Friday, April 08, 2005

Campaign against Arab professors stumbles with study, April 8, 2005

Charges of anti-Semitism at colleges unfounded
Creators Syndicate April 15, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Much has been written about charges that professors who support Palestinian rights have engaged in anti-Semitism against students who support Israel.

When I was a student at the University of Illinois, we complained that pro-Israel professors constantly discriminated against us because we were Palestinian. No one cared or examined our complaints.

Now the shoe is on the other foot and pro-Israel students complain that pro-Arab professors are discriminating against them.

One case involves Columbia University in New York, home to the late Professor Edward Said. Said was an articulate and brilliant literary genius whose defense of Palestinians defined the war of wars that continues between extremists on both sides of the conflict.

He has been succeeded by former University of Chicago Professor Rashid Khalidi who is an author but not nearly as articulate or charismatic as Said. He is a decent advocate, who like Said, has his own political bend that not all Palestinians support.

But it was the actions of another professor, Joseph Massad, who lecyures at Palestinian events around the country, who drew the most concern. The incident involved his alleged reaction to one of his students who asked if it is true that before striking out at militant Palestinian targets in civilian neighborhoods, Israel issues warnings.

Instead of saying no, that it is not true at all, Massad reportedly exploded in anger and threatened to throw the student out of his classroom. (Massad denied the incident took place.) It is a classic example of why people with short fuses should never be put in charge of classrooms or why it’s wrong to ascribe extremist behavior to all Palestinians or Israelis, for that matter.

Last week, Columbia released its report on allegations by pro-Israel students that professors supporting the Palestinian cause had discriminated against them to the point of being anti-Semitic.

The findings show none of the incidents investigated by a special committee (which included pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli professors) involved anti-Semitism. The charges were false.The report notes the incident involving Massad, but identified another issue not addressed in the complaint regarding pro-Israel students who harassed and disrupted pro-Arab professors.

The report goes into detail about the broader "environment of incivility" on campus with pro-Israel students "disrupting lectures" on Middle Eastern studies and some teachers claimed they were "spied on."

When I was a Circle Campus student, the school newspaper always covered pro-Israeli events and never covered pro-Palestinian events. That prompted me to become a journalist and working for the Illini where my battles over the discrimination with editors was never-ending.

Circle always worked with pro-Israel students to provide funding for their speakers, but rarely approved honorariums for pro-Palestinian speakers. They even routinely refused to give us classrooms to hold our events.

Finally, I remember being in an Arabic language class taught by a Jewish Arab teacher whose final exam asked us to precisely translate three sentences, or face getting a failing grade missing only one.

The sentence that no Palestinian could ever translate let alone utter read, "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."

It was, we felt, a clever way to flunk pro-Palestinian students from the class.

Our complaints to the university went unheard and unanswered. Although today’s pro-Israel students can get someone to care about their complaints, that’s more than we ever got.

American Palestinians and Jews should be permitted to openly discuss the Middle East conflict from their perspectives and without fear of being labeled as racist or anti-Semitic.

Although examples of anti-Arab racism are present in many pro-Israel lectures and events, and examples of anti-Semitism are present in many pro-Palestinian events, the majority of speech at both reflect justified criticism.

In order to achieve Middle East peace, Palestinians and Israelis might have to take a stand and stop the pendulum from swinging in either direction. Rather than censor everyone, we should instead listen to the criticism with open hearts and open minds on both sides.

That is exactly the kind of education that students at American universities and colleges should receive.


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