UC Santa Cruz just does not get it. Last March, several university departments sponsored a "conference" on what was billed as "Alternative Histories of Zionism," but was essentially a political pep rally against Israel and could easily be labeled "Israel Bashing 101"
The university justified the use of public resources citing academic freedom and argued that the university does not need to present balanced programming, but only balance in programming. The balance UCSC seems to provide, at least when it comes to Israel, ranges from the anti-Semitic far left to the naive and well meaning liberals who continue to ignore Islamic fundamentalism as a key to understanding the Middle East.
This fall, the acting chancellor and several colleges are offering yet another course on the Middle East. This one has at least some balance since it has both Arabs and Israelis who are critical of Israel. What is consistent, though, is that this course has a political agenda. The course is designed to promote the misguided notion that Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs are able to live in peace, if we just force Israel to make reasonable concessions.
The choice of speakers includes Hatem Bazian, who besides advocating economic boycotts of Israel and American companies like Starbucks, has also raised money for suspected terrorist groups. He also has written in opposition to a Jewish state in the Middle East. On the Israeli side, the course offers Yossi Beilen, one of the architects of the failed Oslo Appeasement Accords, who is now the leader of a fringe, left-wing party in Israel. No speaker representing mainstream Israeli political thought is scheduled to speak while the "Blame the Jews" group will be well represented.
This course was allegedly developed with the help and urging of community members who were not happy with "the absence of informed and dispassionate discussion of the issues on campus" It is not clear who these community leaders are. I do know that neither Stand With Us [SWU] nor Scholars for Peace in the Middle East [SPME] were consulted. These two groups have brought over a dozen internationally known and respected scholars on the Middle East, including Daniel Pipes, Barry Rubin, Itamar Marcus as well as noted feminist Phyllis Cheslar, Egyptian-American author Nonie Darwish and Israeli-Arab journalist Khalid Abu Tomeh. Yet these two groups were not part of this discussion, since they had a different agenda if you will: to provide intellectual thought to a campus which has chosen to ignore Sept. 11, the Madrid and London bombings and the more than 20,000 terrorist attacks against Israel since 2000.
This UCSC course offers students exposure to a diversity of opinion ranging from those which reject Israel as a Jewish state and support violence to accomplish that end, to others who are still hoping that the 20,000 attacks and thousands of casualties in Israel as well as the global network of Islamic terrorists are just minor details that do not need to be addressed.
It is not the job of the university to promote an ideology and especially to exclude speakers or topics because they are not in keeping with the political views of the faculty. This course could be titled "Alternative Perceptions of Reality: Why Suicide Bombings and Worldwide Terrorism Should Be Ignored"
UCSC will likely continue to distort reality for its students by offering courses intended to promote political and social viewpoints of its faculty and by refusing to offer courses and lectures which they find contrary to their views. Our students deserve a well-rounded education. They are not getting such an education. their opinions and may very well have something to contribute to understanding the Middle East, the university's refusal to bring speakers who have contrary views deprives our students of the information that they need to develop their own opinions and not just to parrot the views of their instructors. What is needed is education and not indoctrination.
While all of the invited speakers to this course are entitled to their opinions and may very well have something to contribute to understanding the Middle East, the university's refusal to bring speakers who have contrary views deprives our students of the information that they need to develop their own opinions and not just to parrot the views of their instructors. What is needed is education and not indoctrination.
In the end, we all will suffer from this neglect of academic integrity, which seems to have taken a long sabbatical at UC Santa Cruz.
Gil Stein is a local attorney and an activist for Stand With Us. For information, visit www.standwithus.com.