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Some UC Jewish Studies programs seem to be part of the growing problem of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist bias on UC campuses. Consider the lecture sponsored by the UC Davis [UCD] Jewish Studies Program on October 21, 2011.
The lecturer was University of London professor Gilbert Achcar, author of the controversial book, “The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.” He was introduced by Diane Wolf, current chair of the UCD program, Professor Susan Miller, and founding chair, David Biale. Professor Miller praised Achcar and called his scholarship “courageous.”
Achcar may have been courageous in acknowledging the Holocaust was a uniquely horrifying event directed at Jews and that Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini’s anti-Semitism and collaboration with Hitler were deplorable. But after these observations, he careened into anti-Zionist, anti-Israel charges and distortions. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, he argued that the Mufti’s Jew-hatred had little influence on Palestinian and Arab hostility to Israel. He dismissed evidence about the cross-fertilization of Muslim anti-Semitism and Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism as hyperbole and charged that Israel exploits the Holocaust and exaggerates the Mufti’s influence only for propaganda purposes.
More disturbingly, he has argued that the rise of Zionism in 1920, not prejudice, spawned Arab Jew-hatred, essentially accusing Jews of causing anti-Semitism. Indeed, in his book, he excuses the current popularity of the Czarist anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” in the Arab world, arguing it must be read from an anti-Zionist, not an anti-Semitic, perspective.
Achcar minimized pogroms against and expulsions of Jews in the Arab world after World War II and after Israel’s reestablishment, equating their expulsion with the American internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He repeated anti-Israel clichés, denying Israel’s right to exist and referring to it as a “settler colonial project” built on “Arab land,” accusing Zionists of “ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians,” and downplaying any suggestion of Pan-Arab racism toward the Jewish people.
Despite these tendentious charges, challenging questions were not welcomed during the Q & A.
I was abruptly censored while attempting to establish facts to challenge Mr. Achcar’s skewed conclusion that the Grand Mufti’s anti-Semitism had only a minimal impact on both Jews and Arabs. Professors Miller and Biale angrily told me the questions were insulting and to either stop or leave the room. So much for free speech and scholarly discourse in academia.
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