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...

  • Sports World FIFA President Sepp Blatter Announces Resignation on Heels of Corruption Scandal

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter Announces Resignation on Heels of Corruption Scandal

    Sepp Blatter, who led world soccer’s governing body for 17 years and who was regarded as one of the most powerful people in global sports, said Tuesday that he would resign his position. He made his announcement in Zurich as law enforcement officials in the United States confirmed that he was a focus of a federal corruption investigation. Mr. Blatter had for days tried to distance himself from the controversy, but several United States officials, speaking on the condition of […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Music Jewish Violinist Finishes Brahms Concert 82 Years After Nazis Interrupted His Father

    Jewish Violinist Finishes Brahms Concert 82 Years After Nazis Interrupted His Father

    A Jewish violinist played in Israel on Sunday the complete Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, 82 years after Nazis interrupted his father mid-performance and escorted him offstage, The Week Magazine reported. Jewish-German violinist Ernest Drucker played only the first movement of the Brahms concerto in in Cologne, Germany, in 1933 before he was taken off stage by Nazi officials, who objected to Jewish musicians playing before non-Jewish audiences. Drucker’s son, Eugene Drucker, finished what his father started and played the […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Report: ‘Minyan’ Prayer Quorum Gathers at New York Rangers Games

    Report: ‘Minyan’ Prayer Quorum Gathers at New York Rangers Games

    A prayer quorum of at least 10 Jewish men, known as a minyan, gathers at every New York Rangers game played in the evening at Madison Square Garden, Jewish Insider reported on Monday citing commentator and former Mitt Romney adviser Dan Senor. “Another reason to love NYC: Just learned there’s a Minyan at every @NYRangers eve game b/w 2nd & 3rd periods at same designated spot at MSG,” tweeted Senor, who also co-authored Start Up Nation, a bestseller which documents […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports World Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    The head of Israel’s soccer association called on his Palestinian counterpart to “join forces,” as the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its bid on Friday to have Israel suspended from FIFA. “Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics,” said Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini, moments after PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub announced that his group had withdrawn the proposal. After his remarks, Eini shook hands with the Palestinian soccer chief. Rajoub thanked “those” who convinced him to drop the […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to […]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on […]

    Read more →