University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has bowed to pressure from 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," as the latter argue the course has an "anti-Israel" bias that seeks to study "ways to 'decolonize'—that is, eliminate—Israel,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
“The course has been suspended pending completion of the mandated review and approval process,” according to a campus statement that has expressed concern over a course that offered "a single political viewpoint and appeared to offer a forum for political organizing.”
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.
“Is there a box where you check it off? I don’t think so. But everyone involved in course approval is aware of regents policies—including this one.”
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.
In 2015, a comprehensive report titled "The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US" documented how pro-Palestinian academics have lost their jobs, activists have been suspended from their studies and groups have lost their funding.
In July 2014, for example, the University of Illinois fired Professor Steven Salaita shortly after he signed a contract with the university because he sent out several tweets about the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza strip, which killed more than 500 children.