University of California, Berkeley, has reinstated a course on Palestine that was cancelled under pressure from pro-Israel groups, according to a press release.
Palestine Legal said, according to WAFA, that the university reinstated the student-led course titled “Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis”, following an outcry from students and faculty describing the action as a violation of academic freedom, shocking, and unjustifiable.
Palestine Legal also sent a letter to the university chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, on behalf of Paul Hadweh, the student giving the course, warning that the suspension infringed on First Amendment rights and principles of academic freedom.
Following the outcry, executive dean of the College of Letters and Science, Carla Hesse, announced in a statement that the course is reinstated.
“I hope we can now focus on the challenging intellectual and political questions that this course seeks to address,” said Hadweh, a senior student and course facilitator whose family is originally from Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.
“I await an apology from Chancellor Dirks, and Dean Hesse,” explained Hadweh. “The university threw me under the bus, and publicly blamed me, without ever even contacting me. It seems that because I’m Palestinian studying Palestine, I’m guilty until proven innocent. To defend the course, we had to mobilize an international outcry of scholars and students to stand up for academic freedom. This never should have happened.”
Liz Jackson, staff attorney with Palestine Legal who represents Paul Hadweh, added, “This is a victory for Paul who spent eight months going through all the recommended and mandated procedures to facilitate a course. It’s also a victory for the 26 students who enrolled and had their academic studies severely disrupted, and for students and scholars across the U.S. who are facing a coordinated attack on the right to speak and study freely about Palestine-Israel.”
Echoing the concerns of Israel advocacy groups, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks had justified the suspension with concern that Hadweh’s course “espoused a single political viewpoint and appeared to offer a forum for political organizing.”
Jackson explained, “The university’s response should have been that academic freedom protects the rights of faculty and students to tackle difficult and even controversial questions. The extra scrutiny on scholarship relating to Palestine is obvious here. The university does not censor Israeli studies classes because they have a ‘political agenda’ or ‘ignore history’, although that case can also be made.”
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