Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I previously discussed the case of Boston College Professor Eve Spangler and her course Social Justice in Israel/Palestine here: Boston College: Course Credit for Anti-Israel Activism. This is a BC course in which college students are indoctrinated in correct thinking on Israel, shipped off to the Middle East where they get a Birthright Unplugged-style tour, and then are expected to return home to engage in anti-Israel political activity.

If you didn't have enough information to get the point of what was happening by reading what was provided in that previous posting, as further evidence I offer into evidence the course syllabus which has been forwarded to me. Here is the Word doc. This course is such a blatant example of simple political indoctrination in the guise of academics that it's almost laughable. Someone at BC should tell the people at Birthright Unplugged to go get their own funding and stop trying to indoctrinate the kids on the back of tuition paying parents. In fact, some tuition paying parents should start saying something.

Take a look at the doc. It's actually worse than I imagined it would be. Far more blatant. Let's cite a few examples:

This seminar is designed to prepare students for a study/immersion trip to Israel/Palestine during winter break. We hope that the curriculum will accomplish three major tasks:

  • The readings will present a variety of descriptive materials about a part of the world that is little known to most Americans. The selection of readings reflects the paradox that Israelis and Palestinians are equally stakeholders in a just peace and that relations between them are highly unequal - the relations of an occupier and the occupied.

Attention: We are here to learn, but we're going to establish the framework right from the start. We know who's to blame, and no dissent will be tolerated in this regard.

  • The class discussions and written assignments will provide an analytic framework to help students ask and answer such basic questions as: what happened to set Israel/Palestine on a collision course? How could this long-standing conflict be transformed to produce a just peace? What would a healthy economy and a healthy state in Israel/Palestine look like? How do religious narratives create models of right living and responsibility toward others in the context of Israel/Palestine?
  • The project that students are asked to design (in the seminar) and to implement (upon their return) should allow students to test their capacity for using their education to do good in the world.

There is a healthy economy in one 'Israel/Palestine' -- it's called the Israeli economy. Of course, I'd make some adjustments to the economy and state, but I somehow don' t think they're the same adjustments that Prof. Spangler would make. Oh, and when you come home, we expect you to put the indoctrination we put you through to work.

...On the trip, the primary form of service is bearing witness - to the sufferings and strengths of occupied communities and the courage and wisdom of dissidents...

Only Arabs are occupied. Only Israelis are 'dissidents.' Get the slant?

...While reading both Palestinians (Karmi, Khalidi, Jawad, Masalha, Said) and Israelis (Rogan and Shlaim, Morris, Kimmerling and Migdal, Segev) narratives, students should be asking themselves: "What happened here?" remembering not only that narratives trump facts, but that these narratives operate within a field of unequal power...

Narratives trump facts?!? Whoa Nellie. With that tendentious reading list I'm not surprised that narratives trump facts. Further slanted presentation of "facts":

A sustained, just peace in Israel/Palestine depends also on the development of a robust economy or economies. To study past and possible future economies in the region, we will be looking at the historic work of Alexander Scholch who documents an industrious and prosperous 19th century Palestine. From there we will look at trajectories of de-development (Roy), labor policy (Farsakh) and business development (Bahour). On the Israeli side, we will consider Friedman's analysis of Israeli capitalism and the alternative views of Klein and Halper, who emphasize the degree to which Israeli capitalism relies on militarism as its engine of growth.

We have all kinds of analysis here: We have the kind that blames Israel and the kind that holds Arabs blameless. Economics? Sure, we have Marxists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Socialists, know, variety... This sort of slanted presentation is the theme, and becomes insidious when you realize how these facts are then to be regurgitated:

...Please be sure to use the reading materials in constructing your answer...

...still others argue that there is no "real" history, only competing narratives, in which power, not truth, determines the outcome. Drawing on our readings and discussion, how does the Israeli-Palestinian history illustrate each of these perspectives? Based on this, how do you now view the uses and abuses of history, using specific examples from our work...

...(1) We have examined three images of the Israeli occupation of Palestine: genocide, apartheid, and sociocide. Which of these organizing concepts, if any, do you find most persuasive and why?...

(2)...Please bear in mind, that your peace plan should reflect Rouhana's ideas (namely that reconciliation requires a sense of history, a sense of justice, and a sense of power) as well as Lederach's (that states, NGOs, and grass roots movements must all be involved and their actions aligned) .
(3) If you were advising the European Union or the Quartet, what would you urge them to do?

Please be sure to draw on the reading materials in constructing your answer...

On and on. See the pattern? We provide the slanted reading material and witnesses, then expect you to give back the expected answers. Garbage in, garbage out. Control the data and you control the range of possible conclusions that can be drawn. Even a curious and independent-minded student is limited by the rules of the game to stay on the path that's been marked out for them. Leave the path on risk of failure.

Students start this thing ignorant by definition, yet they emerge from this so called course of studies worse off than when they started. What's worse, they're then sent off into the world as an army of marching morons, sallying forth to influence policy and inflict their ignorance on the rest of us under the command of one unscrupulous "educator."

This is academic manipulation, fraud and malpractice at its worst. Eve Spangler should go off and recruit for the ISM in her spare time, not abuse her captive student audience to work out her personal demons at university expense.

Update: National Review's Phi Beta Cons picks up the post, and Fred Schwarz notes:

What's a little odd about this class is that the professor, Eve Spangler, is a sociologist whose main area of research is workplace safety. A while ago she started getting interested in anti-Israel activities, and eventually, being an academic, she decided to teach a class about her latest fascination.

It's no surprise Spangler has no academic grounds to be teaching this class, but that's fine as it's clearly not an academic class.

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Boston College SC367: Textbook Indoctrination (and worse than you thought).

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It's an old law, but they're just reminding everyone. I wonder if Eve Spangler will be taking her students to learn about and fight this blatantly racist human rights violation... PA: Death penalty for those who sell land to Jews... Read More

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Boston College SC367? I wonder if any funding comes from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hezzebolah, Fatah, or Hamas?

Israel is not occupying Gaza. No Israelis are living in Gaza. Very few Israelis are living in the West Bank. Remember Israelis have lived in the West Bank for over 45 years.

I hope the course spends time on how the Arabs treat Palestinians and deny rights to them. rights such as citizenship, right to own land, right to work, etc.

BC sucks at football and basketball, now they can teaching to the list.

"Narratives trump facts"?????

What the h*** kind of education is this? This is ridiculous.

I'll bet it isn't cheap either.

Man oh man -

You know a FACTUAL course in modern Middle Eastern and Jewish history - including the decline and destruction of the Ottoman Empire, the Cold War, the Shoah, the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism and the creation of Saudi Arabia, as well as the fate of Middle Eastern Jewry and all the wars against Israel, ought to be a prerequisite for this - otherwise it's outright brainwashing or ignorant children - unreal.

#1 RWG

No Israelis are living in Gaza. Very few Israelis are living in the West Bank. Remember Israelis have lived in the West Bank for over 45 years.
More accurately, Israelis didn't live in the "West Bank," only for some 20 years starting in 1948.

"West Bank" is a neologism coined by the Hashemite regime the Brits imposed on the East Bank after they conquered Judea and Samaria in the 1948, but Jews lived in Judea and Samaria for millennia. (For those who deny the Jewish claim to the land of Israel, the nice thing about calling that part of it the "West Bank" is that it shifts attention away from the historical names. When you use the historical call names you clearly recognizing the Jewish connection to that land.

Martin, I wonder which book by Benny Morris our mistress of agitprop, Prof Ms Spangler, wants her subjects to use. After all, Morris put out a book more recently that reverses much of his earlier argument. He is said to have returned to more traditional views of the Israeli War of Independence of 1947-49. I think that the book is called "1948."

of course Sophia is right. This is outrageous. It reminds of the kinds of agitprop seminars that the American Friends Service Committee used to [still?] put on.

It ought to be stressed that Prof Ms Spangler indicates that she does not want her charges to use any books but the ones that she approves and specifiies. Hardly an academic, marketplace of ideas, freedom of thought approach.

"What would a healthy economy and a healthy state in Israel/Palestine look like?"

Leftist often start by pushing people into a dream world that is better than the present. After that "we" will have to change so that "we" don't block that wonderful dream. It is up to the "others" to do the same for "them". That is not "our" business.

Also it does not matter that dream world ideas do not obey real world rules - that they are doomed to fail. It does not even matter if that had already happened again and again.

It also seems to be irrelevant that the real world is not that bad.
Of cause not!

How could the real world ever compete with a socialist's dream?

There is no check on what professor's teach in the classroom ... rarely is a professor's course material even reviewed by another faculty member or the department. This is the strength and weakness of academic freedom.

Ultimately, it is the university that must be held responsible for the faculty it hires. If you don't like who BC is hiring, make sure that their next public waiver request is held to especially careful scrutiny ... and, of course, don't send your money there.

I assume that "narrative trumps facts" means that people on the ground often ignore the facts for a facile message that leaves out Important Information. I don't think Prof. Spangler condones this, but it's the way most people work. I think if she were a better writer of syllabi she would have been more clear.

I'm a student at BC and was rather annoyed to see an "Israeli Apartheid Week" on campus, organized by Prof. Spangler. But I was very much encouraged that other campus groups were putting up pro-Israel signs and handing out pamphlets stating the case for Israel. They've since gone on and organized another week's worth of event, which provides a much more balanced view of Israel - the Israeli ambassador to the UN visited campus yesterday.I believe Alan Dershowitz is visiting as well.

I am BC student and working with a number of very serious people on campus who are quite concerned about the indoctrinating character of this course and its impact on campus. We are working on addressing the situation WITHIN THE BC COMMUNITY. Please please do not contact the professor or try to tackle the situation yourself from outside the community. If you are a BC alum or have a specific connection to the community and would like to work with us, then by all means get in touch.


#9 Rebecca Clark

If you are a BC alum or have a specific connection to the community and would like to work with us, then by all means get in touch.
One good way to do that would be through the Boston4Israel email list.

Let's call it "Canaan" if we want to be accurate. That is probably it's most ancient name.

I'm a BC student who's taken classes with Spangler, and if one thing is clear it's that "Narratives trump facts" is NOT something she condones, on the contrary. Most Pro-Palestinian arguments are dry, fact-based accounts that assume that Justice and Injustice are absolutes, while Pro-Israelis tend to say that the Jewish "Narrative" needs to be taken into account (the Holocaust, the attachment to the land etc). Moral relativism is not her thing, unlike the PoMo-fascists who defend Israel.

You have a lot to learn.

The universality of Justice, Human Rights etc are worth arguing for, which is the basis of the problem with AI recently (see the Hitchens piece linked above).

The problem with "dry, fact-based" Palestinian ideas about justice and injustice is that they leave out certain facts, for example the way Jewish people were and had been treated in the Middle East including during the Mandate Era and especially during the war after the declaration of partition/Israeli independence; but also during the Shoah.

And, justice and injustice are terms that do vary from age to age. As an example, the purchase of land by Zionist Jews was completely legal and is now viewed as an "injustice" and/or "imperialism," regardless of the fact that classical imperialism takes wealth out of a region or society and the Jews were putting it in. Also, they were nobody's colony - if their migration to Judea was unjust then so is every migration across any borders.

For example in the US and in Europe there are people who are outraged that Asians and Africans and Latin Americans are immigrating. They regard this as "injustice." On the other hand, if these immigrants remain in situ they might die.

So - where is the injustice and who is suffering from it? That's not so cut and dried is it?

This is a problem with narratives that look backward and seek to revise history according to the standards of today. In the first place - cut and dried isn't always so cut and dried, if you look at the big picture.

But in many cases, for example in American history, we can look backwards and regard slavery and the treatment of Native Americans with outrage due to present day sensibilities.

Similarly we can project utopian ideals onto the present day and try to move people toward less unjust or bigoted societies.

Over time, such ideals have ultimately led to the abolishment of slavery. But past a certain point, trying to "fix things" often leads to more reactionary politics and creates more victims that we already have - for example, punishing Israel or destroying Israel or forcing her people to flee would only harm several million people who had nothing to do with life in the 1920's, who weren't even born in 1948.

In any case at no time though was Zionist history anywhere near as cut and dried as, say, American history, even by today's standards.

Violence against Jews was common not only in Europe but in the Middle East. And their desperate situation was real, as were their ideals and their attempts to play by the rules.

Land was sold to them - not stolen; there was indeed Arab cooperation at the League of Nations otherwise the Balfour Declaration would never have come into being, and the UN did in fact vote on Israel's creation.

And, the Arabs did in fact attack. And, the attacks on Israel have not ceased, either in military assaults or in political and religious discourse.

Those are cut and dried facts too.


Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Christian, has accused Israel of perpetrating a "slow and creeping genocide" of the Palestinians.

Is this a dry and fact-based account of history or is it a lie?

And can you name one of these "Po-Mo fascists" to which you refer and prove that in fact, they are a "po-mo fascist" or are you just vamping for your friends in senior seminar?

I hope you have a few years before you graduate, cause when the gravity machine gets turned on after graduation, life gets pretty rough.

To Sophia:
Thanks for you comments; Of course it's difficult and risky to apply today's standards of justice to past situations. The violence that went into the founding of Israel might very well be "ethnic cleansing" by today's standards, but you are right to remark that the historical context needs to be taken into account. Historical relativism can be a slippery slope, but so can stiffly applied moral absolutes. First, perhaps the violence at the heart of the Zionist project is nothing more than the violence that is part and parcel of EVERY national movement when it is fighting for its survival. But then this would also apply to Palestinian violence, right? If we put into parentheses the obvious moral difference between fighting to defend one's homeland and fighting to obtain one, we might just see two nationalism fighting over the same piece of land through all the means at their disposal. So why then is only one side called "terrorist" and "the enemies of civilization" when they learned every one of their tactics from the other side (everything from bombing caf├ęs and buses to highjacking civilian airliners - you name it, the Zionists did it first, the PLO took notes)? The usual answer is that "historical context" needs to be taken into context; but what is this historical context? Jewish suffering, Jewish statelessness, the special place of Eretz Yisrael in Jewish hearts, etc. But wait - that sounds like NARRATIVE! Like American liberals who justify criminal acts because of the race of the person who committed them ("but they suffered so much in the past!"), a special dispensation is made for Jews when they employ terrorist violence because the end, a secure state, is so overwhelmingly worthy given the exceptional nature of the Jewish experience (i.e.,narrative).

to "a reader" #15:
Anyone who justifies terrorist violence based on the "exceptional experience" - ie, the exceptionally compelling narrative - of a given ethnic group is, in my book, a "PoMo fascist"

Utter nonsense.

An inclination toward violence is not at the heart of Zionism. Not now, not 50 years ago, not 100 years ago, not 130 years ago. Absolute rubbish.

The Palestinian Arabs did not learn terrorism from Zionists. Arafat was the father of modern terrorism; he pioneered new techniques. Whether it's bombing buses or hijacking airliners, they were not copying Zionists. If they were, you should have no problem identifying the Zionist precedents.

Jewish terror in pre-state Israel was directed against the feckless British Mandatatory authorities, not the local Arabs, and as in the most famous incident, the King David Hotel bombing, the Brits were given plenty of warning to evacuate the area precisely to avoid loss of life. The aim of Arab terrorism has always been to kill as many as possible.

As Solomon says, you have a lot to learn.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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