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...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.