NEW BRITAIN - Norton Mezvinsky, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, has retired after 42 years at the New Britain university. Born to Orthodox Jewish parents in Iowa, Mezvinsky was well-known as an anti-Zionist. As head of CCSU's Middle East Lecture Series, he brought many anti-Israel speakers to the campus and in 2002 was one of the faculty members who took part in a week-long teaching institute for Connecticut middle and high school teachers on the Middle East.
The institute, which was closed to the public, was called biased by many of the teachers attending.
"One of the things that Mezvinsky said over and over again is that Israel is a terrorist state," said one participant, according to Campus Watch, which monitors anti-Israel activity on school campuses.
Mezvinsky was also one of the speakers at a controversial 2000 CCSU "teach-in" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which many students were required to attend by their professors.
The event's others speakers included CCSU faculty member Ghassan El-Eid, Palestinian activist Mazin Qumsiya, and Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, who offered the event's only pro-Israel perspective. According to the watchdog group Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting (PRIMER) "a captive audience was subjected to 70 minutes of anti-Israel rhetoric, and then 10 minutes of the pro-Israel perspective."
"To be at one institution for 42 years, to teach and gain the respect that Dr. Mezvinsky has earned is very admirable," Fuchs told the Jewish Ledger last week. "At the same time, it is of great concern to me that he has slanted the views of a whole generation of students about the Middle East. I am concerned that he has created a negative atmosphere toward Israel ... To speak of human rights violation without mentioning the horrific, oppressive conditions in many of the dictatorships in the Arab world as far as women and minorities are concerned is very sad and disturbing. I believe Dr. Mezvinsky believes what he teaches. I just don't understand how he is able to present a perspective that is so biased, so one-sided that makes Israel a villian; 22 Arab/Islamic states have had the chance to live out their dreams of statehood and sovereignty. Jews were persecuted and forced out in country after country, yet for some reason Professor Mezvinsky does not [view] the claims of Israel as legitimate."