UC Berkeley Rescinds Suspension of Controversial ‘Anti-Semitic Anti-Israel’ Course Without Any Change to Syllabus


By Lea Speyer

A controversial “anti-Zionism” class at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) was reinstated on Monday without any substantial changes to the course material, The Algemeiner has learned.

Despite claims by UC Berkeley officials that the syllabus of “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” underwent revision, a close examination of the new syllabus by The Algemeiner reveals only minor changes and that the same anti-Israel literature will be studied as previously listed.

In addition, the language of the course description was modified to remove the admission that the course would be “exploring the possibility of decolonization,” as originally stated. It now says that the program will involve researching “a range of political alternatives” to “achieve justice for all.”

Paul Hadweh, the course facilitator, admitted to anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada that revisions to the syllabus were mere “cosmetic changes” and no adjustments were made to the course material.

“The changes are just clarifications to the course description, its objectives and the final project,” he said.

The decision to overturn the suspension of “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” was announced by Dean of Social Sciences Carla Hesse following a recommendation by the Department of Ethnic Studies.

In a letter sent to Hesse by department chair Shari Huhndorf and obtained by The Algemeiner, Huhndorf wrote:

…The faculty supervisor and I have also worked with the student facilitator to revise the course description and syllabus with the aim of removing any ambiguity about whether the course complies with campus policies. The executive committee reached a unanimous recommendation that the course meets all of these criteria and therefore should be reinstated… I concur with this decision.

Our judgment is that the course subject is consistent with the academic mission of our department. The histories and dynamics of settler colonialism, structural inequality, and social marginalization are central to our teaching and research, and several of our faculty work on these issues in transnational contexts…

In a letter sent to the UC Berkeley community by Hesse and obtained by The Algemeiner, the dean announced that “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” met all academic and policy requirements following revision to its syllabus:

…I write in response to the understandable concerns that have been raised regarding the suspension of… Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis.

On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, I made the decision to suspend [the course] until it could be further reviewed. I did so because it became apparent that neither the Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies, nor I had been made aware formerly of this DeCal [student run] class offering, nor seen the syllabus…

Let me be clear: Deans review, but do not approve the academic content of DeCal courses. I did not request or require any revisions of the content of the course… It is the responsibility of the Dean to insure that our academic programs are consistent with University and campus policies and practices.

…The Student Facilitator, the Chair and the Executive Committee of the Department of Ethnic Studies determined that revisions of the course in light of these concerns were necessary and appropriate. It is my understanding that they have posted a revised version of the course description and syllabus.

I am therefore rescinding my suspension of the course.

As reported by The Algemeiner, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” was decried by a leading campus watchdog group as “a classic example of antisemitic anti-Zionism,” which is likely to contribute to greater hostility toward Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.

The initial decision to suspend the course coincided with the publication of an open letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirk, signed by a coalition of 43 Jewish, civil rights and education advocacy organizations — led by campus watchdog the AMCHA Initiative — expressing concern over the school’s vetting process.

The faculty sponsor of the course, Dr. Hatem Bazian, is a co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and a major supporter of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). Bazian is a former fundraising speaker for the anti-Israel organization KindHearts, which was shut down by the US government in 2006 for its alleged ties to Hamas.

The course facilitator, Hadweh, is a Palestinian student instructor from Bethlehem and an active member of UC Berkeley’s SJP chapter, which, among other things, calls for an end to the “Israeli system of apartheid and discrimination” and “Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In November 2015, Hadweh helped organize an event featuring anti-Zionist poet Remi Kanazi, another supporter of USACBI. In a 2012 Facebook post, Kanazi wrote, “Dear Zionists: You have never ‘defended yourselves.’ You came in, stole land that wasn’t yours & maintained a racist state through massacres and brute force.”

In his promotion of the course on Facebook, Hadweh wrote that he would be taking students on an “in-depth” exploration of “the history and present of Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine.” The post was accompanied by an image featuring infamous anti-Israel maps whose creators have been accused of distorting history.

(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal