Monday, May 25, 2015

UC Riverside Professor David Lloyd Talks About "Balance"

I have recently responded to an article in the liberal site, which criticizes the recent letters presented to University of California President Janet Napolitano expressing concern about the history of anti-Semitic expressions on UC campuses and asking that UC adopt the US State Department's own definition of anti-Semitism. One of the letters, signed by 104 UC faculty members was co-authored by Tammi Benjamin of the AMCHA Initiative and myself.

The article can be viewed here. The two most recent reader comments are mine.

One of the people quoted in the article is UC Riverside English Professor David Lloyd, who is heavily involved in anti-Israel activism and efforts to boycott the Jewish state. Note the words he uses here in connection with "balance".

"Their criticism of the course is typical, both in its stridency and in its ignorance.  They assume, simply because the leader of the course is president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), that it will be “propaganda.”  But the syllabus contains a broad range of views, Palestinian, Jewish, Jewish Israeli and Palestinian Israeli.  It has readings from Edward Said, Saree Makdisi and Rashid Khalidi, all widely respected scholars; it also has readings by Benny Morris, Israeli historian and Zionist, David Grossman, the liberal Israeli writer, Neve Gordon, an Israeli political scientist who is critical of Israel’s occupation, and Uri Ram, an Israeli sociologist.  Setting Benny Morris alongside Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah allows students to consider very different ideas of possible solutions to the occupation, while reading a broad spectrum of Israeli opinion allows students to see that criticism of Israel is by no means the same thing as anti-Semitism: it is possible to be an Israeli anti-Zionist, or an Israeli Zionist who is opposed to the occupation.  To suggest that criticism of Israel is identical with anti-Semitism is not only absurd, but also implicitly racist, since it pretends that all Jews must uniformly identify with that particular state.

As faculty sponsor of SJP (and past faculty sponsor of SJP on other campuses), I have always understood that students benefit from a thorough understanding of the issues about which they are concerned and for which they advocate.  They do not benefit from a purely one-sided treatment of the issue, if only because not understanding one’s opponents’ arguments prevents one from articulating one’s own arguments well.  For that reason it is pragmatic as well as intellectually responsible to explore a wide range of opinions.  However, that said, AMCHA and its supporters are not asking for balance.  They are asking to “eliminate” the study of Palestinian issues from a Palestinian perspective."

Balance? Let's go back to January of this year when Lloyd brought Omar Barghouti, one of the originators of the boycott Israel movement, to speak at UC Riverside. During the q and a, I directed a question to the sponsors of this one-sided event as to whether they would bring in a pro-Israel speaker to expose their students to the other side. Lloyd gave the response and termed my question, "preposterous". The video of that event can be viewed here.

So much for Dr Lloyd's idea of balance. As for his sponsored class (being taught by an undergraduate who just happens to be president of UCR's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter) he may think that adding readings by liberal Israelis and throwing in Israeli historian Benny Morris as a token represents "balance", but I don't buy it. Dr Lloyd's idea of "balance" is enough, in the immortal words of Rep. Hank Washington (D-GA), to cause the island of Guam to tip over and capsize.

No comments: