Calls to Deering and to Bernard Reich, who filled in for Diskin last Thursday, were not returned.
Diskin declined to comment via e-mail. A GWU spokesperson also had no comment.
Berlin and a classmate, senior Elizabeth Kamens, both said that the problem with Diskin’s teaching was that she focused only on Israel in a course that was supposed to deal with the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.
“We would never cover the other side,” said Kamens, who is Jewish.
“It became more of an Israeli politics class,” said Berlin, noting that while understanding Zionism is important to studying the Arab-Israeli conflict, he wondered why they were they spending half of the semester learning about it.
Berlin said that he and a number of other students had expressed their “dissent” to Diskin in class about the way she was handling the course, but became frustrated when they would ask for an Arab perspective on an issue and Diskin would change the subject or talk over them. For example, after Diskin cited the number of Israelis who died in a particular military conflict, Berlin said, students asked for the number of fatalities on the Palestinian side. Diskin, according to Berlin, replied that only the Israeli figures were reliable, because only Israel was a democracy.
“I’m Jewish myself, but I feel there’s a line between objectivity and teaching with a bias,” said Berlin, who said he was one of a number of students who expressed their concerns to leaders of the political science department.
The students said they were assigned readings from only two books: the scholarly A History of Israel by GWU professor emeritus Howard Sachar and the book Myths & Facts.
Kamens said she was “a little surprised” that the latter book was selected for an upper-level political science course because of the book’s structure. It outlines common “myths” about the Arab-Israeli conflict and then provides evidence responding to those myths.
Myths & Facts originated as a American Israel Public Affairs Committee publication decades ago and was updated by Mitchell Bard, executive director of the Chevy Chase-based American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, in recent years.
M.J. Rosenberg, who edited Myths & Facts when he worked at AIPAC in the 1980s, was surprised to hear it was being used in a college class.
“It’s not a textbook,” said Rosenberg, now the policy director at the Israel Policy Forum. “It’s counter-propaganda” that is “not designed to show both sides,” but to provide all the facts that support the pro-Israel side. (MORE)