First year occupational therapy students at Brunel University were upset and insulted by anti-Israel reading material recommended to them by their lecturer.
UKLFI wrote to the lecturer at the London School of Occupational Therapy at Brunel University, London in light of the concerns expressed by students. The problem was an article their lecturer recommended, which featured an interview with Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, said: “The article is highly one-sided and misleading, and is liable to promote hostility towards Jewish students and other students who might be thought to be friendly to Jewish students or sympathetic in any way towards Israel.”
“It is undesirable to mix the objective study of occupational therapy with biased and misleading political propaganda.”
As well as emphasising suffering of Palestinians without any reference to suffering of Israelis who are also traumatised by the conflict, the article includes misleading and irrelevant allegations against Israel. For example, the article refers to house demolitions in East Jerusalem in a way which implies that they are frequent, when they are extremely rare. It also refers to Palestinians being required to pay for the demolitions, when this is rarer still and probably never enforced.
The article claims falsely that nearly every Palestinian building is deemed illegal by Israeli authorities. It fails to make clear that the buildings that are considered illegal are those built without planning permission, which can be obtained by Palestinian builders if they make the appropriate applications.
It claims falsely that throwing stones is a minor offence, when this can and does cause deaths and serious injuries. We believe that a claim that “up to 40% of Palestinian men have spent time in prison” is also false.
On the subject of Jerusalem we might also note a recent poll indicating that 93% of Arabs of East Jerusalem prefer Israeli rule to rule by the Palestinian Authority.
UKLFI asked the lecturer to remove the article from her class reading list and suggested that she should consider instead including articles about constructive Israeli efforts to mitigate depression and PTSD arising from the conflict, for example:.
The lecturer failed to respond to UKLFI’s letter, so UKLFI wrote to Professor Paul Hellewell, Vice Provost and Dean, at the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Brunel University .
He did not agree to remove the one-sided material but instead said that Brunel acknowledged that “some materials have the potential to cause distress and hurt to our students.” He added “We are reiterating the need for awareness of students’ heritage, nationality, tradition and beliefs to ensure that we set the scene appropriately before sharing such materials and in the interests of promoting an inclusive teaching and learning environment.” We suspect that this means that “trigger warnings” will be given before sharing similar teaching materials.
Prof Hellewell said that Brunel would welcome the opportunity “to explore the issues raised in an open forum”. UKLFI has queried what is meant by an open forum but has so far not received a response.