New York – Assemblyman Decries Appointment Of Pro-Suicide Bomber Professor To Brooklyn College

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    Professor Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton New York – In a letter to Brooklyn College President Dr. Karen L. Gould, Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) decried the recent appointment of Adjunct Professor Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton who was hired to teach a Politics of the Middle East graduate course this spring at the College.

    Several concerned Brooklyn College political science graduate students, contacted the Assemblyman who, in turn, wrote to Dr. Gould after reviewing the grossly biased course syllabus and researching Petersen-Overton’s professional background and published works.

    Mr. Petersen-Overton has authored a number of anti-Israel papers, including one entitled, Inventing the Martyr: Martyrdom as Palestinian National Signifier, which endeavors to justify Palestinian suicide bombings as a means of “struggle and sacrifice” against “Israeli occupation.”

    “I would love to ask this professor ‘do you condone suicide bombings and the killings of innocents in the name of Palestinian nationalism?’” Hikind said. “And I can guarantee that he would refuse to answer my question.”

    A student added, “When a graduate course titled “Politics of the Middle East” states explicitly on its syllabus that it will not include details on Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, and says it will focus specifically on Israel/Palestine — any thinking student is disturbed by the subterfuge.”

    On his webpage (http://gc-cuny.academia.edu/kpetersenoverton), Mr. Petersen-Overton writes, “I worked for some time as a human rights activist in Gaza and the West Bank and I still maintain close contact with the Palestinian activist community.” Mr. Petersen-Overton’s work history also includes experience with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The Centre is well-known for its anti-Israel agenda, for publishing reports lacking accuracy and integrity condemning Israeli policy, and for describing Israeli military operations as “war crimes.”

    “How can students in the class be assured of a balanced course when Mr. Petersen’s writings, affiliations, and syllabus make it clear that he identifies strongly and one-sidedly with the Palestinian narrative?” asked Judith Leibowitz, an Honors program student at Brooklyn College and a Fellow Representative for CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America).

    “Taxpayer dollars should not be used to pay an overt supporter of terrorism to teach at Brooklyn College,” Hikind remarked. “This professor is better suited for a teaching position at the Islamic University of Gaza, not at CUNY.”

    The text of the Assemblyman’s letter is below:

    January 24, 2011
    Dr. Karen L. Gould
    President
    Brooklyn College
    2900 Bedford Avenue
    Brooklyn, New York 11210

    Dear Dr. Gould:

    I am writing to express my deep reservations about the recent appointment of Adjunct Professor Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton who is scheduled to teach a Politics of the Middle East graduate course this spring at Brooklyn College.

    In reviewing Mr. Petersen-Overton’s writings and professional background, I was alarmed about the slanted nature of his works, as well as what can only be termed as his use of hateful invectives against the State of Israel. Mr. Petersen-Overton’s curriculum vitae reflects service as a research assistant for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a viciously anti-Israel organization notorious for its factual distortions and coverage of Israel, although it bills itself as a guardian of Palestinian civil liberties.

    Of great concern to me is one of Mr. Petersen-Overton’s papers entitled Inventing the Martyr: Martyrdom as Palestinian National Signifier, which endeavors to justify and condone Palestinian suicide bombings as a means of “struggle and sacrifice” (p. 3) against “Israeli occupation” (p. 2). Mr. Peterson-Overton writes, “Although the martyr has come to define not only innocent non-participants killed in the crossfire, but also those who die voluntarily [emphasis his] for the nation as a human bomb, both are equally honored by virtue of their death alone—a phenomenon that speaks volumes about the symbolic importance of martyrdom in Palestine” (p. 19).

    He further states, “I believe the act of martyrdom has become an incredibly powerful national signifier. . . .I argue in this final section that martyrdom in Palestine is viewed as yet another conscious and unequivocal form of sacrifice for the nation” (p. 19). In short, Mr. Peterson-Overton romanticizes the notion of suicide bombings and the bombers themselves, and undermines the only democracy in the Middle East.

    Moreover, Mr. Petersen-Overton’s course syllabus reads like a Who’s Who of Palestinian sympathizers and historical revisionists, with no equitable counterbalance. Titles include: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé; Neve Gordon’s From Colonization to Separation: Exploring the Structure of Israel’s Occupation; and Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation to name a few.

    The responsibility of a true academic is to remain objective in imparting information and to allow students to draw their own conclusions. Instead, Mr. Petersen-Overton’s required and recommended reading selections intentionally stifle the passionate discourse of students who would challenge his political ideologies.

    Ironically, although Mr. Petersen-Overton was hired to teach a course on Middle East politics, his syllabus indicates that the course will be conducted at two levels, the first being “a macro level which focuses on the Arab Middle East in general—and does not include details about Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan or Pakistan.” It is disingenuous for Mr. Petersen-Overton to teach a course on the Middle East while blatantly disregarding the above-referenced countries which have greatly impacted the region’s politics.

    Mr. Petersen-Overton’s personal biases should not be allowed to pollute the academic realm, nor should taxpayer dollars be devoted to promoting his one-sided agenda. I ask you, Dr. Gould, is Mr. Petersen-Overton, an overt supporter of terrorism, really the best candidate Brooklyn College could find to teach this course? Surely, you must concede that the answer is a resounding “no.” Indeed, Mr. Petersen-Overton would be better suited for a teaching position at the Islamic University of Gaza.

    Sincerely,

    Dov Hikind
    Member of Assembly
    cc: CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
    Graduate Deputy & Associate Professor Mark Ungar, Department of Political Science, Brooklyn College

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    21 COMMENTS

    1. Have people not heard of academic freedom? A college is a place for the airing out of views from the whole spectrum. We cannot deny that the Palestinian people are suffering in Gaza and the West Bank. Obviously, there needs to be some evaluation of what to do about this which does not involve killing them all.

      • wow you sound like youre mentally deranged killing them all, are you for real the palestinians suffering and what about the jews suffering from their mindless murder of the innocent, are you this insane i cant beleive what you wrote youre evil and dumd, and to top it all youre a jew shame on you youre a moron

        • Dear Bubbi: You use insulting language which seems much more appropriate to yourself. Tzvi’s comments are right on point. Academic freedom is sacred in the U.S. and he is entitled to say whatever he wants (just as you are) no matter how absurd.

          • No academic freedom has bounds. A history professor is not permitted to say that the holocaust did not happen. A microbiology professor is not permitted to say that HIV does not cause AIDS. An astrophysicist is not permitted to say that the universe is 6000 years old. An atmospheric scientist is not permitted to say that there has been no global warming in the past 130 years. All these things are flat out false; to hold such positions puts you beyond the pale of your discipline.

            You would not want a Reform rabbi coming into your yeshiva to teach that the Oral Torah is a scam, would you?

          • Academic Freedom is perspective based on research and facts. This, on the other hand, is pure anti-semitic propaganda. Is Holocaust denial academic freedom? Would academic freedom allow the wheel to be defined as square?

      • I’d like to ask u to supply some proof about the alleged ‘suffering’ of the people in gaze. Did u witness it? Were u there? Also address why u think it isn’t hamas fault/palistinian themselves who cause there own ‘suffering’ by supporting this Hamas who blows woman and children to peices.

      • Academic freedom by backside, I say they have brought the so-called suffering on themselves. As for the the last three words of your post..maybe if need be…better than Jewish blood being shed.

      • Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the State of Israel is indeed an opressing state — what does that have to with a college hiring a biased individual?

        As Mr. Hikind states, Academic integrity calls for the employment of an impartial staff who would allow the students to form their own beliefs and perceptions based upon the dry facts presented to them.

        Last I heard, ‘academic freedom’ didn’t include the pushing of an agenda down people’s throats…

      • So this terrorist supporter will allow the presentation of pro Israel views? I don’t think so.

        And where is there any law of “academic freedom”. Is this a new right? Does it cover promoting terrorism? Free speech, which is defined in the bill of roghts, has been limited to where it will harm others, ie, yelling fire in a crowded theater. This concept of yors, “academic freedom” certainly does not avail anyone of more rights then specified in the bill of rights.

        And that is besides all else, the right to espouse non sense does not mean others have to provide you with the soap box to proclaim your drivel. The school has no responsibility at all to provide a medium for this person to proclaim his hate, support of terrorism and killing of innocent individuals.

        I am surprised not see Charlie Hall weighing in in support of this so called professor.

    2. Reply #’s 2 and 5. Academic freedom is essential to the American educational system, however, it is imperative that a teacher or professor offer a balanced syllabus. Based on this man’s past experience and writings, there are some questions that he must answer before being given a tax-payer funded position.

    3. its very interesting to listen to all the neteria kartar phonies talk about freedom of speech do you have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater if non exists even academic freedoms has there limits the problem here though is thew hiring of an anti american and anti semite as a professor in a government funded institution especially when he limits debate
      IU had a professor that was an avowed communist and editor of their paper his teaching was very left leaning but he was opened to debate and enjoyed it there was no limits but this rosher wants limits to only Israel and here abuses but no other country in the region

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