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US college teaching ‘Apartheid in Israel-Palestine’ resists pressure from pro-Israel groups 

March 15, 2023 at 11:50 am

Protesters stand are holding a banner that equates Israel with apartheid [Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

An American professor teaching a course on “Apartheid in Israel-Palestine” has come under attack from several right-wing, pro-Israel organisations who have made the “outrageous” claim that the very title and existence of the course is “anti-Semitic”. Details of the standoff between Bard College, which employs Professor Nathan Thrall, and the pro-Israel groups have been revealed by the Jewish organisation Academia for Equality (AfE).

Thrall is a Jerusalem-based author and the former director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group. His analysis is often featured in print and broadcast media, including the BBC, CNN, Democracy Now!, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, PRI, Time, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

The course was offered last month by New York’s Bard College, which is a liberal arts institute. “This course will examine Israel-Palestine and the crime of apartheid,” said the course description. “Why have leading international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations found that Israeli officials are committing the crime of apartheid? Through close scrutiny of recent reports on Israeli apartheid by leading human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq and B’Tselem, as well as criticisms of those reports, students will survey the central issues concerning apartheid in Israel-Palestine.”

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The college came under fire from pro-Israel organisations, said AfE, but resisted pressure to terminate the course. “Today, we sent a letter to the president of Bard College, commending him for standing firm in support of Professor Nathan Thrall, who is teaching the course ‘Apartheid in Israel-Palestine’ at the school,” it tweeted.

“This is yet another attempt to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism,” the organisation added. “These groups weaponise false allegations of anti-Semitism, seeking to silence dissent, curtail critical engagement with Israeli policies and prevent solidarity with Palestinians on US campuses.”

Warning of the threat to academic freedom from the weaponisation of anti-Semitism by advocates of the apartheid state, AfE stressed that criticism of Israeli policies must not be conflated with hostility toward or discrimination against Jews. “We stand with Professor Thrall, and are happy to see that Bard College has not relented to these defamatory campaigns wishing to stifle open debate and academic freedom.”