Pro-Israel Groups Blast ‘Anti-Semitic’ Course at UC Riverside

‘This course isn’t just anti-Semitic, it is a complete waste of time and money’

University of California, Riverside / Wikimedia Commons
April 21, 2015

The University of California (UC) Riverside is under fire for offering students a new course about Israeli "apartheid" that critics describe as anti-Semitic and in violation of school policy prohibiting political indoctrination in the classroom, according to course materials and sources familiar with the situation.

The new course, "Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid," seeks to explore the Israeli-Palestinian issue through the lens of those who accuse the Jewish state of being an occupying force, a view that experts across the spectrum have labeled as inaccurate and anti-Israel in nature.

The course is being taught by Tina Matar, an undergraduate student who is a leader with UC Riverside’s branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Hamas group that has taken aim at Jewish and pro-Israel students at schools across the country as it seeks to promote economic boycotts of the Jewish state.

David Lloyd, a professor of English at UC Riverside, is sponsoring the class. Lloyd is a vocal proponent of the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement and liaises with SJP.

At least 20 national pro-Israel organizations are petitioning UC Riverside’s leadership to cancel the course due to what they say is anti-Semitic bias.

"While the website description of ‘Palestinian Voices’ already makes clear that the course will focus on only one side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the full extent of the course’s anti-Israel bias, and its clear intent to politically indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action against it, are only made apparent in the course’s downloadable syllabus," the organizations wrote in a letter sent to university official late last week.

The groups—among them the AMCHA Initiative, Christians United for Israel, the Californian Association of Scholars, the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center—are lobbying the school to cancel the course.

However, UC Riverside officials told the Washington Free Beacon that they see no issue with the one-credit course and that it had received proper vetting before being offered.

"The course ‘Palestinian Voices’ was reviewed by a faculty committee here and that committee decided that it did meet UC standards," a university spokesman told the Free Beacon via email. "This series is a student led course," one of several offered by the school.

The spokesperson added that the school believes the apartheid course abides by university policy governing academic freedom.

Pro-Israel leaders disagree. They maintain that a deeper dive into the course’s syllabus reveals a bias against Israel and course materials that are anti-Semitic in nature.

"I’m not sure what’s worse, having a college course taught by an undergraduate student or having a course syllabus that reads like the Facebook page of a skinhead teenager," said David Brog, executive director of CUFI, one of the organizations opposing the course.

"This course isn’t just anti-Semitic, it is a complete waste of time and money," Brog said. "If [University head] Janet Napolitano wants to preserve a shred of respect for the once august UC system she runs, she must demand that her instructors at least pretend to promote facts over propaganda."

In their letter to the university, the groups accuse the course leaders Matar and Lloyd of attempting to conceal the seminar’s anti-Israel bias.

"According to the syllabus, the title of the course is not ‘Palestinian Voices,’ but rather ‘Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid,’" they write. "Not only does the course’s actual title reveal the student instructor’s unambiguous anti-Israel bias, it includes a patently false canard about Israel frequently used to delegitimize the Jewish state, language which meets the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism."

"Perhaps even more troubling, however, is the fact that there was a clear attempt to obfuscate the extreme anti-Israel bias of the course by re-titling it for the [school’s] web page and including a graphic of Israeli and Palestinian flags that falsely suggests a modicum of even-handedness about the conflict which is sorely lacking from the syllabus and, presumably, from the course itself," they add.

Matar and Lloyd, both SJP activists, reportedly had several conversations about forming such a course, according to a copy of the syllabus.

The reading list includes works by Edward Said, a leading anti-Zionist voice in the United States prior to his death in 2003, and Ali Abunimah, founder of the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada website.

"The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel’s supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state; these tropes are all considered anti-Semitic according to the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism," the organizations write in their letter to the school.

Lloyd did not respond to an email seeking comment. An email to UC Riverside’s branch of SJP, which lists Matar as its primary contact, was not returned by press time.