Today, American universities are organizing centers of a propaganda campaign to delegitimize the state of Israel. This campaign stigmatizes the Jewish citizens of Israel as racists and occupiers imposing an apartheid system on their Arab neighbors. In one notorious incident in 2009, William Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, sent an email to his students on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, comparing Jews to Nazis and Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. "If Martin Luther King were alive on this day," he wrote, "there is no doubt that he would be condemning the Israeli aggression against Gaza along with U.S. military and political support for Israeli war crimes, or that he would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians."
After receiving this email, two Jewish students dropped Robinson's course and filed a complaint against him for anti-Semitism. Their action was supported by the Anti–Defamation League and other Jewish organizations such as Stand With Us. Robinson, in turn, was defended by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the faculty senate and faculty unions. They claimed that this blatant attempt to indoctrinate his students with Hamas propaganda was a matter of academic freedom.
In fact, the reverse is true. According to the AAUP's own 1915 Declaration on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure: It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students with "ready–made conclusions" on controversial subjects.Hence, "in giving instruction upon controversial matters...he should set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators."
Although the chancellor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Henry Yang, tried to assert these principles, he was thwarted by the coalition of forces that rallied to the defense of the anti–Israel professor. This was an inevitable result given the leftward shift in most academic institutions over the last 30 years. The long–time head of the AAUP's committee on academic freedom, for example, is Joan Wallach Scott, a leader of the divestment movement and one of the principal advocates for convicted terrorist Sami al–Arian as well as for Islamist professor Tariq Ramadan, who until recently was banned from travel in the United States on the grounds that he provided material support to a terrorist organization.
Entire academic fields now are little more than transmission belts for left-wing—and therefore anti–Israel—ideologies. Students in Middle East Studies courses but also in "Global Studies" and "Peace Studies" are routinely assigned anti-Israel and anti-Semitic texts such as The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter. Other books figuring prominently in today's curriculum are by such anti–Israel zealots as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Rashid Khalidi, all supporters of the terrorist, Jew–hating parties Hezbollah and Hamas. Chomsky and Khalidi are tenured professors at prestigious schools (MIT and Columbia, respectively), both widely honored by their academic peers and both fairly representative of the faculty in fields that address the Middle East.
Last year, my colleague Jacob Laksin and I published a study of the curricula at 12 major universities titled One-Party Classroom. We reviewed 150 courses in which the texts assigned to students reflected only one side—invariably the left side—of controversial issues like the Middle East. Absent from required reading were texts by non–leftist scholars and even by liberal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz, if they happened to be pro–Israel. This troubling situation reflects the changes in the university that have made political indoctrination an accepted and integral part of the academic curriculum.
And so, I am planning a campaign for the fall. I am calling it "Adopt a Dissenting Book," with particular emphasis on Middle East Studies. I will be encouraging students on 100 campuses to approach professors in classes where only one side of the controversial issue is being presented with a request to assign a text representing an alternative view. Should their professor refuse, I have asked them to take their request to the chairman of the department, the dean, the president of the college and, if need be, the trustees. This accords with the principles of academic freedom. The AAUP Declaration says in no uncertain terms: "The faculty member is expected to train students to think for themselves, and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently." Unfortunately, the AAUP is no longer the organization it once was. Its current president, Cary Nelson, when apprised of our campaign said, "students are free to make any suggestions they wish to a faculty member," but "any responsible administrator would tell a student that it is the faculty member's responsibility to decide what goes on a syllabus and take no other action on such a request."
This is why our campaign is so necessary. The obligation of teachers enshrined in the AAUP's 1915 declaration is fundamental to the survival of the American idea. Our democracy is based on the proposition that no one person or party has a monopoly on the truth. The mission of teachers in a democracy is to train students in how to think and not to tell them what to think.
David Horowitz is the author of Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for An Academic Bill of Rights and Radical Son among other books.