UPenn Professor Amy Kaplan Advises on Anti-Israel Propaganda in College Courses (VIDEO)

February 26, 2012 12:37 pm 2 comments

BDS protest. Photo: wiki commons.

On February 4, during the anti-Israel BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania, there was a breakout session called “The Academic Boycott of Israel.” During that session’s question and answer period there was a very interesting exchange:

Educator in the audience:

“My question falls on Professor Norton’s statement that Boycott may not be the most important part of BDS, and is kind of the closest to where we live as academics and also with Professor Kaplan’s call to think about a positive program on BDS, a positive aspect of the Boycott [of Israel]….And that’s, um, about teaching in the classroom about BDS and how, not just in our life as professional producers of knowledge, and scholars, but as teachers, how can that be formed in this pedagogy, especially I guess when the course is not dealing directly with material that has to do with Palestine”
Amy Kaplan, professor of English at University of Pennsylvania:
“Well I don’t know how you can, how you can address the issue if you’re not dealing with a course that has no content or relationship to it…. But I know that, I mean, you can make courses that have content. I mean, for example, I happen to know that you’re interested in prisons, and the literature and culture about, you know, prisons, so you can teach a course on which you included prison as a really, really big thing, not only in the political life of Palestinians, but also in their literature and in their poetry, so that will be kind of an ideal way — you take a thematic course, and you bring in themes from this issue, and literature is really a great way to teach students about what’s going on — students they think, they know they have an ideological line, a political line, and then they read, you know, they read Darwish, they read, you know, The Pennoptimist and it opens up a whole new world — so that’s my answer to that.”

Here is the audio, from StandWithUs.

Kaplan accepts the premise of the question, that it is desirable to try to insert anti-Israel material into every class, but she notes that some courses (like biology or calculus, perhaps) do not lend themselves to such blatant propagandizing. However, she goes on, there is nothing to stop an intrepid teacher from not only injecting anti-Israel content into courses about literature and culture, but dedicated anti-Israel activist/teachers can actually create courses with that purpose in mind.

The chair of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania, Nancy Bentley, defended Kaplan’s statement:

“She took the position instead that certain kinds of thematic courses, such as prison literature or prison history, would have an inherent relation to the topic of Israel-Palestine (as one case among others). Prison writing is a well established area in literary studies, as is the history of prisons. Any search of data bases will reveal this neutral fact of academic history. And I fail to see how the case of the Israeli-Palistinian [sic] conflict would be inherently inappropriate as a case study for a thematic course of that sort, just as with courses like war literature or the literature of mourning and violence.”

Of course, the problem with Kaplan’s example was not that Palestinian issues might fit in well with certain types of courses; of course they may. The problem is that college professors should not consciously and a priori insert anti-Israel content into courses, or even worse, design courses for the specific purpose of including such material.

What Kaplan advocates crosses the line from legitimate educational values to blatant propaganda masquerading as academics. Bentley sidestepped that issue in her statement.

Kaplan’s examples of using literature classes to push an anti-Israel agenda is actually more insidious. When students sign up for courses in politics or even history, they can at least be on guard for any bias that the teachers show in the course. However, if they want to take a class in art or literature, they should not be subject to what is essentially hate disguised as class materials. There is nothing wrong with introducing Darwish’s poems in a class of poetry if the context is clear; there is something very wrong with doing it to promote an agenda. Certainly Kaplan is advocating propaganda, but she wants like-minded teachers to give it to students whose knowledge of the facts of the conflict are probably limited. If Kaplan wants to loudly protest Israeli policies at a rally, that is her right; but to instruct teachers how to subliminally insert it in non-political courses is unethical, to say the least.

Even worse, this is apparently not considered to be problematic by a representative of an Ivy League school.

A video of the exchange is posted below:

2 Comments

  • For this post to make any sense whatsoever, you’re going to have to explain to us exactly how assigning Mahmoud Darwish and The Pessoptimist (a novel by an Arab citizen of Israel and former Member of Knesset) ipso facto constitutes “anti-Israel content.” Would reading a book by Amos Oz constitute “anti-Palestinian content” simply because it gives a human voice to the Israeli experience? All she’s suggesting is the conscious inclusion of an underrepresented voice in the literary canon, which is totally de rigueur in literature departments. But it would seem that you bizarrely regard any form of Palestinian self-expression as fundamentally problematic.

  • And StandWithUs doesn’t constitute propoganda?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Rocks Solo Acoustic Version of Israeli National Anthem – Hatikva (VIDEO)

    Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Rocks Solo Acoustic Version of Israeli National Anthem – Hatikva (VIDEO)

    Ok, fans, question time. What do: Guns ‘n’ Roses shred-meister guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (aka Ronald Jay Blumenthal), “Hard Rock Hotel”, “Las Vegas” and Israel’s ”Hatikva” (The Hope) national anthem… all have in common? I know, you’re probably thinking, “Hmm, ‘One of these things is not like the other,’ would fit in here,” right? Um, no, turns out. Caught backstage by blogger Darren Garnick at the swanky Vegas gig in early June, Thal, acoustic guitar in hand, fretted out a sweetly melodic [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.