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In-Classroom Indoctrination at the University of Michigan By: Jacob Benshimon
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The anti-Israel climate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor shot off the charts this past year with the addition of radical anti-Israel Professor Neve Gordon to the Political Science department. Gordon is a tenured lecturer at Israel’s Ben Gurion University and a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. He has made a career out of turning out venomous anti-Israel articles and now has turned his Ann Arbor classroom into an anti-Israel indoctrination camp.

This past fall semester, Prof. Gordon taught the popular "Arab-Israeli Conflict" course. As if the University of Michigan did not have enough outlandish anti-Israel professors who operate major courses at the university. Kathryn Babayan, for example, has been the professor for the 100 level "Peoples of the Middle East" course for almost ten years, a mandatory course for any student majoring in the Near Eastern studies department. Her anti-Semitic antics were spotlighted last fall with a charge of interfering in a police arrest while disrupting a Pro-Israel student group’s event. Michigan has also been the soapbox for outspoken anti-Israel Prof. Juan Cole for over twenty years. Cole’s scholarly status is now much criticized after his 2006 employment rejection from Yale and Duke University was made public.

Prof. Gordon fits in quite well -- and has the resume to prove it. He is a radically anti-Israel political scientist, best known for serving as an apologist for the anti-Semitic ex-professor from DePaul University Norman Finkelstein. Gordon is also a regular columnist on the neo-Stalinist anti-Semitic web magazine Counterpunch and contributor to the web site of the deported Neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel. Last year, acclaimed Prof. Alan Dershowitz wrote about him, "It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli."

Gordon led an international campaign of vilification against his own Israeli army officer, falsely accusing the officer of being a war criminal. As a result of Gordon's campaign, the officer was unable to enter Britain for studies lest he be falsely prosecuted. In 2006, to show solidarity with Arafat against the Israeli army, Gordon illegally snuck into Arafat’s Ramallah compound during an Israeli anti-terror incursion in order to interfere with the apprehension of terrorists. The editor of the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, Ben-Dror Yemini, accused Gordon and his ilk of “spread[ing] their articles dripping with anti-Zionist poison all over the world, some of which appear on anti-Semitic websites.”

Gordon’s playground this fall was Arab-Israeli Conflict course with over 200 students. Twice a week, Gordon had the opportunity to fill the fresh minds of University of Michigan students with skewed history and highly politicized anti-Israel rhetoric. He consistently embarrassed students who dared to question or object to his controversial and sometimes offensive claims.

In a lecture on November 14th, Gordon told the class that he wasn’t interested in giving an unbiased academic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict: “Jeremy asked why I would give a revisionist history. And I give a revisionist history because I think it’s true. What’s said in a textbook is not what it’s about.”

His “revisionist” syllabus included the controversial book by Sandy Tolan The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, in which history is attempted to be told through the story of an Arab man who meets the woman who he claims took over his home after he was "forced out" by Israel.

On November 19th, Gordon was absent from class and screened an appallingly biased film, on which the class was to take notes. “Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land” is a politically charged anti-Israel propaganda film that stars such anti-Israel celebrities as Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Hanan Ashrawi, and Neve Gordon himself.

In a lecture on October 10th, which was supposed to be about the historical Suez Crisis, Gordon purposefully digressed at length to blame Israel for the current crisis with Iran. He explained to the class that Israel gained nuclear weapons as the outcome of a deal with France at the end of the crisis in 1956. He then stepped away from his podium to drive home his message, "You cannot understand what is happening with Iran today if you don't understand what happened with Israel in '56." As this comment was charged with controversial anti-Israel bias, Gordon was delighted to open the class to questions.

When a student, who prefaced his statement with the premise that he was Jewish, challenged Gordon’s ridiculous blame of Israel for Iran’s actions today, Gordon disregarded the Jewish student’s challenge by smirking and stating to the class, “Ben is always trying to bring us back to the present.” It was, in fact, Prof. Gordon who clearly brought the class discussion to that of present times. Gordon then welcomed a question from a student who claimed Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust was “not a big deal.” By first demonizing Israel, then not allowing any student objections to his anti-Israel statements, then welcoming an outright anti-Semitic comment in his lecture hall, Gordon was in no way teaching an unbiased historical course, as one would have expected in an institution of higher learning.

In a lecture on November 5th, Gordon continuously used the term “Jewish roads” to refer to Israeli roads in the West Bank and formerly in the Gaza Strip from which Arabs are excluded. An Israeli student in the large class raised his hand and told Gordon that he was offended by his phraseology and said Gordon was bordering on anti-Semitism by deeming these roads “Jewish roads.” The student described for the class the complete freedom of movement of Israeli Arabs (Arabs with Israeli citizenship) on Israeli roads inside Israel and inside the West Bank. Therefore by calling the roads "Jewish" and not Israeli Gordon was being anti-Semitic. Visibly irritated, Gordon again simply disregarded the challenge to his teaching.

The same Israeli student that challenged Gordon received a terse email after class that same day from Gordon requesting that the student come see him at his office at an appointment two days later. The student arrived at Gordon’s office and was surprised to see his Graduate Student Instructor (who directly grades the student) present as well. The student cordially greeted Gordon in Hebrew but did not receive the same warm greeting in return.

Gordon then proceeded to berate the student for publicly embarrassing and offending him during class. He belittled the student by telling him that he (Gordon) had been teaching for longer than the student had been alive and that he had never been embarrassed and offended like that before. Behind closed doors, intimidated by his professor, and in the presence of the person who decides his grade, the student quickly apologized and hoped the matter was put to rest.

Much to the student’s dismay, in the next lecture, Gordon attempted to clear his name and denounced the student’s challenging questions as unfair and unfounded, while publicly humiliating the student. Gordon’s Graduate Student Instructor further dissected the Israeli student’s challenge in the class discussion sections, and referred to the student by name without his consent.

Along with the history of scare-tactics in order to keep his classroom opposition quiet and disallowing any challenging of his anti-Israel positions, Gordon did not adhere to the tenet of an open environment within the structure of academic freedom. Before speaking in his class, he directed students to state their name. In a large lecture hall, this creates an uncomfortable environment for the students to express their own ideas. Gordon uses the students’ names in order to refute their statements or questions while referring back to each of their arguments. As a result, students were reluctant to speak up in the class.

Gordon did not attempt to hide his personal anti-Israel convictions in his teaching of the Arab-Israeli Conflict course. On December 5th, Gordon discussed options for the future of the conflict. He referred to the conflict not as the Arab-Israeli Conflict but the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, disregarding the role of the region’s Arab states.

When discussing the current political and strategic situation Gordon remarked, “Israel is the occupier, it is in Israel’s hands to change the status quo or not.” When discussing the outcome of changing the status quo, Gordon said, “The other consequence is a continuing apartheid regime, leaving 4 million people without basic political rights.” One student challenged his use of the "apartheid" term in reference to Israel. Gordon again dismissed the question and refused to consider any opinion other than his own, bluntly saying "Those are the questions I am not going to answer."

Gordon once again demonstrated his personal political bias with reference to proclaimed anti-Zionist author Joel Kovel. In response to the debacle over the printing of Kovel’s book Overcoming Zionism, a staunchly pro-Palestinian student group invited Kovel to speak on campus. On the day of the event, November 26th, Gordon wrote an email urging students to attend the event. At the event, one could observe the obviously friendly socializing between Gordon and Kovel, before Kovel began his speech. When politically pro-Israel distinguished Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes visited the campus on October 8th, Gordon did not show the same endorsement for his students to attend.

Gordon continued to show his personal anti-Israel bias outside of the classroom by speaking at an event for Palestine Awareness Week, sponsored by the same group that brought Joel Kovel to the University of Michigan. This semester on February 12, Gordon continued with his vilification of Israel by telling the Palestinian sympathetic audience that “Israel put the Palestinians in ghettos, instituted by one people, and by one frontier, which is thinly instituted which means lawless violence occurs.” As he did in a lecture on December 5th, Gordon again warned that the only solution is a one-state solution or else Israel would continue to be an apartheid state.

It is irresponsible for the University of Michigan to hire Neve Gordon and assume he will teach an unbiased factual course on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict when he guest speaks and exhibits his anti-Israel rhetoric at an event for Palestine Awareness Week.

Prof. Neve Gordon’s first of two semesters at the University of Michigan bolstered the anti-Israel climate already present. His incessant demonizing of Israel using anti-Semitic rhetoric and his suppression of challenges to his ideas presented a skewed course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, unacceptable for an institute of higher learning.

Jacob Benshimon is a University of Michigan senior double majoring in Hebrew and Jewish Culture Studies -- as well as in Middle Eastern North African Studies.

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