German university drops Palestine class amid anti-Semitism claims

German university drops Palestine class amid anti-Semitism claims

Seminar offered at a Hildesheim school reportedly justified terrorism, claimed Israel harvests organs of dead Palestinians

HAWK University of Applied Sciences, Hildesheim (Screen capture: YouTube)
HAWK University of Applied Sciences, Hildesheim (Screen capture: YouTube)

A German university is ditching an upcoming seminar that claims Israel harvests the organs of dead Palestinians after local Jewish groups and faculty member accused the institution of promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli content.

The University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HAWK) in the northern city of Hildesheim said Friday it is redesigning its teaching on the Middle East conflict and social work in the coming academic year.

The university on Friday announced the seminar “on the social situation of young people in Palestine” would be cancelled and replaced with a more general module on Middle East conflicts.

Earlier this week, the university defended the seminar, saying the course material “only serve[d] as reading materials and are used to train students in critical discourse,” but did not reflect its political views.

But after Germany’s Central Council of Jews, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a faculty member voiced concern over the course’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content, HAWK decided to pull the seminar from the upcoming 2016-2017 semester.

“Anti-Semitism has no place at our university,” HAWK president Christiane Dienel said after the Friday announcement.

The course material was first exposed by religious studies professor Dr. Rebecca Seidler who last week complained to the university and local Jewish groups the course materials were hostile towards Jews and Israel.

Rather than addressing a variety of social conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, Seidler said the course readings focused solely on political and anti-Israel issues.

According to Seidler, the course featured topics such as ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, histories of families with children who become suicide bombers and the empathy and understanding they got for it, articles alleging the Israeli military was robbing dead Palestinians of their body organs, and a collection of anti-Zionist statements.

Seidler also said the reading materials were not scholarly, but appeared to be taken from Wikipedia, from conspiracy theory blogs and other non-scientific sources.

Last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon condemned the course in a statement to The Jerusalem Post, calling it “An ugly and outrageous demonstration of Jew-hatred. This is not a university, it is a hatred factory,” he said. “One would think that in Germany of all places people would understand the pernicious nature of hatred and racism under a pseudo academic guise.”

AP and JTA contributed to this report.

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