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Commentary by Peter Berkowitz originally published by RealClearPolitics and RealClearWire
On Oct. 13, New York Times columnist Pamela Paul reported that a Stanford University student told her that on Oct. 10, “[a] lecturer in one class that day asked Jewish students to raise their hands, then took one of the Jewish student’s belongings and told him to stand apart from everyone else, saying that was what the Israelis did to the Palestinians.” Later the same day in another section of College 101, according to another student to whom Paul spoke, the non-faculty teacher “asked all of the students to say where they were from and depending on the answer, he told them whether they were colonized or colonizer. When a student said, ‘Israeli,’ he called the student a colonizer.”
Five days after the New York Times column appeared, the Stanford Daily presented a less chilling account of events based on other students’ recollections. The alternative version, however, was bad enough. In the first class, the instructor still singled out a Jewish student and asked him to stand to illustrate power imbalances. And in the second class, the instructor still asked students where they were from and pronounced the different countries colonized or colonizers, labeling Israel a colonizer.
These abuses of classroom power took place three days after Hamas’ 10/7 attacks. In the early morning hours, more than 2,000 Hamas jihadists burst through Israel’s security barrier on the Gaza border, massacring some 1,400 Israeli civilians as well as more than 20 Americans and other countries’ citizens, committing rape, mutilating bodies, wounding more than 3,000, and abducting more than 200 mostly civilians, including Americans and other nations’ citizens. Hamas’ war aim – indeed, its very reason for existence – is to destroy the Jewish state.
On Oct. 11, Stanford President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez issued a firm statement. The president and the provost deplored the “intolerable atrocities including murder of civilians and kidnapping” perpetrated by Hamas. They stressed that “Stanford stands unequivocally against hatred on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, and other categories” (emphasis in original). They reaffirmed the university’s “commitment to academic freedom,” emphasizing that “latitude for expression of controversial and even offensive views is necessary to avoid chilling freedom of thought and ideas.” And they underscored that “harassment and abuse have no place here.”
Saller and Martinez also announced that a specific allegation of harassment and abuse had come to their attention: “We have received a report of a class in which a non-faculty instructor is reported to have addressed the Middle East conflict in a manner that called out individual students in class based on their backgrounds and identities.” Since “[a]cademic freedom does not permit the identity-based targeting of students,” the president and provost wrote, “The instructor in this course is not currently teaching while the university works to ascertain the facts of the situation.”
Inquiring minds will want to know how in the first place Stanford hired an instructor capable of identity-based targeting of students. After all, it takes a particularly acute ideological blindness to urge students, just days after Hamas’ cross-border rampage and bloodcurdling crimes against humanity, to divide the world into colonizers and colonized; classify students, and assign guilt or pronounce innocence, based on ethnicity, religion, and nationality; and suggest in class Israeli culpability to a student from Israel while the Jewish state was burying civilians killed, burned, and butchered in cold blood.
Read the entire commentary here.
Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. From 2019 to 2021, he served as director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. State Department. His writings are posted at PeterBerkowitz.com and he can be followed on Twitter @BerkowitzPeter.
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.