May 29, 2024
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Israel Crisis Averted in Missouri as Biology Professor’s Anti-Zionist Course Nixed

A University of Missouri (MU) Fall 2015 honors tutorial that pro-Israel students felt would promote bigotry and misinformation on their college campus has been cancelled. “Perspectives on Zionism,” which was scheduled to be taught by self-proclaimed “post-Zionist” and “Nakba Jew-in-law,” George Smith, was nixed due to no enrollment, according to a June 10 announcement.

Yet the catalyst behind the cancelled course—Smith, a tenured biology professor who pushed for a curriculum that the instructor himself said would have included works by anti-Zionist authors such as Ilan Pappe, who has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing—is very much active.

The pro-Israel community welcomed the news of the course’s cancellation.

“I can now walk away with the knowledge that there is no interest among students [at MU] to take biased classes like Smith’s,” said Destiny G. Albritton, former president of MU’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) campus chapter.

“We salute the MU administration for upholding academic standards and being a model other schools can emulate,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Israel education organization StandWithUs, said.

Chantelle Moghadam, co-founder and president of Students Supporting Israel at MU, said, “We were very happy to hear that the administration finally made the right decision, and that unbiased education has triumphed over this professor’s political views.”

Smith has written dozens of columns and letters to the editor in the local and campus newspapers in Columbia, Mo., equating Israel’s Independence Day with a Palestinian version of Holocaust Remembrance Day. He uses phrases such as “Zionist mythology” and accuses Israel of “colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” He shows up at pro-Israel events and heckles the speakers. Earlier this year, when 25-year-old Israel Defense Forces reservist Hen Mazzig spoke at MU as part of the StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tour of the Midwest, Smith heckled him from the audience with hostile questions and accusations.

“[He said], ‘Why do you kill Palestinians? How many UN schools have you attacked?” Mazzig told the Chicago Tribune. “And at the end, he came to me and said, ‘How can you come here and defend Ashkenazi Jews—white Eastern European Jews—when you are an Arab Jew?’”

MU alum Daniel Swindell said Smith brought flyers to a talk by the Sderot Media Center’s Noam Bedein that made a joke out of the thousands of rockets that have been launched at Israel. Area spiritual leader Rabbi Yossi Feintuch said Smith showed up to a speech by an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) representative at his synagogue and proceeded to harass the speaker, advocating that Iran should achieve nuclear independence. CUFI’s Albritton noted that Smith has attended organizational meetings and interrupted, using “intimidation tactics” to get his point across.

Smith has used his tenure—he has worked at MU for 30 years—to bring in anti-Israel speakers with university funding. Recently, six university departments sponsored a talk by author Saree Makdisi, who has said it is more important to eliminate the Jewish state than to create a Palestinian one.

“He uses his reputation to get several departmental sponsors,” Albritton told “But when Students Supporting Israel or CUFI asks these same departments to co-sponsor events, we either don’t hear back or we hear, ‘we cannot help you.’ It’s not fair.”

But Smith disagrees.

“I do go to pro-Zionist meetings, but I don’t disrupt. I am just vocal with my questions,” he told “People have freedom of speech. Our university does not sensor our political speech—or any other kind of speech.”

When one reads about MU in the media, it’s usually about the black-and-gold Tigers football team, the stellar reputation of the school’s journalism school, or as a stopping point and party hub situated between the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City.

“The University of Missouri is not a hotbed of anti-Semitism or BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement),” Karen Aroesty, Missouri/Southern Illinois regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Until recently, the impact Smith had on campus was, in Aroesty’s words, “minimal.”

The honors tutorial, however, created tension.

By Maayan Jaffe/

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