Foreign students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Rothberg International School have complained of “systematic misinformation” in a class for a master’s degree in law, and of comments by guest speakers labeling Israel as a “fascist” country.
Several students have complained that the course was highly politicized, that they were subjected to “systematic misinformation” and that some of them were unfairly penalized for their political views, which ran counter to the narrative presented by guest lecturers and the head of the course, Prof. Daphna Golan.
One of the greatest concerns for Panteleimon Papadopoulos, 26, a foreign student at the school, was that he felt he could not rely on the factual accuracy of what Golan or other speakers and lecturers told the class. He noted that on one occasion, Golan – a co-founder of B’Tselem – was discussing Israeli policy in east Jerusalem, and said that the Palestinian neighborhood of Issawiya paid the highest rate of municipal taxes in the city, despite being one of the poorest neighborhoods in the capital.
Papadopoulos – originally from Greece and who obtained a bachelor’s degree in law from Sorbonne University in Paris – said that he found this comment hard to believe, so he looked at municipality documents and discovered that the municipal tax in Issawiya is the second lowest rate in the city.
In another incident, during a tour in Silwan with the Emek Shaveh organization, a Palestinian community activist who spoke to the class said that Palestinian residents of the neighborhood are not entitled to compensation for their homes if land is requisitioned by the state. Only when pressed by Papadopoulos did the activist eventually concede that compensation is available, but said that accepting it would be tantamount to “accepting the occupation,” and that it therefore cannot be considered a viable option.
In a separate incident, an activist for the Zochrot organization – which advocates for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel and a single, non-Zionist state for Israelis and Palestinians – addressed the class. During his lecture, he stated that “Most of Israeli society is going more and more to the fascist direction” and that “The right-wing Israeli parties and the government of Israel are fascist.”
Perhaps more worrying was Golan’s attitude to students who did not accept the narrative she and other speakers presented of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In one prominent incident during the course, a student challenged the narrative presented by a Palestinian tour guide during a tour of Lifta, a Palestinian village abandoned during Israel’s War of Independence. The class was requested to submit two “reflection papers” on the tour, but the student in question, who did not want to be identified, received a zero because of his perspective on the tour and the conflict.
“I am not sure why you are studying in my course – but both of your handouts are disgraceful,” Golan wrote in an email to the student. “I am sorry I had to read your unpleasant and unintelligent papers. You got zero on both.”
Another student, who also wished to remain anonymous, corroborated the treatment this first student received, saying that “The way she [Golan] had attacked him was not okay,” that “everyone in class was upset by the way she spoke to him” and that his paper, which she had read, was professional while Golan’s response was not. She said Palestinian students who were studying in the course would sometimes contradict the narrative asserted by Golan, who would silence them as well if what they said did not comport with her perspective.
“You could tell that the professor was very biased and aggressive to people whose positions weren’t the same as hers,” said the student, who described herself as “not Jewish, Israeli or Palestinian.”
She also stated that she would write her essays and papers for the class in a neutral way, or even in a manner with which she did not actually agree, because she was worried how Golan would grade her papers.
She added that Golan shut down students who challenged her narrative, or that of guest speakers, and made many of the other students uncomfortable.
“After the first few months, I didn’t care because I knew we wouldn’t learn anything, so I just did whatever we needed not to upset her, and also because we knew that what she said would be super-biased and not too factual. She was too aggressive and [overloaded] us with fake facts.”
Papadopoulos corroborated much of this sentiment.
“These incidents created a hostile image of this country which does not correspond to reality,” he said.
“Is it the role of Hebrew University to create a hostile and inaccurate image of Israel for students to come to the conclusion that this is a state that is heavily discriminatory, and to be preached to by her guest speakers that this is a fascist state?
“I was attending a class that instead of informing me about the realities on the ground, Hebrew University and Golan were misinforming me, and I found myself in a situation where I needed to verify the information provided by my Israeli professor to see if it was accurate or inaccurate.”
The Hebrew University said in a statement in response to this report “Prof. Daphna Golan of the Law Faculty has for years taught this course, which arouses debate and thought. The complaints of the students were thoroughly examined by the head of the disciplinary committee for Hebrew University staff, who decided not to file a complaint against Prof. Daphna Golan.”
The statement said that the student who submitted the complaint was informed of this decision and that he was granted the right to appeal within 21 days, but did not do so.
“It is surprising that the student decided not to file an appeal but instead turned to the press. It should be noted that Prof. Golan allowed the student to submit an amended paper, but the student chose not to do so.”
The statement added that Golan had sent an email to her students about her erroneous assertion regarding the Issawiya municipal tax rate that she had said in class.
“The Hebrew University and the Law Faculty take every complaint by students very seriously, and as evidenced in this case, the management of the law faculty decided to adhere to protocol that only a course lecturer give over the content of the course and not external people, in all faculty courses.”
Matan Peleg, CEO of the Im Tirtzu organization that has strongly advocated against academic politicization, said the Hebrew University is undergoing a “moral and ethical crisis.”
“It is disgraceful that Hebrew University, which was supposed to be a beacon of academic light, has become a political incubator of anti-Zionist professors who devote their lives to attacking the State of Israel,” said Peleg.
“Who would’ve thought that students coming from abroad to study in Israel would be subjected to hateful lectures against Israel from professors who earn their living at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer?”
“The University must immediately work to implement the academic code of ethics and to root out this severe phenomenon of academic politicization,” added Peleg.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>