The next class was fairly uneventful as Araim discussed the other countries in the Middle East. Araim told us he was in favor of democracy in the region. But somehow America was hypocritical in terms of bringing democracy there. He did not praise Saddam Hussein but somehow could never bring himself to praise America either.
Despite his praise for democracy, he felt Sharia Law should still remain in force. He insisted Sharia Law (Islamic Law) was compatible with democracy. When he said that I asked him, “How can you justify Sharia Law under democracy when you have dhimmitude for Christians and Jews, who are discriminated against?” Dhimmitude is the status that non-Moslems must live under in Moslem dominated lands. Women and religious minorities do not get equal treatment. Jews and Christians are routinely persecuted in the Middle East.
“You’re just a propagandist,” Araim told me in front of the class. “Jews and Christians are not persecuted in the Middle East,” he said, annoyed with me.
“Did I hear you right?” I asked. “You say Jews and Christians are not persecuted in the Middle East? They are forced to pay the jiziya tax , as part of their subjugation.”
Araim continued to deny there was persecution of Jews and Christians in the Middle East, even in Saudi Arabia. He explained the jiziya tax as something charged Christians and Jews for protection so they wouldn’t have to serve in the army. This is partly true. But rather, the jiziyah tax was just one way to subjugate minorities, while others included not allowing minorities to ride a horse but only donkeys so as not to be too high, never to have a house higher than a Muslim’s, even to be subject to murder at the hands of a Muslim without justice or recompense in many instances.
I lost count of the number of times Araim called me a “propagandist” in this course. And some of the students openly said they did not like me. “Why don’t you just let him teach the course the way he wants?” they’d ask. I explained to them that if things were being taught that were untrue in an academic setting, that it was my duty to point those untruths out to their benefit as well. Too few understood this at the time. The class had dwindled to only about 14 students.
When Araim spoke about OPEC and the oil industry, about non-political facts, and was dealing with areas of the Middle East far away from Israel, his lectures were passable. But he just couldn’t help himself when it came to denigrating Israel and to a lesser degree, the US. He told us terrorist movements like Hamas and Hizbollah weren’t terrorist organizations but “liberation” movements, just as my friend said he had heard in class. “International law” was always violated by Israel, but terrorist attacks and suicide bombings merited no mention.
Once he was lecturing about Jordan as a democracy, but claimed it was one hypocritically controlled by the U.S.. He explained how Jordan has restrictions in Democratic elections against trade unions within the country. This was another ellipse. The reason the Jordanians do not give equal status to trade unions in their elections is because most of them, like the Engineers’ Union, are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the granddaddy of Al Qaeda and a close ally of Bin Laden in the War on Terrorism. Allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power in Jordan would end any democracy there at all. I pointed this out in class and that the students would not know this, and that to attack America and accuse it of hypocrisy in such circumstances was unfair. I was called a propagandist again.
Araim continued with his little digs at Israel: For example, in discussing the Arab Islamic group Organization of the Islamic Conference, he explained it had been created as the result of “Zionist attempts to burn down the Al Aksa Mosque.” He obviously got the quote off the OIC website. But how many students would know that the Al Aksa Mosque was set on fire by an Australian Christian man who was mentally ill, not by “Zionists” (Jews), and that he was arrested and prosecuted by the Israeli authorities? The message was subtle but nevertheless there: Zionists (Jews) attacked an Islamic shrine. Was this ellipse intentional on Araim’s part?
Things finally came to head one day in class when Araim was lecturing about Iran. He told the class that Iran was a democracy that had been badly treated by America in the early 1950’s. I commented that Iran was not a democracy but an Islamic theocracy and that women were stoned in Iran. Araim grew angry and said they do not stone women in Iran and told me again I was a “propagandist.”
“They don’t stone women in Iran?” I asked. “Would you like me to bring films into class to show the students that they do?” Araim replied. “You always do this. After the film was shown to the class one student told me he had Noam Chomsky’s and Bob Johnson’s (he meant Robert Jensen’s) email addresses and he wrote them and they denied what you said they said.”
I replied, “Would you like me to bring proof what they both say about the US, Israel and 9/11? I can bring it into class.”
A few of the students objected to my politely contradicting the instructor. I explained that part of academic freedom and discourse included discussing facts and not being indoctrinated in class with untrue material. “If you are exposed to things that are patently untrue in class to indoctrinate you, such as the idea that the attacks on the 9/11 were justified or America’s fault, ideas from the very people who support such things, then you are not getting a balanced education, you are only learning what someone wants you to falsely believe. That’s not education.”
“They should have attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11!” chimed in one student behind me, obviously the educational product of instructors like Araim, who then continued lecturing on Iran. He mentioned how the CIA in the 1950’s had tried to encourage the overthrow of the Mossadegh regime that has been considered democratic. I commented that historically the Iranians were making overtures to Stalinist Russia back then and that the CIA thought it was protecting US security. “Hindsight is 20/20 vision,” I said.
Then some of the women in class began to harangue me. “Who are you, anyway? Do you work for the US State Department?” said one. Araim had given the class a rule that any exchanges had to be done through the professor, yet Araim seemed to feel no need to enforce the rule when other students in class became vituperative toward me. When I asked him to enforce his own rule, he ignored it. Finally, I told the woman to mind her own business. On earlier occasions when I disputed something in class Araim told me to leave the class if I did not like it. Now he saw an opening.
“I’m throwing you out of class,” he said.
The woman interjected, “Oh no, you don’t have to do that.” But Araim continued to me, “Leave the classroom.”
Had I been a 19-year-old student with little experience I might have been intimidated to leave. But instead I simply said, “No.”
Araim was shocked at my response. “I’m not leaving the class. I paid my tuition the same as everyone else and I have a right to be here,” I said. Araim said, “Yes, you are. I’m the teacher and I can say you cannot be in the class so leave now.”
“No, sir,” I replied. “This isn’t Iraq. I have rights here as a student to get a balanced education and I don’t have to agree with you when you tell students things that are untrue. My rights to academic freedom permit me to question things in class I know to be untrue.”
Araim threatened, “Get out of the class or I’ll call the police!”
I replied, “So call the police. What are you going to tell them, I didn’t agree with what you said in class?”
Araim began to yell then ran out of the classroom on class time to look for the police. After a few minutes he returned and tried to call the police on his cell phone.
I continued, “I’m not in Iraq. And I’m not disrupting this class. Get over it.”
Araim put down the phone and continued with the class.
The next day I went to see the Dean in the Sociology department at Diablo Valley College accompanied by my friend who had taken the class earlier. “I bet all the anti-Israel kids in class have told the Dean I was a troublemaker, had disrupted the class,” I told my friend.
The faculty offices in the Sociology Department at DVC mostly all had posters that read “End the Occupation in Iraq” put out by Not In Our Name, a Maoist communist group. One even read “Justice, Not Vengeance,” an allusion to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
The Dean was a nice enough fellow. I went in and said to him “I understand that Professor Araim wants to remove me from class. I’m here to explain to you I’ve done nothing wrong and was not disruptive, although I did politely show he was not telling the students in class the truth. He replied, “Some of the students came here this morning and said you were.” I advised him I had expected as much from the few anti-Israel advocates in class. It was then that I pulled out my business card to show I was an investigative journalist for Front Page Magazine. “I can assure you I did nothing to disrupt the class, although Araim did by trying to get rid of me for questioning things he told the rest of class. He even left the room disrupting the class beyond any measure of my asking questions.”
I suggested he read my articles about indoctrination on college campuses. I was immediately met with a cooperative demeanor when he learned I would be reporting on this class to the public-at-large.
“You have a professor teaching a course that is not truthful and has an agenda against the state of Israel. My understanding is you’ve known about this professor before due to my friend’s experiences in the same class during a previous semester,” I said.
I then began to recount a few of Araim’s lectures and comments in class:
1.Israel is an apartheid nation (repeatedly, at least once in every class I attended). The Dean at first agreed with this assertion until I showed him it was untrue.
2. Women are not stoned in Iran under Sharia Law, it is propaganda. The Dean admitted he himself knew this was not true.
3.Jews and Christians are not discriminated against in Muslim countries. The Dean again admitted he knew this to be untrue.
4. Hamas and Hizbollah are not terrorist groups but liberation movements.
5. Jordan was not part of the Palestine Mandate.
6. Jewish Zionists prior to 1948 stole land from individual Arabs that was in fact purchased legally.
7. Resolution 242 says all land in the West Bank belongs to the Arabs (it does not say that per its author).
The Dean was shocked when I told him about the student in class who had excused the attacks on 9/11. “This is the result of this kind of instructor, one who feeds them this notion of history as being whatever you want to say it is and thus blaming America and Israel,” I said. The Dean did not know what to say and only shook his head.
Also, there was the issue of calling an enrolled student (me) a “propagandist” or liar repeatedly for pointing these issues out in class and threatening me during three earlier sessions when he told me to "get out of class" if I didn’t approve of what he was teaching.
I told the Dean we also needed to discuss his use of the film “Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land” for reasons I wrote about above. I asked the Dean how Araim came to be hired to teach.
The initial response to this was question was that professors are hired on the basis of their qualifications and experiences. Allegedly, Prof. Araim came to DVC as a part-time instructor with a perspective which is part of his “ethnicity, education and upbringing.” While the Dean said I may not agree with his perspective, it is valid from his experience. He urged me to attend the class and to continue to raise questions about the facts for the “contentious history of the Middle East.” He hoped that would encourage the class to study the area’s history in more detail and come up with their own conclusions. I pointed out to the Dean that he was saying if someone came in who was brought up to believe the Earth was flat, it would be valid to teach that the Earth was flat. What he was talking about was permitting indoctrination and misinformation. If Professor Araim was indeed being honest in his own mind in his teaching, then he was at best incompetent to teach Middle East history.
I rather expected he knew what he was doing. I also asked if this particular professor had been called to the Dean’s attention for teaching things that could be documented as untrue and not just personal “opinion” or “perspective,” why he was still on the payroll? Why had my friend been given a B grade and told he no longer needed to continue attending class? I also was told Araim was hired by friends in the faculty at DVC who belong to his Interfaith Group, although several attempts to ask the faculty person in charge of hiring him if this was true were ignored.
The Dean and I agreed to meet again at a later date to discuss the issue and possibly to even make a presentation to the students with some more balance.
The following week I was out of town and did not attend class. No doubt Professor Araim thought he had succeeded in removing from the class. He took time aside to tell the class that my friend who had alerted me to his class. Araim further claimed that my friend had called his home and made death threats against him and his family. My friend has engaged a lawyer to sue the University over the accusation.
When I returned to the class the following week, something strange happened. Of the three women in class who particularly did not like me, one waylaid me outside of class. At first I thought she was going to complain about me again, about my disagreements in class with Araim. But instead, she told me she had gone to the library and done her own research. “You were dead on,” she said. She agreed that the class was being, at best, lied to regarding the history of Israel and its Jewish population.
Another woman in the class, who sat behind me during the screening of the film, also came forward to admit that for a number of weeks she had called me a certain expletive behind my back. But she, too, began to agree that the course was indoctrinating people with untrue facts. Both of these women went to the Dean of their own accord and complained about Araim’s teaching.
The midterm examination came around and we were asked questions about the course content. My experience writing about Middle East issues made the test easy. However, I decided to test Professor Araim’s ability to be honest. Professor Araim had claimed in earlier lectures that Jerusalem and Hebron were “Arab” cities when the early Zionists came (in fact, both cities have held Jewish majority populations throughout most of history. Hebron was once the capital of Judea under King David).
One question on the exam was “What is the significance of Jerusalem for religions and prospects of peace?” My answer stated the fact that Jerusalem had been the capitol of the Jews for thousands of years (Every year at Passover Jews end the Seder with the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem.”). While Jerusalem also has special religious meaning for Christians, its attribution as Islam’s “third holiest site” is actually a political position adopted by the PLO to claim ownership of the entire Holy City. The two mosques built on top of the enormous Temple Mount constitute less than 3 percent of the area there. I commented that while Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in the Old Testament, it is not mentioned once in the Koran (a fact). Araim gave me a B+ on my midterm with the only criticism being that I denied that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran. Having written about this issue before, I knew the only link the PLO has tried to use was a passage in the Koran that describes a dream of Mohammed dressed in peacock feathers on a flying horse going to the masjid al aksa (the farthest temple). Another passage mentions al Quds (the holy), but neither specifically mentions Jerusalem—a point on which even many mullahs and imams agree. Yet the PLO uses these two passages to lay claim to all of Jerusalem, even the Temple Mount. Araim told me I did not get an A because I said Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Koran, yet when I asked him to show me where it says Jerusalem specifically he never showed me, declaring my response “political.”
I guess he was teaching from his perspective and “valid experience” rather than simple historical facts. But he failed to explain to me how my perspective, based on what the Koran says and what many Islamic leaders say, is any less valid in such a course.
After another meeting with the Dean concerning Araim’s conduct in class, this time with one of the women students as well as my friend, the Dean decided to give me a full hour for my verbal presentation to the class on Israel in order to provide some balance (this is to the Dean’s credit I would add). I decided to show the class a brand new film, “The Forgotten Refugees,” that used actual Arab newsreel footage and interviews with Jewish refugees inside Israel today. In contrast to the course when my friend took it, where he was required only to make a verbal presentation, I was also required to submit a paper so I submitted articles I had put together in helping my friend while he took the class in the previous semester.
The film showed the class that most Israelis are in fact refugees from Arab persecution in Arab Muslim countries. It even included actual newsreel footage from Iraq when it was a Nazi satellite and conducted pogroms against Jews during and after World War II, information Araim never discussed in giving us the history of his homeland. Newsreel footage even showed Jews hung for entertainment in the center of Baghdad in 1972 (while Araim was employed by Saddam Hussein). Many students later told me they had no idea that Israel was made up of Jews from Arab lands. But when the lights came up, Araim’s immediate comment was that the film was “propaganda,” despite it containing so much actual Arab newsreel footage.
As I attempted to complete my verbal presentation on Israel, Araim interrupted me several times, using up my speaking time. He did not interrupt any other students as much as he did me. He then announced that he would correct what the class had seen during the next session. He then proceeded to take up more class time speaking against Israel again and taking class time so that some students who came to do their presentations were unable to do them.
However, one good thing happened. The woman who had created a stir in class by asking if I was from the state department asked me for some of my materials about discrimination against women in the Arab world. That must have been the key as she admitted the last week of class that she didn’t like me earlier, but now understood what I was trying to drive home to the other students. Women in Israel have equal rights.
At the next session, Araim allowed the remaining students to do their presentations. One young student did his verbal presentation on “Palestine.” His presentation was put together with false history obtained from PLO websites. For example, he stated “The Palestinian people have been around for three millennia.” While the PLO has made an effort to claim today’s Palestinian Arabs are the descendents of the Philistines (since dropped by PLO propaganda ministries who now try to claim they are the Canaanites so as to predate the Jews, another myth), even the PLO constitution defines a Palestinian as any Arab who lived in the Holy Land for two years prior to 1948 (most emigrated to the region the same as Jews in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s). Araim made no effort to correct this student’s presentation.
I later interviewed this student and discovered he was not an anti-Israel activist. This kid actually did not have an agenda but had put his report together solely on information gained on the Web. When I told him I could provide him documentation that what he reported was untrue, he replied, “You have your propaganda and he (Araim) has his propaganda.”
His remark and this class say a lot. There is no truth anymore in academia, just “propaganda” for one side or the other. But what’s the use of research then? Is education to become a series of opinions rather than truth arrived at through scholarly research? I know my facts are based on recorded history and arrived at not through my perspective but through scholarly research. How can any democracy survive when those who espouse totalitarianism can always dismiss truth as “propaganda” with the excuse that their personal perspective is all that matters? No wonder this 19-year-old bought the line that the Palestinian Arabs predate the Jews in the Holy Land.
With only an hour remaining of the class, Araim began to give a lecture on the Israeli-Arab conflict from 1948 to the present. It was obvious he felt the need to “correct” my presentation of the following week about persecution of Middle Eastern Jews as part of the nascence of Israel.
He began by saying that Israel did not want peace after 1948 (in fact, the Arab League met in the Sudan and formulated the “three No’s policy” for the entire Arab world: no peace, no negotiations, no Israel). In discussing the 1956 Suez conflict that included France and England, Araim suggested that Israel had simply attacked Egypt for no reason and never mentioned the continual border terrorist attacks that Israelis had endured since the birth of Israel only eight years earlier, or the fact that Egypt cut off Israeli shipping on the high seas (an act the UN defines as an Act of War). When I raised my hand to point these things out, he replied, “You’ll get a chance to speak when I am finished.”
Araim droned on about Israel for nearly an hour and concluded by telling the class that Israel expected to dominate the Middle East from the Nile River to the Euphrates in Iraq! In other words, tiny Israel was seeking to conquer and control the entire Muslim Arab world, not the other way around. Not once during the last fifty-five year history that Araim discussed did he mention Arab terrorism. Araim spoke until the class ended and people began leaving, then he told me I could have my say, but the class had already commenced walking out. This was without a doubt intentional on his part.
Later that week, I met again with the Dean, my friend and another one of the women students who had come around to agreeing with what I had been saying all the long. I told the Dean that Araim could not help himself where Israel was concerned. Truth played no part in his presentations and he was just incapable of being objective when speaking about Israel and even American foreign policy in the Middle East. The other two people with me concurred.
I later learned that Araim and the course Politics of the Middle East 155B had been removed from the class schedule for the next semester although the Dean would not say it was due to complaints about Araim. The Dean also agreed to make an alternative presentation next semester about Israel available to all students in the Political Science Department, although he felt there wasn’t enough time to reach all the students subjected to the PLO propaganda film during the second class or in the film course. In addition, Valentine was under a different Dean who, when I contacted her, was very cooperative. However, Valentine insisted any film shown to his classes would have to be “vetted” by him personally. When I asked him if he had vetted “Peace Propaganda and the Promised Land” he stated he had. Needless to say, he became testy when I asked him if he could “vet” a film with so many blatant historical and current falsehoods, how could he “vet” a film that showed them to be untrue? Valentine’s film class will be an issue for another day, but comments by some of his students reveal this is not an isolated incident: Valentine is known for his interest in Marxist ideology.
The next week we were given our final exam. I never received my grade from Araim on the final. However, I have no doubt my writing and information was of “A” quality. I discussed water issues, the conflict in the Sahara and everything else in extreme detail on all the questions. I was curious to see if Araim would grade me fairly. The final question concerned what I would do if I was running the US State Department to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I wrote I would require the Palestinian Authority to arrest and jail all terrorists and to disarm terrorist groups, and most important I would start an education program in the United States to stop roiling the conflict by allowing Arab professors from abroad to teach untrue history about Israel in the Middle East.
So what grade did this writer, a cum laude graduate from UCLA, get as his final grade in Politics of the Middle East 155B after receiving a B+ on the midterm and a B+ on his presentation?
I received a D, the first one of my life.
How will I ever live it down?