The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a subjective discussion in our universities. These academic inconsistencies have posed a significant danger to young minds, as inaccuracies seem to be abundant in our classrooms.
These conscious or unconscious attempts to distort the historical component of the conflict have certainly perpetuated anti-Zionism in some of the US’ most prestigious universities. A large-scale example of the dangers in biased education is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA claims to provide ‘relief’ for millions of Palestinian refugees. A part of this “relief” is the indoctrination of Palestinian children.
What is not apparent on the surface of this seemingly charitable agency is the biased education taught by the agency’s school textbooks and faculty. One of the main reasons the United States pulled funding from UNRWA is because of UNRWA’s skewed education and its role in perpetuating the Palestinian leadership’s rejectionist nature. By brainwashing its students to hate Israel and presenting unfair information, UNRWA does not create an educational environment that allows students in the disputed territories to think freely. UNRWA’s skewed education ultimately prolongs the Israel-Palestinian conflict by making reconciliation more difficult.
On a smaller yet equally important scale, campuses and professors in California have also served to create breeding grounds for anti-Zionism. Unlike the United States’ new policy that addresses UNRWA’s education problem, college campuses in California fail at addressing this biased teaching.
Anti-Semitism on Campus
As a college student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO), my peers and I have experienced bias and inaccurate education regarding Israel and Jews. For example, third-year student Ava reports that her health professor Jenifer O’Brien randomly told her class, completely out of context, “that Jews are not considered a minority.” Ava’s last name has been removed in order to keep her privacy. Professor O’Brien’s statement could not be further from the truth, as the Jewish population accounts for less than 1% of the world population. With anti-Semitism rising in the United States and in Europe, false claims such as this one clearly target Jews unfairly. Furthermore, this professor teaches health – a subject unrelated to Jewish demographics. These types of statements have severe repercussions to an apathetic reader, who may know nothing about the topic and can be easily influenced.
Education ultimately develops deeply rooted ideologies within students’ minds. Once committed to their ideologies, students are easily susceptible to not only spreading them, but are also easily swayed to believe even more skewed ideas. Because a professor has credibility among their students, these students are more likely to blindly believe their professor. The results of one comment can thus create a long chain of ignorant information spreading. Professors that use their professional credibility to perpetuate anti-Semitism ethically abuse their position. Ava voices her concern that students in her class are likely to repeat her teacher’s comment as true, and thus spread this ignorance, which can lead to misunderstandings about Jews.
Last spring, Ava’s fears became a reality when a Cal Poly SLO student posted a horrific comment about an article acknowledging Holocaust Remembrance Day. This student expressed that the Holocaust “is not the world’s worst genocide” and that it is only said to be so because “the holocaust has mostly white Jewish people.” Not only does this comment show the student’s clear ignorance of facts, but this post on social media can be seen by countless people on the internet. These people may or may not be educated on the topic, and thus the chain reaction of ignorant teaching continues. With biased teaching in prominent California universities, we can expect to see more ignorant statements such as this one.
Another consequence of skewed education at Cal Poly SLO occurred last Spring as well. In a list of demands about making the university more diverse, a club of minority students demanded an “increase in ASI funding for ALL cultural clubs, with the exception of organizations that are aligned with Zionist ideologies.” This blatant target against Israel and Jewish clubs on campus is yet another result of false and biased teaching that roots in faculty, advisors, and students themselves. I commend Cal Poly SLO’s administration for rightly dismissing these demands as illegal. Nevertheless, the list of demands stands as an example of anti-Zionist, and consequently anti-Semitic, values being taught in our classrooms. Whether these inaccuracies are conscious or unconscious, they must be addressed on the Cal Poly campus.
Bias Across California
Many other schools in California teach similar inaccurate and biased ideologies. For example, University of California Berkley professor Dr. Bazian influenced students with biased views of Israel to such an extreme that the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into the University. Dr. Bazian’s students are responsible for despicable anti-Semitic acts such as theatrical and physical violence.
Another California professor that must be held accountable is San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) Dr. Abdullhadi. Abdullhadi is the director for the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) club on campus. Recently, Abdullhadi declared that, “Zionists are NOT welcome on this campus.” With her faculty and director position, Abdullhadi pushes for more anti-Zionist events, speakers, and classes. Jewish students on campus reported numerous acts of harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and speech suppression from the anti-Zionists on campus. Abdullhadi continues to work at SFSU and lead AMED, despite over 60 faith-based and higher-education organizations’ countless efforts to hold her accountable.
As a college student in California, I am highly concerned about the impacts of bias and inaccurate teaching has on college students and campuses. This problematic education continues to rise in several colleges in the United States, especially in California. College administrators, faculty, and students must hold professors and textbooks accountable for inaccurate and biased statements. While the United States declared to hold UNRWA liable for falsely educating millions of students, college students must hold campuses liable as well.
Contributed by California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo CAMERA Fellow Nina Krishel.