Friday, February 11, 2005


There is a war going on over the Middle East - right in the middle of Manhattan, at Columbia University. The school's Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, known as MEALAC, has been credibly accused of anti-Semitism and intimidating pro-Israel students (Some Jewish students have even made a documentary, "Columbia Unbecoming," which includes interviews with the cowed students.)

In fact, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told an audience at Columbia, the faculty of MEALAC go further than merely being anti-Israel; they actively encourage Islamic terrorism, reports the New York Sun. Columbia is the university that raised $4 million - including a contribution from the United Arab Emirates - to create the Edward Said endowed chair in Arab studies.

Dershowitz, speaking to a full house at Columbia, reminded those gathered that Said was an extremist, and he ripped the university as a whole on the issue of its anti-Israel bias. "The kind of hatred that one hears on campuses like Columbia - and let me say, especially Columbia - is a barrier to peace," Mr. Dershowitz said. "They are encouraging the terrorists. They tell the terrorists you will have academic support even if you oppose the peace process. This is the most unbalanced university that I have come across when it comes to all sides of the Middle East conflict being presented," he said. "I have never seen a university with as much faculty silence."

To back up Dershowitz's point, the New York Sun reports that two authors attended a Columbia panel on the Middle East conflict last week entitled "One State or Two? Alternative Proposals for Middle East Peace." In the guise of talking peace, Sol Stern and Fred Siegel were witness to Columbia professors like Rashid Khalidi, the recipient of the endowed Said chair, and Joseph Massad opening wide the "floodgates of hatred," with Massad "demanding of one Israeli student, 'How many Palestinians did you kill today?'" and using "the phrase 'racist Israeli state' more than two dozen times."

Dershowitz blasted ivory-tower elitists for everything from their silence to trying to divest from Israel, singling out Massad, "who in 2003 called on the university to divest itself of financial holdings in companies that support Israel," reports the Sun. "Anybody who advocates for divesting only from the Jewish state ... at a time when Iraq was posing a great threat to the world, when Iran was posing great threats ... when China is oppressing million of Tibetans, when the Kurds are still denied independence and statehood, to single out only Israel for divestiture at that point in time cannot be explained by neutral political, even ideological consideration," Dershowitz said. He added, "I'm appalled at how many professors at Columbia University privately support Israel, and privately support many of the students, but are publicly afraid to speak out." For a solid hour, Dershowitz ran up one side of the Columbia faculty and down the other, saying at one point that peace in Israel has a better chance than it does on campus right now.

University president Lee Bollinger did put together a committee to look into complaints about the MEALAC, but Dershowitz pulled rank, so to speak, and warned that if Bollinger's group came to a "biased" conclusion, he would get a panel of Nobel Prize winners together to look into the Jewish students' complaints.



A senior education adviser has blamed the education profession for the re-election of the Coalition Government, expressing his disappointment that former pupils had voted for John Howard. NSW English Teachers Association president Wayne Sawyer's extraordinary remarks in a teaching journal have sparked a heated debate about the appropriateness of pushing politics in the classroom and the responsibility of teachers to adhere to the principle of impartiality. Associate Professor Sawyer, the former chair of the NSW Board of Studies English Curriculum Committee, said English teachers had failed to encourage critical thought. "We knew the truth about Iraq before the election - did our former students just not care?" Professor Sawyer wrote late last year in an editorial for the journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English. "We knew before the election that 'children overboard' was a crock, but as it was yesterday's news, did they not care about that either? Has English failed not only to create critical generations, but also failed to create humane ones? What does it mean for us and our ability to create a questioning, critical generation that those who brought us balaclava'd security guards, alsatians and Patricks Stevedoring could declare themselves the representatives of the workers and be supported by the electorate?"

The article sparked a political backlash yesterday, with Education Minister Brendan Nelson warning it confirmed "the worst fears" of parents that teachers were peddling political views. Dr Nelson said he hesitated to "give any dignity whatsoever to what has been written here". But he told The Australian: "It confirms in part what is held as the worst fears of parents that often teachers are seeking to impose their own particular views which they are perfectly entitled to have, but to impose those views on students. This person is doing a great disservice to English teachers generally and their representation."

A spokesman for NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said guidelines were in place stipulating students be taught in an "impartial and objective manner". He added: "The guidelines are in place and we would expect teachers to adhere to them."

Associate Professor Sawyer, who teaches at the University of Western Sydney, defended his article yesterday, saying "this is not about teachers becoming Leftist politicians in classrooms". And he said the article, an editorial in the journal, was his opinion rather than the position of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English. "This is about the idea that students have to be able to analyse language and be critical of language and that's an important thing for citizens in a democracy to be able to do," Professor Sawyer said. "And I was throwing down the gauntlet to the idea that if we are going to create critically literate citizens in a democracy then the last two elections, in particular, have been run around the use of language." He said the Howard Government had used language effectively, coining emotive phrases such as queue-jumpers for asylum seekers. He said political material from both major parties could be analysed in classrooms when teaching critical literature to students.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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