Controversial historian visits campus

Dr. Ilan Pappé sits in the Smittcamp Alumni
House library before his lecture to the
Fresno State community. Pappé is a historian
professor at Exeter in England and has received
much criticism.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

Prior to Dr. Ilan Pappé’s lecture Thursday evening, some were critical about the Israeli historian’s stance on the Palestine/Israel Peace Process.

But during the discussion in the Peter’s Education Auditorium, Pappé faced a rather mild-mannered crowd, despite some uproar from the university’s choice to support the Middle East Lecture Series event.

Put on by the College of Arts and Humanities, Pappé lectured to a full audience  but some questioned College of Arts and Humanities Dean Vida Samiian’s decision to pursue Pappé’s lecture, and one even referred to it as “state-funded anti-semitism.”

“It’s actually really reassuring to me that so many people in the community that have come in support of academic freedom and support of having a speaker like Professor Pappé — a controversial perspective presented on our campus,” said Samiian.

Samiian also received criticism in a YouTube video posted by a Pappé opponent claiming that the dean has an anti-Israel agenda.

In a statement letter, Fresno State , Cal Poly and CSU Northridge presidents stood by their decision to host the historian, and said that the university is a place for all areas of discussion — both popular and unpopular

The following statement came from the letter:

“Our universities do not endorse any particular position, but emphatically support the rights of people to express and hear all points of view. For these reasons, it is not appropriate for our universities, as public institutions, to decide whether speakers are permitted to appear on campus based on the ideas they hold.”

According to the Daily Sundail, CSU Northridge’s student newspaper, tension between the historian and his opponents sparked at the Los Angeles-area campus on Monday. Pappé addressed the conception that he is anti-semetic and finds it interesting because that would mean “he hates himself.”

“I’m not particularly in love with myself. I know that. But I don’t hate myself otherwise,” Pappé said. “I would have been hospitalized or I would have killed myself.”

Political science student Kristin Schalck, a senior at Fresno State, said regardless if he is anti-semitic or not, it shouldn’t matter — it’s a learning experience.

“The university is all about learning, it’s all about hearing all the sides whether you support it or you don’t, it’s a learning experience,” said Schalck. “Whether he is or isn’t should be irrelevant.”

Schalck hoped to hear the Palestinian side of the issue, since a lot of the material she receives in school is pro-Israel, however, didn’t get the information she was searching for.

“I didn’t take too much away because a lot of what was said was stuff I’ve already learned about and heard in classes,” said Schalck. “He kind of reinforced some of the beliefs I had that I got in classes — that the U.S. is just not wanted in the Middle East and it’s causing more harm than good.”

Regardless of the criticisms Pappé received, the historian was glad he had the opportunity to visit Fresno State’s campus one more time.

“Any campus in America I can talk to is a very happy opportunity for me,” said Pappé.

Pappé will conclude his lecture series at the UC Davis campus.

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