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.
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