U.C. Berkeley suspends student-led Palestine course after Jewish outcry

U.C. Berkeley has suspended a student-led course, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” after an outcry from Jewish community leaders who called it biased, anti-Zionist and in violation of the university’s academic standards.

U.C. Berkeley

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 had called upon U.C. President Janet Napolitano and U.C. Berkeley 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. 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,” Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman said in the statement. “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 U.C. 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 stated. The letter called the faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, “a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine.”

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a J. parenting columnist and former staff writer.