Ideological Bias at UCI?

, Howard Charlop, Leave a comment

On November 29th I attended the program “Middle East
in 2007: Same Old Story or a New Beginning?” at the
University of California, Irvine (UCI). It was
co-sponsored by the Middle East Studies Student
Initiative, The Department of History, and the
Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies. Panelists
1.)Mark LeVine, Associate Professor, Modern Middle
Eastern History, UCI
2.)Lina Haddad Kreidie, Lecturer, Department of
Political Science, UCI
3.)Nasrin Rahimieh, Director of the Samuel Jordan
Center for Persian Studies, UCI
Opening remarks were made by LeVine, who told the
overflow crowd to “spread the knowledge and inform
others.” Some of the views presented by the
panelists during the panel discussion and the
question-and-answer session which followed are shown
1) Kreidie suggested that Israel, not Syria, not
Hezbollah, was responsible for the assassination of
Pierre Gemayel. When asked if she had any evidence
during the Q&A session which followed the Panel
discussion, both she and LeVine said that their
extensive experience in the Middle East gives them
reason enough to conclude that Israel was probably
responsible for the assassination.
2) Kreidie also suggested that Israel might have
started a war with Lebanon because Lebanon poses a
threat as another regional power in the Middle East

and that the outcome of the war was the destruction
of Lebanon, not Hezbollah.
3) Kreidie stated that Syria wants stability and the
return of the Golan Heights.
4) Rahimieh said that President Bush caused a
provocation by saying that Iran was not a democratic
country. During the Q&A session which followed,
LeVine stated that Iran was not a theocracy.
5) LeVine discussed whether the Israelis and
Palestinians were wounded enough to consider
becoming partners for peace. He said that Israel
lost all credibility as a partner for peace when it
continually violated the Oslo Peace Accords by
creating more settlements, intensifying the
occupation, and creating poverty.
During the Q&A session I asked if Israel had
demonstrated that it was a willing partner for peace
in 2000 at Camp David by offering 100% of Gaza, 97%
of the West Bank, East Jerusalem as a capital,
contiguous land and a $30 billion redevelopment
package. LeVine said that is what is commonly
believed but not accurate. I then showed him a
StandWithUs report which confirmed my understanding.
He told me he had other information that gives a
different story.

6) During the Q&A session one of the students asked
why a more balanced panel wasn’t used for this
important program. LeVine replied that the panel
wasn’t biased and that the truth, based on the
facts, was presented. He further characterized the
program as not political and that empirical data was
In a subsequent email, LeVine wrote “you are
certainly right that there are always two sides of a
story and it’s impossible to decide definitively
who’s right without evidence.” He also repeated a
suggestion that we schedule a debate on these issues

and let everyone decide for themselves. I told
LeVine that we have different points of view and
different sources of information. I hope we can find
some common ground and teach others to do the same
rather than proving the other side to be biased
using our “unlimited sources of empirical data.”

On November 1st UCI hosted “Religious Diversity: An
Interfaith Dialogue.” Dean of Students Sally
Peterson, who served as moderator, and Vice
Chancellor Manuel Gomez attended the program. The
program was co-sponsored by Hillel and the Muslim
Student Union. At the last minute however, the MSU
withdrew their sponsorship.
The panelists were:
1. Rabbi Richard Steinberg, Congregation Shir
Ha-Ma’alot, Irvine;
2. Reverend Gary Barmore, Fairview Community Church,
Costa Mesa;
3. Sheik Sadullah Kahn, Executive Director of
Religious Affairs, Islamic Center in Irvine, son in
law of Imam Muzammil Siddiqi (Director of the
Islamic Center of Orange County). Sheik Kahn arrived
in Irvine from South Africa in 1998.

Sheik Sadullah Kahn at
UCI’s panel discussion
Picture courtesy of Janet Lawrence

After some friendly discussion about religion by the
participants, the audience was invited to ask
questions. The first question came from a student
who asked: Does Israel have a right to exist?

Rabbi Steinberg said he was a Zionist and then
proceeded to explain the importance of Israel to the
Jewish people.

Sheik Kahn said that all people have the right to
Palestine, that he opposes Zionism, that Israel is a
racist state and that the Palestinians are fighting
for their freedom. He also said that Jews are not
“the Chosen People;” we are all children of God.
When he finished, a loud “Allah Akbar” was shouted
three times from the back of the room by Muslim

Rabbi Steinberg responded by saying that words are
very powerful. Looking at both Sally Peterson and
Manual Gomez, he said that we must be sensitive
about the way we speak. He said that a third of the
Jews, 6 million people, were wiped out during WWII.
He said that the University must do a better job of
dealing with words. There was no response from the
UCI administrators.

This was a “very educational” evening. One I will
long remember.

Howard Charlop is the Orange County, Calif. chapter director of Stand With Us, “an educational organization that ensures that Israel’s side of the sotry is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and chruches through brochures, speakers and conferences.”