Friday, April 10, 2009

A little Analysis Paralysis to go with my morning coffee...

The following is my assignment for a term paper in History of the Middle East in the 20th Century...

Term Paper # 2
MEST 315
Term Paper #2 31.3.2009
Essay Topic:

“The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 may have been the result of Hitler’s attempt to destroy the Jews of Europe… or the result of the Palestinians’ failure to forge a state of their own…or…”

Discuss the events and processes that led to the establishment of a ‘Jewish national home’ in British-mandate Palestine on May 14th 1948.

circa 2000 words

...and that's IT. Firstly, I take issue with the prompt. From where does this quotation come (and what the hell kind of guideline for a 2,000 word paper is this)? Very un-scholarly, though this aspect of the educational system here has ceased to surprise or amuse me. Beyond that, however, I'll also note that the phrase, "Hitler's attempt to destroy the Jews of Europe" is the closest this professor has ever come to using the word "Holocaust". Then again, based on a recent Politics lecture, I guess no one would know what he meant by it anyway.

I feel like the prompt is all but inviting students to write about how the Jews stole the land from the Palestinian Arabs before they could "forge a state of their own", with countless opportunities to write misrepresentations and falsities about Israel, beginning with the inception of Zionism.

When we discussed Zionism in class, I brought up the fact that Zionism did not emerge as a quest to retake the Holy Land for the Jews, but rather as a political ideology supporting the creation of a Jewish homeland. Herzl, whom we view today as the founder of modern Zionism, didn't care a fraction of as much about WHERE this homeland existed, so long as it came to fruition and provided a place of refuge for Jews, who were being persecuted and discriminated against throughout the world, despite their efforts in assimilation. There were proposed Jewish states in Uganda, Argentina and, obviously, the NEVER-ESTABLISHED-AS-A-STATE land of Palestine. Palestine made the most sense, and negotiations brokering support for a Jewish homeland here commenced. There had always been a Jewish presence in the land, and Jewish heritage and history trace back to the land of Israel from long before the Prophet Mohammad was even a speck on the horizon.

Not only did my Oxford-educated professor say outright that he didn't "buy" the Uganda argument, he actually went on to say that there wasn't any scholarly research on the topic. An Arab student then chimed in to relate my statements about the founding philosophies of Zionism to the "genocide" Jews (not Israelis-- Jews. All Jews) are commiting against Palestinians now. Amazing how he was able to make such a jump, as that was nowhere remotely close to the topic on which I was speaking...

My point in all of this is that my professor, an intelligent man for sure, made a completely irresponsible move in setting this assignment. When tackling such a sensitive and controversial topic--especially in an academic setting, especially in the Middle East, especially in a class of students whose ideas about the Israeli-Arab conflict are so tempered by emotion, miseducation and closed-mindedness, and whose overall education is sub-standard at best--the professor should have AT LEAST had the sense to set more rigid assignment guidelines rather than, for all practical purposes, invite these students to rehash the same mistruths and biases with which they've grown up under the heading of scholarly work. Its a shame that this professor, who has before him the opportunity to engage his class in a fact-based, unbiased writing assignment, has chosen the low road.

Of course, I have yet to begin this paper, and I'm debating how to go about it, and what effect the position I take may or may not have on my grade... Then again, I'm pretty sure the fact I can string together more than five consecutive English words will ensure my passing no matter what. I'd love to get my hands on this stack of papers and see the craziness people will turn in (though pigs will fly before that happens). Eh... I'll let you know how this one goes.


  1. Sam
    Please write a paper about what pifs we all are and then get the hell out of there in one piece