The University of California, Berkeley – an institution synonymous with free speech protests in the 1960s – has shut down a student-led course on Palestine.The censorship is one of Nicholas Dirks’ last acts as chancellor of the college. His administration decided to suspend the course after Israel-aligned organizations demanded that he do so.
There are indications of pressure from the Israeli government as well.
Dirks, who is stepping down as chancellor in the wake of persistent scandals over finances and personal conduct, leaves as he arrived: amid controversy over his role in stigmatizing and suppressing speech and scholarship related to Palestine.
But the course suspension is also a worrying sign of the growing threat to free speech as Israel and its lobby groups move to suppress discussion of Palestine on campuses, inside and outside the classroom.
The one-unit course, which was set to run this semester and titled “Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis,” was proposed by Palestinian American student Paul Hadweh as part of the university’s Democratic Education at Cal initiative.
Known as DeCal, the program is taught by students under supervision from university staff.