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Professor's comparison of Israelis to Nazis stirs furor

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  • dorinda moreno
    ... From: Yasmine Fahim Date: Fri, 1 May 2009 04:17:56 -0700 (PDT) Subject: Fw: Professor s comparison of Israelis to Nazis stirs furor Infuriating,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2009
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      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: Yasmine Fahim
      Date: Fri, 1 May 2009 04:17:56 -0700 (PDT)
      Subject: Fw: Professor's comparison of Israelis to Nazis stirs furor

      Infuriating, debilitating. Yas

      Los Angeles Times

      Professor's comparison of Israelis to Nazis stirs furor
      The UC Santa Barbara sociologist, who is Jewish, sent images from the
      Holocaust and from Israel's Gaza offensive to students in his class.
      He has drawn denunciation and support.
      By Duke Helfand
      April 30, 2009
      Controversy has erupted at UC Santa Barbara over a professor's
      decision to send his students an e-mail in which he compared graphic
      images of Jews in the Holocaust to pictures of Palestinians caught up
      in Israel's recent Gaza offensive.

      The e-mail by tenured sociology professor William I. Robinson has
      triggered a campus investigation and drawn accusations of
      anti-Semitism from two national Jewish groups, even as many students
      and faculty members have voiced support for him.
      The uproar began in January when Robinson sent his message -- titled
      "parallel images of Nazis and Israelis" -- to the 80 students in his
      sociology of globalization class.

      The e-mail contained more than two dozen photographs of Jewish victims
      of the Nazis, including those of dead children, juxtaposed with nearly
      identical images from the Gaza Strip. It also included an article
      critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and a note from

      "Gaza is Israel's Warsaw -- a vast concentration camp that confined
      and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a
      slow-motion process of genocide."

      Two Jewish students dropped the class, saying they felt intimidated by
      the professor's message. They contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center,
      which advised them to file formal complaints with the university.

      In their letters, senior Rebecca Joseph and junior Tova Hausman
      accused Robinson of violating the campus' faculty code of conduct by
      disseminating personal, political material unrelated to his course.

      "I was shocked," said Joseph, 22. "He overstepped his boundaries as a
      professor. He has his own freedom of speech, but he doesn't have the
      freedom to send his students his own opinion that is so strong."

      Robinson, 50, who is Jewish, called the accusations and the campus
      investigation an attack on academic freedom. He said his former
      students, the Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League had all
      confused his criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism.

      "That's like saying if I condemn the U.S. government for the invasion
      of Iraq, I'm anti-American," he said. "It's the most absurd, baseless

      Robinson said he regularly sends his students voluntary reading
      material about current events for the global affairs course, and that
      no one raised questions when he subsequently discussed his e-mail.

      "The whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to
      controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students
      uncomfortable," said Robinson, a UC Santa Barbara professor for nine

      As the dispute over his e-mail plays out, UC Santa Barbara has become
      the most recent U.S. university to confront campus unrest over issues
      related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      In recent years, Jewish and Muslim groups have quarreled repeatedly at
      UC Irvine about the Holocaust and Israeli policies toward the
      Palestinians. Professors and students at Columbia University have also
      argued over issues of intimidation and academic freedom amid debates
      on the Mideast.

      In Robinson's case, reaction has been strong -- on both sides.

      Shortly after hearing from the two students in January, the Wiesenthal
      Center produced a YouTube video titled "Jewish Students Under Siege
      from Professor at UC Santa Barbara." The clip shows one of Robinson's
      former students, her face obscured to protect her identity, reading
      from his e-mail.

      The head of the ADL's Santa Barbara region sent Robinson a letter in
      February calling on him to repudiate his statements about Israel. Last
      month, the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman, in a meeting with
      faculty members at the campus, urged the university to conduct an
      investigation into Robinson. He was told that an inquiry was already

      "You can criticize Israel; you can criticize the war in Gaza," Foxman
      said. "But to compare what the Israelis are doing in defense of their
      citizens to what the Nazis did to the Jews is clearly anti-Semitism."

      Robinson's supporters say the professor is being maligned for
      exercising his right to challenge his students to think critically
      about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      Students on campus have formed a group, the Committee to Defend
      Academic Freedom at UCSB, which is chronicling the saga on its

      Letters of support also have arrived from academics across the
      country, including one from California Scholars for Academic Freedom,
      which says it represents 100 professors at 20 college campuses. The
      group argues that the allegations have been raised against Robinson to
      "silence criticism of Israeli policies and practices."

      Some UC Santa Barbara faculty members also are speaking up for
      Robinson. History professor Harold Marcuse, who attended the March
      meeting with the ADL's Foxman, said the pictures e-mailed by Robinson
      were "well within the bounds of appropriateness on campus. It's
      something I could have used in a course."

      Marcuse, who is Jewish and teaches about the Holocaust in his world
      history and German history classes, said he would not have injected
      his own views into such a message to students, but added: "I don't
      think Bill Robinson's e-mail is anti-Semitic in any way. I think
      criticism of Israel is OK."

      One UC Santa Barbara official has already looked into the allegations
      against Robinson, and a faculty committee is being formed to decide
      whether to forward the case to UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang.
      A university spokesman declined to comment on the case.

      Robinson has hired an attorney, and the student committee supporting
      him has scheduled a May 14 campus forum on the matter. Joseph and
      Hausman, the students who filed the original complaints, said they
      plan to attend. So do Hausman's parents from Los Angeles and Rabbi
      Aron Hier, director of campus outreach for the Wiesenthal Center.

      "I just want to bring awareness," said Hausman, 20. "I want people to
      know that educators shouldn't be sending out something that is so


      Dorinda Moreno
      Elders of 4 Colors 4 Directions
      Hitec Aztec Collaborations/FM Global
      We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For!
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