Below you can find the original course material at issue in this case. Professor Robinson circulated the following information on the class listserv for students to consider in conjunction with other course materials. The email contained three main portions: 1) Prof. William I. Robinson’s words regarding Israeli military aggression in Gaza, 2) an article written by a journalist expressing condemnation for the same aggression, and 3) a series of juxtaposed pairs of pictures, one column documenting Nazi violence against Jews during the Holocaust and the second documenting Israeli violence against Palestinians.
Prof. Robinson did not generate the pictures at issue. The pictures and the political questions they pose were already part of the the public debate that was underway. They were indeed real photos from real world global events. It is not the photos that are shocking but the real world events that are shocking, the study of which is integral to the mission of the university.
What’s more, the Anti-Defamation League and student complaints, along with the charges put forward by the Charging Officer, contend that an email about Israel’s recent war on Gaza was not appropriate for the course. According to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s 2008-9 General Catalog: Sociology 130SG: Sociology of Globalization is an “Introduction to the sociological study of globalization. Survey of principal theories and debates in globalization studies, with a focus on economic, political, and cultural transnational processes, gender/race/class and globalization, transnational social movements, and local-global linkages (our emphasis).” Needless to say, WAR is a political transnational process.
The crucial issue here is ACADEMIC FREEDOM. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)’s statement on academic freedom in the classroom: “If an instructor cannot stimulate discussion and encourage critical thought by drawing analogies or parallels the vigor and vibrancy of classroom discussion will be stultified”, and “Ideas that are germane to a subject under discussion in a classroom cannot be censored because a student with particular religious or political beliefs might be offended”. Click here for AAUP’s “Freedom in the Classroom (2007)”. Also click here for AAUP’s “Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications (2004)”
*The comparison between Israel’s policies towards Gaza and policies of the Nazi-German state towards Warsaw is not uncommon.*
On January 7, 2009, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, told reporters: “Defenseless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.” Click here for the full Rueters story.
Also, the most recent May/June 2009 magazine issue of ADBUSTERS– an extremely popular ‘culture jammer’ magazine found in news stands and bookstores everywhere–used the Gaza/Warsaw comparison with visuals to describe the recent brutality of the Israeli state against Palestinians. Click here for a look at the ADBUSTERS piece.
In 2003, two British MPs visited Gaza and employed the historical analogy. As Legislator Oona King (herself Jewish) told the press after her visit: Although Palestinians are not being rounded up in gas chambers, “what makes it similar is what happened to the Jewish people in that time which was the seizing of land, being forced from property, torture and bureaucracy – control used in a demeaning way over the smallest task.” Click here for the full AP article published in Haaretz.
Moreover, Israeli senior officials themselves use references to a “shoah” (Hebrew word for big disaster–and for the Nazi Holocaust) and a “Warsaw Ghetto” to describe military relations with Palestinians. During the recent war on Gaza earlier this year, Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai said Palestinians risked a “shoah” if they did not stop rocket fire. Click here for the full BBC news story, and click here for the full Rueters news story. On January 25, 2002, just three months before the Israeli Defense Forces got license to invade the West Bank, Amir Oren, a senior military commentator for Haaretz, quoted a senior officer:
“In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the territories said not long ago that it is justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission is to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the kasbah in Nablus, and if the commander’s obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then he must first analyse and internalise the lessons of earlier battles – even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German Army fought in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The officer indeed succeeded in shocking others, not least because he is not alone in taking this approach. Many of his comrades agree that in order to save Israelis now, it is right to make use of knowledge that originated in that terrible war, whose victims were their kin. The Warsaw ghetto serves them only as an extreme example, not linked to the strategic dialogue that the defense establishments of Israel and Germany will hold next month (our emphasis).” Click here for the full 2002 Haaretz story.
With that said, to view the pages of the original course material at issue that was circulated to students via the course listserv, please click on the following images.
The statement by Prof. Robinson might be difficult to read, so we have re-typed it here:
If Martin Luther King were alive on this day of January 19, 2009, there is no doubt that he would be condemning the Israeli aggression against Gaza along with U.S. military and political support for Israeli war crimes, or that he would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians. I am forwarding some horrific, parallel images of Nazi atrocities against the Jews and Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Perhaps the most frightening are not those providing a graphic depiction of the carnage but that which shows Israeli children writing “with love” on a bomb that will tear apart Palestinian children.
Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw – a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide (Websters: “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”), a process whose objective is not so much to physically eliminate each and every Palestinian than to eliminate the Palestinians as a people in any meaningful sense of the notion of people-hood.
The Israeli army is the fifth most potent military machine in the world and one that is backed by a propaganda machine that rivals and may well surpass that of the U.S., a machine that dares to make the ludicrous and obnoxious claim that opposition to the policies and practices of the Israeli state is anti-Semitism. It should be no surprise that a state founded on the negation of a people was one of the principal backers of the apartheid South African state not to mention of the Latin American military dictatorships until those regimes collapsed under mass protest, and today arms, trains, and advises military and paramilitary forces in Colombia, one of the world’s worst human rights violators.
Below is an article written by a U.S. Jew and sent to a Jewish newspaper. The editor of the paper was fired for publishing it.