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UC-Berkeley halts class that critics say advocates the elimination of Israel

Students will investigate ‘decolonial alternatives’

Less than three hours after it was warned that a “student-taught, credit-bearing course” was promoting the elimination of Israel, the University of California-Berkeley suspended the course.

“Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” is a one-unit, once-a-week course offered through DeCal, or Democratic Education at Cal, a program in which students teach courses to their peers. The course started a week ago Tuesday.

By teaching students the “possibilities of a decolonized Palestine,” the course was advocating that Israel be wiped out, according to a coalition of Jewish and pro-Jewish groups that contacted the office of outgoing Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Tuesday morning.

As part of their message to Dirks, the groups also contacted state legislative leaders with authority over education and the University of California regent who chairs its education policy committee.

Dirks’ office included those same leaders in its response message late Tuesday morning, which said the Palestine course had not gone through the appropriate review process.

Faculty sponsor is a well-known BDS leader

In an email provided to The College Fix by the AMCHA Initiative, a group that fights campus anti-Semitism and led this effort, 43 groups told Dirks that the course violated a UC regents’ policy on “course content.”

That policy prohibits the use of the classroom “as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest” or for “political indoctrination.” Yet it does not appear to be enforced against DeCal courses, as evidenced by DeCal’s own list of policies that student instructors must follow, the groups told Dirks – a situation that “requires rectification.”

MORE: ‘Anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism’ not welcome at UC, regents say

The syllabus says students will learn about “historical developments that have taken place in Palestine … through the lens of settler colonialism,” as well as its connection with Zionism.

They will “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine, one in which justice is realized for all its peoples and equality is not only espoused, but practiced.”

University of California-Berkeley syllabus for “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” by The College Fix on Scribd

What is masked by this jargon is that students are taught to “unquestioningly” view Israel as an “illegitimate settler colonial state,” the groups told Dirks, and to present “decolonial alternatives to the current situation” – code for Israel’s elimination.

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All class reading material appears to have a “blatantly anti-Israel bias” and use language recognized by the U.S. State Department as anti-Semitic. (This spring the UC regents adopted a set of “principles against intolerance” that denounce “anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism” – less stringent than the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.)

The letter said the two guest speakers listed in the syllabus, including the course’s faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, have proposed an academic ban of Israel, and Bazian is a “well-known leader” of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.


Bazian is also known as the co-founder of America’s first accredited Muslim college, California’s Zaytuna, and before that for requiring his UC-Berkeley students to tweet against Islamophobia.

As of Tuesday night, the course page was still live online.

Courses that ‘offer a forum for political organizing’ not allowed

In an email response provided by the AMCHA Initiative, Dirks’ office agreed to suspend the course for further review, as well as to review all future course material for compliance with the UC regents’ policy.

The Palestine course facilitator “did not comply” with the “normal academic review and approval” process even within the DeCal program, the response said.

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“As a result, the proposed course did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny” to ensure it met the school’s academic standards before enrollment.

While Dirks’ office did not say the course as currently structured does not meet UC-Berkeley academic standards, it said that Carla Hesse, executive dean of the College of Letters and Science, is “very concerned” about any course that “appears to offer a forum for political organizing.”

The school reaffirmed its commitment to “fostering and sustaining a campus climate where every individual feels safe, welcome and respected,” claiming that in a recent survey 75 percent of Jewish students reported feeling “safe” on campus.

Dirks’ office also touted the school’s recent creation of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Student Life and Campus Climate, as well as other amenities for Jewish students.

MORE: UC-Berkeley spent $200K on PR for chancellor

“We applaud UC Berkeley’s Chancellor Dirks and his staff for their swift and appropriate response regarding this course,” AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who wrote and coordinated the letter to Dirks, said in a statement.

“Our classrooms should never be used to spew hate or push political propaganda aimed at indoctrinating students,” she said, but “there is still work to be done” so that all courses are reviewed to prohibit such indoctrination.

Neither the administration nor Palestine course facilitator Paul Hadweh responded to Fix requests for comment on Tuesday.

MORE: UC regents slam proposed ‘principles against intolerance’

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About the Author
Peter Van Voorhis -- UC Irvine