Jewish Sociology and Global Studies Professor William Robinson of the University of Santa Barbara in California sparked massive controversy recently after sending his students an email comparing photos of Jews in Nazi concentration camps with Palestinians in war-torn Gaza Strip.
The email, sent during Operation Cast Lead and titled "parallel photos of Nazis and Israelis", was sent to 80 students in his class and included 25 photos of Nazi victims, compared with similar photos from Gaza.
The email also included an essay stating, "Gaza in Israel's Warsaw – one big concentration camp for Palestinian… What we are witnessing is the slow process of genocide."
Two Jewish students immediately dropped the class and filed a formal complaint against Robinson with the Academic Senate’s Charges Committee. Robinson has hired an attorney and the hearing has been set for May 14.
Robinson, 50, who has been teaching at the University of Santa Barbara for the past nine years, called the complaints and criticism "an attack of academic freedom," citing his accusers were confusing criticism with anti-Semitism.
Robinson further claimed that he often sends "thought provoking material" to his students by email.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies also condemned the professor's actions, as ADL Director Abraham Foxman called it "blatant anti-Semitism."
Robinson's act, however, was not censured by all: A groups of students, as well as various academic groups in the US, all rallied to his defense, calling the backlash "a clear attempt to silence the criticism against Israel."
Harold Marcuse, a Jewish history professor with the university who teaches his students about the Holocaust, said that while he would not have sent such an email, Robinson's act, being one of legitimate criticism, was not out of line.
The university's administration offered no official comment.