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UM shouldn’t be a space for Zionist propaganda, students say after pro-Israel academic invited by international studies dept

UM shouldn’t be a space for Zionist propaganda, students say after pro-Israel academic invited by international studies dept

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — The University of Malaya Student Union (KMUM) today demanded that the management of the university take responsibility for hosting an American professor known for pro-Israel and pro-colonialism views.

The group said doing so would help resolve the controversy over the professor claiming that Malaysian leaders are advocating a “second Holocaust” for Jews during a talk delivered at the university, which it said has upset students and parts of the Malaysian public.

“Academic freedom is not wrong, but lectures should not be used as a space to spread Zionist propaganda. UM’s deliberate negligence in inviting the academic who has controversial records can’t be used as an excuse anymore,” KMUM said in a statement here.

KMUM then demanded to be consulted on any programmes to be organised at the university’s care centre, and for these to be approved by the group’s president or leadership committee before implementation.

It said this would reduce the risk of repeating the incident with Professor Bruce Gilley, whose other events have since been cancelled.

KMUM also reiterated its commitment to the Palestinian cause, both in Malaysia and internationally.

Separately, student group Mahasiswa Progresif Universiti Malaya criticised the university’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for inviting Gilley and providing him a platform to advocate for Zionism in Malaysia, questioning its motives for doing so.

The group said this was irresponsible and disappointing for the country’s premier university.

“Are they trying to show they do not support the stand taken by our prime minister to support the Palestinian people’s struggle for independence?” it asked.

It then urged UM’s management to warn those using academic freedom to deliberately touch on sensitive matters.

Gilley, a professor of political science at Portland State University, was invited by the Department of International and Strategic Studies for three events, starting from a seminar on international relations on Monday.

On Tuesday, Gilley delivered a keynote address titled “Will Malaysia Become an Active Middle Power”. Yesterday, in an X post about the speech, he said “a country whose political leaders advocate a second Holocaust against the Jewish people will never be a serious player in world affairs, and will certainly never be a friend or partner of the US”.

Gilley pointed to the remarks of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.

He has since deleted the post, claiming it was for the safety and well-being of UM staff who invited him.

Gilley is known to be a supporter of Israel, displaying the state’s flag on his X account.

He is also a controversial figure among the Western academia for praising Western colonialism and saying it should be “reclaimed”, considered “legitimate”, and even “resurrected”.

In 2017, his article The Case for Colonialism was published in the Third World Quarterly journal and provoked massive controversy resulting in two petitions signed by thousands of academics calling for the editor responsible to be sacked, while 15 of the journal’s 34-member editorial board resigned in protest.