The course calendar describes it as being about "Jewish history from biblical to modern times using gender as a category of analysis" including "tensions between competing traditions; influences of paganism, Islam, Christianity." But the syllabus and the course content suggest something very different.
You'd certainly receive a healthy dose of tensions between competing traditions. But rather than Jewish History, it has more of the appearance of indoctrination sessions on the evils of Zionism and the Jewish state delivered by a veritable who's who of Canadian anti-Israel ideologues.
Included on that list are Sylvat Aziz, Palestine Liberation Organization Adviser Elia Zureik, Adnan Hussein, Ariel Salzmann, and a Communist professor named Abbie Bakan whose apparent raison d'etre for the last decade has been to attempt to de-legitimize Israel.
|Abigail Bakan addressing a |
CASMO al Quds Day gathering
She has also been a featured speaker at al Quds Day gatherings, a 'holiday' invented by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini for the purpose of rousing Muslim support for Jihad against Israel. At one al Quds event, which she attended at the behest of a Khomeinist group called CASMO, which has posted anti-Semitic videos by the neo-Nazi leader David Duke on their website, Bakan fatuously declared that Israel "is exactly like the apartheid state of pre-1994 South Africa."
Such vicious polemical nonsense has the potential to cause quite a stir. But a directive in the course's syllabus is designed to nip that in the bud at the expense of the belief that university education should be above-board and open to scrutiny. A dictate in the Jewish Women in Historical Perspective's syllabus says:
To build an atmosphere of civility, trust, and participation, and afford reasonable privacy it is necessary and you are requested to abide by the following:In order to keep the goings-on secretive, the classes can't be recorded and no outsiders are allowed. It's the Queen's anti-Zionist version of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But indications are that what happens at Queen's is more insidious than the affairs at Caesar's Palace.
-no cells, Internet, texting
-no visitors, no auditors
I telephoned Professor James Carson, the Chair of Queen's History Department under whose aegis the course falls, about its curious nature. He described the course as being about "dialogue." That explanation is indeed supported by another dictum in the course syllabus which states:
"Truths or facts as labels are misleading to understand complex situations. ‘Even handed’ and ‘balanced’ for X may not be acceptable to Y. The important learning event happens in dialogue."It doesn't require a lot of imagination to picture how that dialogue would be slanted in a course where most of the "authorities" are members of a group called "The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid."
But what I found perplexing was how something purporting to be a university history course could declare that truth and facts are "misleading" and secondary to a dialogue comprised of feelings and emotion.
It may serve the ideological purposes of the instructors to wave aside facts like five Arab armies tried to eradicate Israel upon its inception as a state, or that the Hamas charter calls for Israel's destruction and endorses the killing of Jews, or that Palestinian state television produces children's programs that glorify suicide bombers and call for war against the Jews. To these Queen's academics, "the important learning event" is the Palestinian feeling of oppression.
But how could that possibly be categorized as history?
Professor Carson attempted to explain it to me using an example from a course he teaches about the First Nations In North America.
He said that the Canadian Indian Act came into being in 1876 and from the government's perspective, it was to "civilize" the First Nations but from the aboriginals's point of view it was an act of "genocide." Carson felt that was an example of how there could be different perspectives on what constitutes a "fact."
I challenged that, observing that there were indeed indisputable facts in his example. The Indian Act was enacted in 1876, the actual wording of The Act is something that can be verified. The intent of these facts could be open to interpretation, but the facts themselves could not.
That agitated Professor Carson, who curtly replied, "I'm not going to engage in a forensic examination of the syllabus with you, thank you for your time." Then he hung up on me.
It's easy to sympathize with Professor Carson's frustration. It would be tremendously difficult to do a forensic examination of anything if you don't believe there's such a thing as a verifiable fact.
It seems the syllabus and curriculum has changed a bit for "Jewish Women in Historical Perspective" in the coming term. For the sake of that course's students and the integrity of Queen's University, it would be a good thing if their History Department's appreciation of historical facts changed along with it.