College Sought Anti-Zionist to Teach Zionism

It was only due to 'lack of interest' that the University of Missouri cancelled a course called 'Perspectives on Zionism.'

Yaakov Levi ,

Students on campus
Students on campus
Israel news photo: Flash 90

In what appears to have “the makings of a Saturday Night Live skit,” Paul Miller, executive director of the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought, reported in the New York Observer this week that the University of Missouri had hired a professor named George Smith - who “despises Israel” - to teach a course called “Perspectives on Zionism.”  

The class was cancelled, however, due to the fact that no students had enrolled in it. However, anti-Israel student groups are said to be trying to recruit students so that the course can be revived.

Smith, said Miller, “has called the creation of the Jewish State a shameful chapter in Jewish history.

Smith also finds humor in Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli citizens,” writes Miller. “When Sderot resident Noam Bedein came to [the university ]to discuss the nearly 13,000 rockets Hamas has fired, killing and injuring the people of Sderot, Smith showed up and distributed fliers that mocked the attacks – justifying terrorism because the average Palestinian has to 'go through a checkpoint'” just to go to the bathroom.

Smith, said Miller, had written hundreds of e-mail messages and Facebook posts condemning Israel for a wide variety of actions.

According to the JNS news service, sixteen US Jewish and Christian groups had written to University Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin urging him to cancel the class.

Loftin, the report said, was unresponsive to the requests, only canceling the course when it became clear no one was interested in attending.

Smith, said JNS, “has used his tenure—he has worked at the university for 30 years—to bring in anti-Israel speakers with university funding. Recently, six university departments sponsored a talk by author Saree Makdisi, who has said it is more important to eliminate the Jewish State than to create a Palestinian one.” It was Smith who coordinated the event, the report said.

It should be noted that Smith is not a political analyst – but a doctor of biology. Speaking to JNS, Nancy West, the director of the University of Missouri’s Honors College, said that while the university had some qualms about letting “an activist” with a very clear political perspective teach a course, “we found no record ever of him abusing his academic freedom. I understand the concerns, and we, as a committee, wanted to make sure that Dr. Smith would provide a forum that was safe for students, that if they disagreed with him, they could raise their objections and not be punished for it…Our impression when we talked with [Smith] was that he was going to be very open-minded, that he was hoping to learn from his students."

While the university attributed the course's cancellation to lack of interest, Miller wasn't buying it.

“With Israel under siege on college campuses, often in the form of blatant anti-Semitism, don’t tell me no students were interested in this course. Students associated with pro-Israel organizations such as Christians United for Israel, StandWithUs and Students Supporting Israel sprang into action and educated their peers on the absurdly offensive nature of this course. Where the administrators failed, the students prevailed."