Some San Diego State University students studying the Arabic language were dismayed when they were handed a map by their professor at the beginning of the semester which labeled the State of Israel as "Palestine."
The pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs tells TheBlaze that the professor, Ghassan Zakaria, distributed the map on the second day his Arabic 101 class met. Students worried that if they complained about the map they could be labeled as "troublemakers" and that their grades could be impacted, StandWithUs said, adding students turned to the organization fo help. The group urged its members to contact the university to complain.
"It is a language class, it's not a class about conflict," a student who asked not to be named told San Diego's KGTV.
Another student said, "Bringing his own bias to the classroom was just not o.k."
"This is not only anti-Israel, it's the elimination of Israel," said Nicole Bernstein who is executive director of StandWithUs-San Diego.
Bernstein says she spoke with the Arabic department chair who explained that the professor handed out the map labeling the territory as "Palestine" in order to reflect the views of Arabic speakers in the Middle East.
Bernstein says the university further told the pro-Israel organization that the professor planned to assign students to research the politics of the region in order to prompt a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli history.
San Diego State University issued the following statement to KGTV last Tuesday: "While SDSU encourages scholarly debate and discussion of varying opinions, presenting inaccurate information to students in not acceptable. SDSU's Provost has conferred with the department chair, who spoke with the faculty member. This inaccurate portrayal will not reoccur."
But the university went even further. Last Wednesday, the professor handed out a new map, this time with Israel's name hand-written on it.
StandWithUs tells TheBlaze that the professor also apologized to the class for the first map.
The group further says that the university has now set up two scholarships in tandem with StandWithUs for the study of Judaism and for study abroad travel to Israel in response to the map controversy.
This is the first time that any university has started a fund in StandWithUs' name included, the group's CEO Roz Rothstein says.
Rothstein called it a "wonderful update" in a letter to the organization's supporters.
"We are especially appreciative and impressed by the university's rapid response to concerns we expressed on behalf of students. We only wish other universities were as responsive to student concerns," she wrote.
Bernstein told TheBlaze via e-mail, "As a global organization, StandWithUs sees these kinds of issues on campuses all over the world – but we have never seen a university jump into action so quickly and so efficiently the way SDSU has – they took this issue very seriously and have done a tremendous job working internally to fix the problem."
"From our perspective – they are a model for all other universities where students encounter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities on campus," Bernstein added.
The U.S. does not recognize a sovereign state of Palestine, as depicted in the original map.