Ilan Pappé, an anti-Zionist Israeli historian and professor at the University of Exeter in England, faced criticism recently for his guest lectures at the California State Universities in Northridge, San Luis Obispo, and Fresno.
Pappé, known for his belief that Zionism is more dangerous to the Middle East than Islamic militancy, gave a lecture entitled “The False Paradigm of Parity and Partition: Revisiting 1967.” The lecture discussed Israeli policy preceding and following the Six-Day War in 1967, and how he believes this policy obstructs the peace process in the region.
The AMCHA Initiative, a pro-Zionist, California-based organization that seeks to protect the interests of Jewish students, sent a letter to the CSU chancellor and the presidents of the three schools, claiming that, “There is a serious misuse of taxpayer money to promote virulently anti-Israel activity on three California State University campuses.”
The letter continued to state that support for a lecture of this nature does not contribute to educational values, but purports “propagandizing purposes.”
Tammi Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, said that the primary organizers and promoters of the lectures include two professors and a dean that are well-known for anti-Israel sentiments.
“In organizing the talks by Ilan Pappé on their campuses, these three CSU employees are clearly using their university positions and taxpayer-supported university resources to promote their own personal political assault against the Jewish state,” Benjamin stated.
In a response to the growing opposition, the presidents of the three schools issued a letter that read, “Our universities do not endorse any particular position, but emphatically support the rights of people to express and hear all points of view. There is no danger to a free society in allowing opposing views to be heard. The danger, instead, is in censoring them.”
The presidents said they stand behind their choice to allow Pappé to speak, stating that this issue is one of free speech and that Pappé has as much of a right to speak as anyone else.
Opponents still question the value of free speech when it cultivates such strong hostility towards a country and a group of people.
Pappé was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1954, after his parents had fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s. They later found refuge in the state against which he protests, and he was eventually drafted by the Israeli Defense Forces when he was 18 years old to fight during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. In 1984, he acquired a doctorate in history from the University of Oxford under the tutelage of the Arab historian, Albert Hourani. He soon developed his strong anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiments, becoming a fervent supporter of a One-State Solution; a policy that would ultimately eclipse the Jewish majority in Israel.