Thomas Abowd is a lecturer in the American and Colonialism Studies Departments at Tufts University. Abowd is the author of “Colonial Jerusalem – The Spatial Construction of Identity and Difference in a City of Myth 1948-2012.” He has also served as an advisory board member of the group Jewish Voice for Peace in Boston and regularly collaborates with the antisemitic group, Students for Justice in Palestine.
Abowd frequently refers to Israel as a colonial state, in which European Jews stole the land from the Arabs who were living in what is now Israel and launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing that continues to this day. In a 2016 speech at the Jerusalem Fund’s Annual Conference, Abowd repeated this claim, alleging that Israel’s capital Jerusalem is being actively purged of the Arabs that live in the city.
Abowd’s view that Israel is an apartheid state forms the basis for his support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is weaponized as a means for those who wish to economically and politically isolate, strangle, and dismantle the state of Israel by attacking any companies and nations that have ties with it. As a featured speaker at a 2014 protest hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace Boston, Abowd condemned Israel and other companies that he alleged were complicit in the murder of civilians:
“As we all witnessed Israeli jets bombing civilian areas this week, Israeli troops storming Palestinian refugee camps and cities, and the killing of Palestinian civilians, I am reminded how complicit the US government, US corporations, and the American taxpayers are in the human rights abuses committed by Israel.”
With his prior statements and actions in mind, many in the Tuft’s community were alarmed when Abowd began offering a course titled “Colonizing Palestine.” According to the course description, students will examine Palestine and Israel through the “lens of colonialism studies” and answer important questions regarding issues like “gender and sexuality.”
In an op-ed defending the course, Abowd describes Israel’s historical claims in the Middle East as “biblical myths.” He even admits that the accounts of historians that have accused Israel of ethnic cleansing are the inspiration for the course:
“(Baruch Kimmerling) wrote in detail about the various ways in which Israel was built overwhelmingly upon the land and even within homes stolen from those Palestinians made refugees. These two scholars, like thousands of others fighting for justice and equality in Israel and Palestine, have inspired my own intellectual pursuits and, indeed, the course I am teaching this semester at Tufts.“
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