William Cook, professor of English, spoke about “Sir Richard Catling and Palestine Today” in the President’s Dining Room Monday.
During his sabbatical last year, Cook went through archives to discover Catling, who was an assistant-inspector-general with the Palestine police, and studied his role in mid-20th century Palestine.
“What interested me wasn’t (Catling) yet, it was George W. Bush, who was using my tax dollars in a way I found offensive,” Cook said. “We are no longer America, this is an oligarchy, if you don’t believe me go try to vote for somebody other than what they want.”
According to Cook, Catling’s file offered a perspective and a “damnation” with evidence of both the “Jewish Agency” and terrorist groups.
“I asked myself, why would a guy leave a file that’s condemning the agency that they created,” Cook said. “That report summed up what he saw and had to endure until May 15, 1948, when he left.”
More than 40 students and faculty members attended the lecture.
“I think everything in politics is so multi-layered,” Elijah Gaglio, senior political science major, said. “To expect no one but Jewish civilians to enter a region is unique for the time we are living in and in the 1950s.”
Students and faculty stayed after the lecture to ask additional questions. The discussion became heated as audience members responded to Cook’s notion of what defines a Jew.
“The majority of the Jews that are currently running Israel come from Khazar, and there is no bloodline to the Semitic people,” Cook said. “They were converted into Judaism, but they are the ones that spread through Europe.”
One audience member, Robert Richter, a Holocaust survivor took issue with Cook’s characterization.
“I am utterly surprised to have heard this presentation,” Richter said. “It just didn’t make sense to me. It is good to have different opinions at the University, but not if it’s so biased and beyond reason.”
Jake Huberman, visiting assistant professor of film and television and adviser of the Hillel club, was also taken aback by Cook’s presentation.
“A university is an open exchange of ideas,” Huberman said. “I feel in any political argument both sides should be explored in academia,” Huberman said. “That exploration should be based on historical facts, if one is going to make statements about the history of a people. I do not think today’s presentation was entirely historically accurate.”
Audience members took issue with several points raised in Cook’s presentation.
“The history of the land (in Cook’s lecture) was one-sided and did not mention a Jewish presence in Israel for the last 3,000 years,” Huberman said. “So in an academic setting, I take issue with something that is not historically accurate.
“When I asked (Cook) about it, he conceded the point to a degree, but he went further to state that he didn’t think European Jews were Semitic. On one level I was concerned about historical omission; I’m even more concerned with his views on an entire people. As the adviser to Jewish life on campus I have to take a close look at that and I want to talk to my students about it and see what they think.”
Jennifer Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A word in the story “‘Palestine’ lecture sparks debate” (April 17) was misspelled. Khazar is the correct spelling. The Campus Times regrets the error.