UC Berkeley Suspends Class After Observer Op-Ed Labeled It Anti-Israel

Anti-Semitism watchdog groups come together, demanding course be 'overhauled'

BERKELEY, CA - APRIL 17: UC Berkeley students walk through Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus April 17, 2007 in Berkeley, California. Robert Dynes, President of the University of California, said the University of California campuses across the state will reevaluate security and safety policies in the wake of the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead, including the gunman, 23 year-old student Cho Seung-Hui.

UC Berkeley students walk through Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus.

Less than a week after Observer contributor Abraham H. Miller exposed “Cal Berkeley’s Latest Effort to Erase Jewish History From Israel,” the university has “suspended” the class in question, “pending completion of the mandated review and approval process.”

An email sent to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Director the of the anti-Semitism watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, on behalf of UC Berkeley (UCB) chancellor Nicholas Dirks stated:

“The facilitator for the course in question did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the Decal program. As a result, the proposed course did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards before it was opened for enrollment to students.”

Dirks’ representative continued:

“For that reason, approval for the course has been suspended pending completion of the mandated review and approval process. It should also be noted that the Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science is very concerned about the offering of any course, even a student-run course, which espouses a single political viewpoint and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing rather than an opportunity for the kind of open academic inquiry that Berkeley is known for.”

Early this morning, the UCB chancellor received a letter from Rossman-Benjamin, signed by the heads of 43 Jewish, civil rights and education advocacy organizations, stating they were “deeply concerned” about a student-taught, credit-bearing course entitled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” that is currently being offered as one of the academic senate-approved DeCal courses at UC Berkeley this semester.

The letter stated:

“We believe that this course violates the Regents Policy on Course Content, which specifically prohibits using the classroom ‘as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest’ or for ‘political indoctrination.’ Furthermore, it appears that compliance with the Regents Policy is not even a requirement of the present procedure for vetting DeCal courses, allowing for the unbridled misuse of the classroom by politically-motivated instructors. This state of affairs requires rectification.”

In an exclusive statement, Rossman-Benjamin said:

“We respect and applaud Chancellor Dirks and his staff for swiftly rectifying a wrong. An anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic student and faculty member gamed the flawed system to promote their own hateful and political agenda. The classroom should never become a pulpit for propaganda, and it is particularly frightening when we’re dealing with hateful propaganda intended to recruit young soldiers. This same attempt was made and succeeded at UC Riverside last year. We applaud Chancellor Dirks for stopping this abuse in its tracks. However, there is still work to be done. Chancellor Dirks needs to ensure that the vetting process for all new courses includes compliance with the Regents Policy on Course Content, which specifically prohibits the misuse of the classroom for political indoctrination.”

Roz Rothstien, CEO of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, told the Observer:

“We applaud the UC Berkeley Administration for recognizing that this course was designed for political indoctrination, and not open academic inquiry. Approving a class premised on the denial of Jewish history, identity, and rights in their homeland would have been a stain on the university’s reputation as both an academic institution and a force for progress in the world. We look forward to seeing how the UC Regents Principles Against Intolerance and policies against political indoctrination will be implemented at the university this year.”

At the center of the controversy is senior lecturer at UC Berkley in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Hatem Bazian. According to Miller, “Bazian is a street orator whose disgust with America is such that he called for an American Intifada. He is a major supporter of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and a one-time fundraiser for KindHearts, which the US government shut down for its alleged ties to the terrorist organization Hamas.”

A request for comment has been sent to Bazian.

Paul Miller is President and Executive Director of the Haym Salomon Center. Follow @pauliespoint