What do a San Francisco State University professor, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and a Mexican diplomat have in common?
All three of them were recently caught in the cross-fire of "dialogue" over Israeli-Palestinian relations.
For decades, discussion of the problems between Israel and the Palestinian territories has rarely been calm or neutral in any country. A cycle of anger, accusation, recrimination, and escalation seems to be the rule, similar to conflicts in this area of the world.
If a series of recent events, all involving local figures, is any indication, the Bay Area may be in the escalation phase.
First, a 22-year-old undergraduate at UC Berkeley named Paul Hadweh created a student-taught class called "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis." (Berkeley has a storied tradition of classes taught by students with assistance from faculty members.)
Hadweh, a Palestinian American, secured the necessary faculty sponsor and departmental approvals. Student sign-ups for the course were strong — and then Jewish American groups heard about it. In a letter to UC Berkeley administrators, 43 Jewish advocacy groups wrote that they had reviewed the syllabus and believed it "intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it."
The university canceled the class. This action only fanned the outrage flames, as pro-Palestinian groups flocked to Hadweh's side. The university has now reinstated the course, after Hadweh changed its name, but no one is happy.
Nor is anyone happy at San Francisco State University, where the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative pro-Israel group, has been widely denounced for putting up posters that accuse associate professor of ethnic studies Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi of collaborating with terrorists.
"These universities are supporting terrorist propaganda organizations," David Horowitz told the Chronicle.
That's news to San Francisco State, which called the posters vandalism, and it's even news to the university's Hillel, an organization for Jewish students, which called the posters "offensive" and said their message "does nothing to improve the campus climate."
Across the Atlantic, Andrés Roemer, Mexico's former consul general in San Francisco, also found himself on the wrong side of things this week — after speaking up for Israel and its history.
Roemer, the grandson of a Jewish refugee from Austria, lost his post as Mexico's ambassador to UNESCO after he walked out during a vote on an absurd resolution that refused to acknowledged Hebrew names to the holy sites Temple Mount and Western Wall — thereby denying their connection to the Jewish state. Mexico, reflexively pro-Palestinian in recent years, had ordered Roemer to vote for the resolution. Roemer voted with his feet, and one of his deputies delivered the yes vote.
Kudos to Roemer for taking a principled stand. Shame on the Mexican government for firing him, only to then try to play both sides of the issue by announcing it would change its official vote to "abstention."
All three incidents offer sad commentary on the inability of people thousands of miles away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to air their differences without hyperbole, intimidation or retribution.