A recent survey revealed that most students at the University of California, Berkeley, who are passionate about the "Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories" are ignorant about most everything having to do with the Middle East – and cannot locate the territories on a map.
The study conducted by UC Berkeley professor Ron Hassner – who serves as the Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies – was published Monday and included 230 undergrads who were asked about numerous topics concerning common knowledge of the Middle East.
"[Respondents were asked to rate their sentiments on 18 issues] including U.S.-Iran relations, the civil war in Yemen, drone warfare, etc., on a five-point scale, ranging from 'I'm not that interested' (1 point out of 5) to 'I care deeply' (5 points out of 5)," Hassner explained regarding his survey, according to the Algemeiner. "[Also included was a series of open-ended questions] on history, geography and current affairs."
Politically charged issue embraced by leftist students
When students were sorted into those who had been influenced by the mainstream media and Democratic foreign policy and their leftist rendition of the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was found that they were profoundly more concerned about humanitarian issues in the Palestinian Territories than in other regions in the world where persecution and oppression are rife.
"One hundred of the participating students (43%) expressed the highest rate of interest in Israel's control of Palestinian territories, while simultaneously caring 'far less about other Middle East occupations, such as the Kurdish struggle for independence, the occupation of Western Sahara, or the occupation of Northern Cyprus,' Hassner found, as reported by the Algemeiner. "Of the 100 students who said they 'care deeply' about the Palestinian territories, only 10 also reported the same level of interest in the Sahrawi independence movement in Western Sahara, while only six were equally enthusiastic to learn about all Middle Eastern independence movements."
Despite their politically correct passion about the topic, their actual knowledge about the area was scant.
"I found that a lion's share of students claims to 'care deeply' about the occupation of Palestinian territories, [and] I also discovered that 75% of those students cannot locate those territories on a map and 84% cannot name the decade (let alone the year) in which that occupation began," Hassner wrote in his blog posted in the Times of Israel. "In contrast, students with slightly more moderate levels of interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tend to know more, are more likely to admit gaps in their knowledge and, as a result, are less likely to hold erroneous beliefs, [so] when it comes to studying the Middle East, political passions pose a significant obstacle to learning."
In other words, he argued that the left's take on this controversial issue are predominantly grounded in emotion, while those leaning more to the right have a position grounded more on the facts.
"Twenty-five percent of these [passionate] students placed the Palestinian Territories west of Lebanon – in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea," Hassner wrote. "The class average for this blunder was 14%. For example, like the rest of the class, only 25% of passionate students placed the Palestinian Territories, correctly, south of Lebanon. But students with more moderate levels of enthusiasm provided the correct answer 28% of the time."
Students who had passionate leanings supporting views expressed by the pro-Paliestinian/anti-Israeli Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement – which is promoted on college campuses across America – were eager to push and promote their views – regardless of their lack on knowledge on the topic.
"The most passionate students were also the least likely to leave questions unanswered and 'the most likely to offer a wild guess,' marking them as the most overconfident respondents," the Algemeiner noted. "The same pattern was present in all answers related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Ignorance of the issue and of the region was demonstrated by an overwhelming majority of students who claim or believe that Palestinians are being oppressed and in a humanitarian crisis at the hands of Israel.
"Only 16% of students who 'care deeply' about the Palestinian issue provided the correct decade for the Six Day War, and only 17% were able to guess that the population of Israel was somewhere between 8 and 12 million people," Hassner pointed out. "The others offered guesses ranging from as low as 100,000 persons to as high as 150 million persons."
The professor's takeaway from his study was that passionate opinions on political topics – specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – are often rooted in misinformation and propaganda.
"The survey] does indicate, strongly, that education and moderation go hand in hand." Hassner concluded. "The questions that students answered most accurately involved Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Morocco – all countries for which they expressed moderate but not extreme interest. If misinformation is both a cause and a consequence of political passion, then good teaching is the antidote."
Leftist teachers indoctrinating students?
Earlier this year at UC Berkeley, a number of UC Berkeley faculty members promoted the boycott of Israel on college campuses in an op-ed titled "University of California faculty should have the right to boycott Israel in academia."
It was a response to all 10 UC chancellors opposing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or individual scholars supporting Israel – a position which the 10 voiced last December.
Pro-BDS teachers claimed in their op-ed that "BDS targets state-funded Israeli institutions and Israeli commercial activities – it does not prevent anyone from saying anything or attempt to sanction or thwart individuals for their political positions."
Kenneth Bamberger – the faculty director at the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies – says the UC Berkeley faculty members' contention in their op-ed is "simply untrue."
"Official guidelines from a Palestinian organization associated with the movement say faculty members should refuse to write letters for students seeking to study in Israel," Bamberger asserted in The Daily Californian. "Similar sources say BDS seeks to close down study abroad programs in Israel, [and] we believe that BDS supporters also seek to prevent Israeli scholars, politicians and others from coming to the University of California based solely on their country of origin."
He exposed the true nature of the BDS movement on school campuses, which many have argued promote a virulent anti-Semitic message spurring many hate crimes on campuses from coast to coast ... including swastikas spray-painted on Jewish dorms.
"For years, BDS supporters have disrupted campus events featuring individuals who espouse views they oppose, and they have thus deprived University of California students, faculty and staff of their right to hear alternative viewpoints – BDS supporters have disrupted events at UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Davis." Bamberger added. "The goals of BDS and its supporters' actions therefore do pose a clear and direct threat to academic freedom and – in our view – are also discriminatory."