Berkeley suspends Palestine class midway through semester
The one-credit student-taught class has become the center of a bitter debate. The class was meant to teach the history of Palestine “from the 1880s to the present, through the lens of settler colonialism,” its syllabus once read, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The syllabus has since been removed.
The class was a part of Berkeley’s DeCal program, or Democratic Education at Cal. The premise is not revolutionary; students teach one-credit classes to other students on a pass/fail basis.
Some of these classes offer challenging topics like professional speaking, cryptocurrency and faith-based debates. Other classes are more fun, like ones about Korean drumming, introduction to baking and meditation classes.
However, the class on Palestine’s history was removed after Chancellor Dirks received a letter from 43 Jewish and civil rights groups that claimed the class was acting as political indoctrination that encouraged students “to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it.”
The letter published on Tuesday accused both the student, Paul Hadweh, and the faculty advisor, Hatem Bazian, of having “extreme anti-Zionist political orientation.” Hadweh is a member of the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine, and Bazian is the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).
The letter points out that the class is the only politically motivated DeCal class and claimed that much of the assigned course reading is from authors who have either called for an academic boycott of Israel, called for the dismantling of Israel, or both.
However, the letter did not call for a suspension of the class. Rather, it wanted a stricter policy that would prevent future classes from not meeting requirements from the Regents Policy on Course Content.
The Board of Regents stance on student led courses does ban “misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination.” The problem is that political indoctrination is given no definition, leaving it open ended for potentially any politically charged course to potentially be against its policies.
As a result, Dirks’ office responded by telling the groups that the class “did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards,” according to the Chronicle.
Dirks spokesman claimed that Hadweh “did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review.” He explained that Hadweh’s syllabus had not been seen or approved by the dean of the College of Letters and Sciences.
Suspension of controversial Palestine class at UC Berkeley sparks debate
Critics argued that the course, which studied Palestine ‘through the lens of settler colonialism’, was anti-Israel and antisemitic
The University of California, Berkeley has suspended a course dedicated to studying Palestine “through the lens of settler colonialism”, sparking international debate about academic freedom.
The course at UC Berkeley – entitled Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis – faced intense backlash this week from Jewish organizations, which argued that the class was “anti-Israel and antisemitic” and “intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state”.
After a stream of negative news stories and editorials, the northern California school, considered the top public university in the US, announced that it was suspending the class because it “did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards”.
Israel advocates and antisemitism watchdog groups applauded the decision and called for an overview of the course review process. But pro-Palestine organizations, along with some faculty members at UC Berkeley, have criticized the suspension, arguing that administrators were silencing viewpoints and prioritizing public relations over academic discourse.
The dispute comes at a time of increasing tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine university activists, with Jewish donors and organizations launching coordinated campaigns to counter a growing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) movement across the US.