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UC Berkeley Suspends Course on Palestine Amid Jewish Groups' Complaints

A syllabus for course says it examines the history of Palestine "through the lens of settler colonialism"

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    The suspension came on the same day 43 Jewish, civil rights and education advocacy groups sent a letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks office raising concerns about the course.

    The University of California at Berkeley has suspended a course amid accusations it shared anti-Semitic viewpoints and was designed to indoctrinate students against Israel.

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports Berkeley suspended "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" on Tuesday. The newspaper reports a syllabus for the one-credit course taught by an undergraduate student says it examines the history of Palestine "through the lens of settler colonialism."

    "The course has been suspended pending completion of the mandated review and approval process," according to a campus statement that expressed concern about a course that "espoused a single political viewpoint and appeared to offer a forum for political organizing."

    The suspension came on the same day 43 Jewish, civil rights and education advocacy groups sent a letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks office raising concerns about the course.

    The letter says the class encourages students to accept the idea "that Israel is an illegitimate settler colonial state" and that course readings have "a blatantly anti-Israel bias."

    Dirks' office told the groups that the course "did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley's academic standards."

    The student teaching the course "did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review," according to the letter.

    Additionally, a spokesman for Dirks said the student did not meet the requirement of showing his course proposal to the dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, Carla Hesse.

    The ethnic studies department, which sponsored the course, however, did give the proposal to the Academic Senate's Committee on Courses and Instruction. The committee evaluated and approved it, said Bob Powell, the Academic Senate chairman, who was not involved in evaluating the course.

    "It met the standards. It looked like a legitimate course," he said, adding that the committee understands it is bound by the regents' policy on course content. "Is there a box where you check it off? I don't think so. But everyone involved in course approval is aware of regents policies — including this one."

    The student teacher did not respond to requests for comment from the Chronicle.

    His faculty adviser, Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the ethnic studies department and founder of the group Students for Justice in Palestine, which urges campuses across the country to boycott and divest from Israel, was also not available for comment.

    The Chronicle reports Berkeley says the suspension is "pending completion of the mandated review and approval process."