Brooklyn College Facing Criticism Over Required Reading by Harsh Israel Critic
08/27/10
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When the school year begins next week, Brooklyn College could face a firestorm of opposition to the decision to assign a book to all incoming transfer students by an author who has been harshly critical of the Jewish state.

“How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi , has been assigned to about 1500 incoming transfer students “in an effort to provide a common experience for this population of students,” according to a letter from the school administration to Brooklyn College faculty members.

The project will also include a “meet the author” discussion and reception on Tuesday at the school.

Publishers Weekly described the book as a “quintessentially American picture of 21st century citizens 'absorbing and refracting all the ethnicities and histories surrounding [them].’ However, the testimonies from these young adults — summary seizures from their homes, harassment from strangers, being fired for having an Arab or Muslim name—have a weight and a sorrow that is ‘often invisible to the general public.’”

But Bayoumi , an associate professor at the school, also recently published “Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: the Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict.”

A publisher's blurb describes the book this way:

“In these pages, a range of activists, journalists, and analysts piece together the events that occurred that May night...Midnight on the Mavi Marmara reveals why the attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla may just turn out to be Israel’s Selma, Alabama: the beginning of the end for an apartheid Palestine.”

The book includes contributions by prominent Israel critics – including Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Stephen Walt and Philip Weiss.

Bayoumi is also editor of the Edward Said Reader featuring writings of the late Columbia University literary theorist who was also a flash point for debates over academic freedom and harsh criticism of Israel

Faculty members who have contacted the Jewish week say the issue is not about censorship, but balance; as the only book apparently assigned to incoming transfer students, that may be more about “indoctrination” than education, according to one faculty member.

Calls to Brooklyn College officials have not been returned.

Last Update:

09/15/2011 - 11:37

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I'm reading this book for class, and it largely (almost entirely) stays away from the issue of Israel/Palestine. It is about the experiences of young Arabs and Muslims in the United States following 9/11. It is sympathetic to these subjects, but it presents diverse points of view. One of the young Arabs, for example, is a marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq.

The problem here is sloppy journalism. In the lede, the author writes "Brooklyn College could face a firestorm of opposition" to the assigning of the book, yet no where in the article is anyone actually quoted with criticism of the decision. How can the entire premise of the article, the heart of the story, be entirely unsupported in the This article? I may only be an editor of a lowly college newspaper, but an oversight like this would never make it past my desk.

This article is two things: an opinion piece, and a threat to Brooklyn College that this paper will cause problems because of the book in question. This is the definition of biased, unprofessional activist journalism.

I agree that there is no problem assigning this book to college students. College is where students are supposed to be able to think for themselves. Also, There should be controversial reading as this enhances world view and literary criticism abilities. If there are people that are absolutely opposed to what the book stands for, they should know that it is important to know the arguments of the other side, lest one finds oneself in debate looking like a fool that cannot stand his ground because he is not familiar. However, contrary to the previous comment, I believe that Brooklyn College has a tendency to pander to Liberal thought and Ideology. And yes, read the book before you make an ass of yourself criticizing something without knowing what it is that you oppose.
I agree with Victoria 100%. Bayoumi was actually my professor for a graduate course I took a few years back at Brooklyn College. He is a great guy and takes everyone's opinion into consideration. The nature of his work can be political, but Bayoumi's book is representing an uncommon view point that we do not see within the media much. Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and others who fall into similar categories have been for the most part dehumanized within the West after 9/11. He is simply enlightening us with the other side. But isn't that the nature of literature and books? They are suppposed to have a thesis, an argument and a focal point, even if we don't necessarily agree with it. Bayoumi has an opinion and he is relaying it to us. Although the book is a required read, it does not mean one is required to agree with the opinion relayed by the book. That's the whole point of literature classes though, is it not? To react and relay your own opinion to readings. With that said, students at Brooklyn College will be receiving a different point of view, but this is in no way "indoctrination". In fact, I think very interesting arguments and papers will be written about the book by students. I wonder though, if Brooklyn College was assigning a book to freshmen by an author who is pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim instead of Bayoumi's book, would the protestors make the same argument that it's "indoctrination" or be angry that the college assigned the work. Somehow I don't think so. So what's all the fuss about? Please be fair.
I went to Brooklyn College; I graduated 3 years ago. Every year incoming freshman and transfer students are given ONE book to read. They read this book communally to develop a common experience (which is very important on a commuter campus), and they discuss it in their first semester English class. The students aren't given a single book to read so that a single viewpoint can be represented to them. They are given a single book because it is simpler for them to read one book as opposed to two. There is no ulterior motive. And to suggest that these students are being indoctrinated is ridiculous. These are intelligent, young adults who are fully capable of reading the material and coming to their own conclusions.
How shocking would it be to find out that the person ultimately responsible for assigning this vile, anti-semetic screed is a secular, liberal, self-hating Jew?. Just wondering.
Why is America and Europe bending over for MOSLEMS who want to kill us and/or implement SHARIA? Why is Brooklyn College such a pansy waist? This is awful..I'm writing to them to tell them they are dhimmis.
So, do you actually have a criticism of the book in question? Have you read it? Or do you just assume because he is an Arab and because he edited another book that contained criticism of Israel that his book must be "indoctrination"? Does anyone take you seriously?

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