Tufts University is going to be offering a course this fall called “Colonizing Palestine” that will be taught by a pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) professor and teaches that Israel “illegally occupies Palestine.”
Under Tufts’ Colonial Studies program, the course description for “Colonizing Palestine” states that the class “will explore the history and culture of modern Palestine and the centrality of colonialism in the making of this contested and symbolically potent territory” and will familiarize themselves with the likes of the late professor Edward Said, who once referred to Yasser Arafat as “a much misunderstood and maligned political personality” and poet Suheir Hammad, who wrote in a poem following the 9/11 terror attacks, “if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.”
“Students will address crucial questions relating to this embattled nation, the Israeli state which illegally occupies Palestine, and the broader global forces that impinge on Palestinians and Israelis,” the course description states. “Themes covered include notions of nationalism and national identity, settler-colonialism, gender and sexuality, refugee politics, cultural hybridity, class politics, violence, and memory.”
The professor teaching the course, Thomas Abowd, is an avid supporter of the BDS movement and has accused Israel of implementing “apartheid-like” policies against Palestinians and that Israel supporters use the Old Testament as a “real estate guide.”
Additionally, in a 2015 thread on Tufts’ Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Facebook page, Abowd wrote, “I missed all the ‘so much anti-Semitic hate here’ – sounds quite delusional to me.” The thread he commented on featured comments that accused Israel being “a state built by White Jewish men for White Jewish men” and that Israel engages in “ethno-religious oppression.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt condemned the course in a statement sent to the Journal.
“We support academic freedom but Tufts University must ensure that classes examining the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not one-sided platforms for propaganda that demonize Israel and empower anti-Israel activists,” Greenblatt said. “Political bias is best left out of the classroom.”
In a phone interview with the Journal, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper called the course “indoctrination” said the fact that “a leading American university” is offering such a course is “shocking” and “deeply disturbing.”
“If this is the trend of where this school is going, I wouldn’t give them five cents,” Cooper said.
Tufts Hillel called the “Colonizing Palestine” course “prejudicial and unnecessarily provocative” in a statement sent to the Journal.
“We continue to work actively with university leaders and colleagues across Tufts to create a setting where opposing views on contentious issues can be shared in dignified and constructive dialogue,” Tufts Hillel said.
Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of public relations, said in a statement to The College Fix, “As an institution of higher education, Tufts is committed to the free exchange of ideas. The university’s courses represent a broad spectrum of ideas and topics that enable students to become familiar with a variety of perspectives on important and complex issues facing our global society.”
Collins also pointed to a class called “Negotiation and Mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Past Lessons and Future Opportunities” as an example of a differing perspective of the Israel-Palestinian conflict provided by the university.
When the Fix confronted Abowd on if he would ensure that his class wouldn’t turn into “a one-sided, anti-Israel screed,” Abowd replied, “Do not contact me again or I will call the police.”
Other instances of hostility to Israel on Tufts includes a September 2017 “disorientation” guide created by students that called Israel a “white supremacy state”; in April 2017 the university’s student senate passed a resolution on the day before Passover calling for Tufts to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel.