.
Despite the controversy, many students and faculty members have voiced support for Robinson.
"I don’t think Bill Robinson’s e-mail is anti-Semitic in any way," Harold Marcuse, a Jewish professor who teaches about Holocaust at UC Santa Barbara, told the LA Times.
"I think criticism of Israel is OK."
Marcuse defended the material of Robinson’s e-mails as appropriate for the campus.
"It’s something I could have used in a course."
Some of the university’s students formed a group, the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB, to defend Robinson and academic freedom.
Another group, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom which represents 100 professors at 20 college campuses, sent letters of support to the Jewish professor.
The group stressed that the accusations leveled against Robinson were aiming to "silence criticism of Israeli policies and practices".
Internationally renowned author and linguistics professor Noam Chomsky added his voice to international scholars demanding the dismissal of "anti-Semitism" charges against Robinson.
"They try to label any criticism as anti-Semitic, but they never respond to the criticism itself, because they can’t."
(IslamOnline.net and newspapers)