While the general goal of college is to educate students in preparation for the professional world, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City is distinctive in that it educates for justice. John Jay focuses on developing students in order to create individuals who can positively impact society. It is a place where professors are held to a higher standard because the end result of their teaching isn’t just a job; it is how students will advocate for other people’s rights. They are not here to lecture and tell us what to think. They are here to create a space where knowledge can be shared, debated, challenged, denied or accepted.
Corrina Mullin, a professor of politics of the Middle East, eloquently says in her class syllabus that having critical analysis with differing opinions is imperative to foster higher thinking. The goal of her class is to analyze the assigned readings and to have intellectual class discussions about the Middle East. Generally, critical analysis includes multiple perspectives. However, in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Professor Mullin uses biased and anti-Israel sources.
A quick skim of the syllabus will show that one such source is from Mondoweiss, an anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist news website that uses age-old anti-Semitic tropes to demonize Israel and the Jewish people. Editor Philip Weiss talks about Jews being greedy, as well as compares Israelis to Nazis. He also believes that the Jews had a contract with the American government “to drive the economy in the 1970s” a statement akin to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The Mondoweiss article by Allen C. Brownfeld, “Deconstructing myths about the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict,’ ” is a peer review of Ilan Pappé’s book: Examining ‘Ten Myths about Israel.’ Pappé is a discredited Israeli historian, with his own political anti-Israel agenda. He is known for his freelance historical thinking where subjectivity is part of his ideology on how to write historical documents. Whereas most historians set aside personal opinions when it comes to documenting history, Pappé actively does not.
The use of a historian who relies on half-truths and misleading information points to the professor’s agenda, which goes against the values of John Jay. Pappé cites the British Palin Commission as saying, “The [British] Palin Commission … reported that the Jewish presence in the country was provoking the Arab population and was the cause of the riots.” When, in reality, this is what the commission wrote: “It seems to have impressed … that the Jews were … responsible for provoking the rising. … But it is perfectly clear that with these few exceptions the Jews were the sufferers, and were moreover the victims of a peculiarly brutal and cowardly attack, the majority of the casualties being old men, women and children.”
Additionally, the Mondoweiss article mentions another Israeli historian, Shlomo Sand, whom Pappé cites in his books. Sand also uses false and misleading information. According to Sand, Jews of the biblical times assimilated in the Diaspora, and that the longing to return to their homeland is fictitious (since their homeland is not Israel) and was created by Christians. Christians believe that the Messiah will come once all Jews are in Israel. Sand completely ignores the fact that Jews were being persecuted for centuries and have been praying for the return to Zion since their first exile in 850 BCE—long before Theodor Herzl coined the concept of Zionism.
Professor Mullin, herself believes that Zionists use the Holocaust for selfish gain. In the Monthly Review, she writes:
“… Israel … [is] capitalizing off Jewish suffering, the Zionist political project has employed these funds to dispossess and ethnically cleanse the land of the native Palestinian population, perpetuating atrocities that many Jews themselves had been subject to by the Nazis.”
This is a common anti-Zionist rhetoric that has been overused to propagate hateful lies that damage survivors and negatively associates Zionism with Nazism.
Professor Mullin (and Pappé) also wrote in The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe: Changing Perceptions of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. Her addition to the anthology is titled “Israel, the Biggest Threat to World Peace.” This is a big statement coming from an upstanding professor, and one that is not congruent with facts.
Recently, Professor Mullin, along with several other colleagues, attended an Oxford conference titled “Racialization and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora.” The goal of the conference was to raise awareness, and deal with the racial issues in and outside of Africa. After the event, she and her colleagues wrote a response article, complaining that the conference was an “infiltration … of Zionist racism.” These concerns were based on the fact that two out of the 12 panels at the conference was organized by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). They also called the conference a cover for Israel’s “racist policies and practices” with “attempts to normalize its relations with African states.”
They focused a lot on the founder, but not on the other members. One of them is Professor Ansel Brown, a board advisor of ISGAP and also the founder of the Jackie Brown and Luddie Strickland Scholarship, a scholarship for hard-working African-American high school students. They also missed how the majority of members were distinguished black professors who taught African studies, in addition to omitting that the two panels discussed Ethiopian Jews and their issues with racism.
Professor Mullin is very open about her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but does this one-sided viewpoint belong in a classroom setting? Educators, who are in a position of great power, have an obligation to critique themselves so as not to abuse their student’s trusting and malleable minds. Educators specifically avoid mentioning their own personal political views and beliefs so as to create a space where multiple ideas may be explored. The obligation lies on them to ask: Do they teach to push an agenda, or to foster learning and growth in their students?
Educators have a responsibility to uphold themselves to the high standards of the school. How is teaching a one-sided, extremely biased curriculum with discredited historians reflected in the mission of the college? The effect of this on students is not just in the classroom; they will take this false information on with them wherever they go in life. Professor Mullin has taught hundreds of students, each who will now influence 100 more. This chain of false information needs to stop. Where are the checks and balances in our school system, or do our professors have the final say in what the truth is?
Tzvia Waronker is a CAMERA Fellow and freshman at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.