The UK's first professor of Israeli Studies has been commended for his innovative approach to the teaching of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Prof. Colin Shindler from the Department of Languages and Cultures of the Middle East at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was runner-up for the annual Director's Teaching Prize, where the judging panel praised his teaching of Israeli and Jewish Studies.
The award recognizes excellence in teaching and the promotion of learning within SOAS. It aims to stimulate teaching and creative activities, particularly at the undergraduate level.
Shindler has taught a course on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for more than eight years. He convenes both the bachelor's and the master's programs in Hebrew and Israeli Studies and lectures on subjects such as Zionism.
The judges praised him for striving to take an objective and dispassionate approach to the conflict. He links original research and encourages students to challenge their own views through discussion, they said over the weekend.
"Lecturing and writing on the conflict is undoubtedly difficult," Shindler said on Friday. "I have worked hard to teach this subject in a fashion which would both encourage independent critical thinking and meet the needs of the diverse student population. I'm delighted that my efforts have been recognized by my academic peers."
SOAS, one of the world's top academic institutions, is known for having a hostile anti-Israel atmosphere on campus, resulting in some Jews deciding not to study there. The university's Palestinian Society, the only student union society in the UK run by a professional employed by the student union, hosts controversial activities such as Israel Apartheid Week.
In 2007, posters advertising an event to mark the launch of a book written by Shindler, What Do Zionists Believe? were daubed with swastikas.
Former students of Shindler's have gone on to work for Palestinian NGOs and a host of organizations in the Gulf states and other parts of the Arab world. Some Jewish students have moved to Israel or work for Jewish organizations in UK and beyond.
"One student is now the Foreign Office's liaison with UK Muslim communities, another worked for the Israeli Embassy. Many involve themselves in the peace camps of both sides and try to make a contribution to securing a just peace," Shindler said.
Specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East, SOAS combines language scholarship, disciplinary expertise and regional focus, and boasts Europe's largest concentration of academic staff concerned with these regions.
As chairman of the Center for Jewish Studies, Shindler has brought an array of speakers to the school, providing the students with valuable perspectives. He recently brought the PLO ambassador, Prof. Manuel Hassassian, to SOAS.
In January, SOAS refused to bow to pressure to cancel a series of lectures organized by the Center for Jewish Studies commemorating the centenary of Tel Aviv.
Calling it a "pro-Israeli propaganda exercise masquerading as an academic conference," the academic union at the university called for the series to be canceled, but the university's director, Prof. Paul Webley, refused to heed to the demand.
Shindler has authored several books including A History of Modern Israel (2008), which sold out in just a few months. He is also an expert on Ze'ev Jabotinsky and the Revisionist movement and has published an array of books on the subject.