New Hire at Northeastern Hopes to Bring Greater Focus on Israel
Special to the Journal
BOSTON — On June 12, Northeastern University named Dov Waxman as the new co-director of its Middle East Center. Prior to the announcement, a single director, Denis Sullivan, headed the department.
Waxman plans to bring greater balance in course coverage to Northeastern’s Middle East Center, which has become a hotbed of controversy because of the campaign waged by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), which exposes anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in higher education. "Very often universities’ Middle East Centers, for a variety of reasons, neglect or exclude Israel from their discussion," Waxman said.
The new co-director plans on teaching a host of courses at Northeastern that focus on Israel rather than just its Arab neighbors. Waxman hopes to teach courses on the effects of the Arab Spring on Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli politics and foreign policy, and international relations. Waxman intends to provide an open forum for discussion that encourages the study of multiple viewpoints on controversial topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Currently Waxman serves as an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His primary academic focus is on Israeli politics and society, and he has closely examined issues of Israeli identity and its connection to Jewishness, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In addition to teaching, Waxman will program campus events related to Israel and the Middle East.
The decision to add a codirector at the Middle East Center ensures greater breadth, said Uta Poiger, Interim Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.
"It is a real opportunity for the Center to have two co-directors with varying areas of expertise," Poiger noted.
Sullivan, the current director, became embroiled in APT’s campaign to expose anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in higher education. APT produced "Northeastern Unbecoming," a film that includes video and audio recordings of Northeastern University professors, including Sullivan. The film asserts that there is an anti-Israel bias within the Middle East Center, and that Sullivan uses his professorship as a platform to further his political agenda by indoctrinating students to adopt an anti-Israel viewpoint.
In the film, Sullivan is recorded saying, "Hamas is a terrorist organization, sure. They also do great health care and kindergartens… Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel, so what?"
Citing university policy, Dean Poiger refused to comment on APT and the organization’s potential influence on the hiring of Waxman. However, Waxman’s understanding of the professor’s role in teaching contentious subjects contrasts starkly with the movie’s depiction of Sullivan as an indoctrinator.
"A professorship is not a political pulpit … there is a big difference between teaching and advocacy," Waxman said. "If you are presenting different points of view, it encourages students to do the same."
Waxman wants students to feel comfortable discussing controversial topics. "While I want to encourage students to feel confident and to learn from each other, I also want to make sure there is civility and respect… It is important to set down ground rules and stick to them," Waxman said.
The new co-director declined to comment on the allegations of anti-Semitism that APT has leveled against Northeastern.
Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of APT, believes that his organization’s campaign influenced Northeastern’s decision to hire Waxman.
"This only happened because of the campaign that exposed the problem in the first place. This is a lesson to the Jewish community to be outspoken about issues," Jacobs said.
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Dov Waxman will codirect the Middle East Center at Northeastern