Update 3/14/13: Two more universities in Michigan plan to host anti-Israel programs in the next few days. Naim Ateek, the founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, is scheduled to speak at Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.
In recent years, the number of highly politicized anti-Israel programs that have been sponsored by university departments has increased quite dramatically. To date, 22 anti-Israel events have been sponsored by universities and/or academic departments across the U.S. during the current school year. In the 2011-12 school year, the total was 10; and in the school year before that, it was just five.
The university-sponsored event that has received the most attention was the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) event at Brooklyn College three weeks ago. But other events that are almost as controversial have gotten much less attention. Miko Peled – an Israeli who advocates for BDS campaigns against Israel, calls for a one-state solution and holds Israel culpable for Palestinian terrorism – has been sponsored by academic departments at the University of Southern California and Haverford College in Pennsylvania in recent months. Peled, a draw as an anti-Israel speaker because of his nationality, has also been invited to speak at Central Connecticut State University in two weeks. His presentation there is being sponsored by the International & Area Studies Committee and Peace Studies, two interdisciplinary programs at the university.
In his recently published book, The General’s Son: Journal of an Israeli in Palestine, Peled calls Gaza an “enormous concentration camp,” an inaccurate and offensive effort to cheapen the memory of the Holocaust.
While not all anti-Israel speakers that have been sponsored by academic departments hold views as hostile as Peled’s, many use the opportunity to call for out-and-out anti-Israel advocacy like BDS, which renders the support they receive from academic departments even more reprehensible. Some of these events have drawn controversy in the past, including the “one-state solution” conference at Harvard University last year (which was sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Office of the Provost) and a March 2011 conference at the University of California Hastings College of the Law called “Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights.” Although the title of the conference sounded benign, the conference was actually meant to be a strategy session about ways to bring Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC), issue arrest warrants for Israeli diplomats traveling abroad, and engage in international BDS campaigns.
The approximately two dozen university-sponsored anti-Israel events this school year have also included performances by Remi Kanazi, an anti-Israel poet who is a leader of the BDS movement; a panel discussion featuring only anti-Israel speakers talking about how the “Jewish-American relationship with Israel” is at a “crossroads;” and a screening of a new film called “Roadmap to Apartheid,” which analogizes Palestinian refugees to Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and partially condones terrorism as a “symptom” of the conflict.