Israeli Military Off Our Campus!

Sponsored by the Israel Institute and taught by a longtime Israeli general, Meir Elran’s “counter-terrorism” course represents an incursion of the Israeli military into our campus and classrooms. It must be opposed.

Content Warning: This article includes violent imagery and discusses genocide, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

This winter, the University of Chicago is hosting Meir Elran, a veteran general in the Israeli army, to teach a College course. Euphemistically entitled “Security, Counter-Terrorism, and Resilience: The Israeli Case” and already taught multiple times in the past few years, General Elran’s course promises students a detailed overview of “how Western liberal democracies respond to the threat of terrorism and sub-conventional ‘hybrid’ warfare, with a specific focus on the case of Israel.” To this end, the course surveys Israeli “security strategy and practice” from the period before 1948 to the present, with a particular focus on how this practice might now be embraced or adopted by other “liberal democracies,” the United States among them.

A review of Elran’s lecture materials—published earlier this month on Canvas—paints a clearer, more concrete picture of what his course sets out to achieve: Namely, indoctrinating U.S. students with the mindset and worldview of the Israeli military. On Elran’s telling of Israeli history, Israel appears not as an expansionist apartheid state predicated on the ethnic cleansing and theft of Palestinian land, but as an embattled liberal democracy surrounded by “large hostile Muslim populations,” mired in a “Muslim-Jewish conflict” not of its own making. Having established this Orientalist and propagandistic framing, Elran’s course encourages students to put themselves in the shoes of Israeli military strategists, reflecting throughout the quarter on the various past and present means by which Israel has worked to “secure” its colonial enterprise and crush indigenous Palestinian resistance to it.

Elran’s lecture materials pay virtually no attention to the horrific violence that Israel’s so-called security regime inflicts daily and systematically on the millions of Palestinians Israel occupies. Elran’s lectures display no serious concern, for example, regarding Israel’s programmatic theft of Palestinian land, its demolition of Palestinian homes, its collective punishment of Palestinian communities, its biological warfare against Palestinian civilians, its mass destruction of Palestinian olive groves, or its torture of Palestinian children—to say nothing of its “strategy” of periodically massacring the Palestinians it holds captive in the Gaza Strip. All this and more apparently passes, in Elran’s worldview, for so many forms of “counter-terrorism,” while the various means by which Palestinians fight to resist these genocidal practices are broadly dismissed throughout his lectures as emotional, hostile, or “terrorist[ic]” in nature. 

The problems with Elran’s course, however, go beyond its content alone. As noted above, Elran served for decades in senior positions of the Israeli military, where he personally helped develop tactics for crushing Palestinian resistance and subjugating Palestinian communities who protest the theft and colonization of their land. Particularly damning in this regard is the role Elran played in repressing the first intifada (1987–93), a popular Palestinian uprising against apartheid and occupation that the Israeli army countered with a notorious policy of “force, might, and beatings.” Elran served as deputy director of Israeli military intelligence for the intifada’s first two years, a period in which the Israeli military systematically broke the bones of unarmed protestors and murdered more than 300 Palestinians (49 of them children).

Nor did Elran’s participation in anti-Palestinian violence end with his formal retirement from the military. He continues today to serve as a “top expert” for the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a think tank that aims to develop and globally export the brutal repression tactics of the Israeli military. The so-called “Dahiya Doctrine,” for instance, serves as a case in point. First formulated in two INSS policy papers published in 2008—and named after a Beiruti neighborhood flattened by Israel in its 2006 invasion of Lebanon—the Dahiya Doctrine calls on Israel to respond to armed Palestinian or Lebanese resistance “with force that is disproportionate,” particularly by “damaging” and “punish[ing]” civilian areas “to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.” This INSS–sponsored doctrine saw its first real-world application in Israel’s 2008 assault on Gaza, a 22-day massacre in which Israeli “counter-terrorism” took the form of leveling more than 6,000 Palestinian homes and slaughtering some 1,200 Palestinian civilians, 350 of them children. (The alleged Palestinian “terrorists,” for their part, destroyed one Israeli home and killed three Israeli civilians in the course of defending themselves, yielding a final Palestinian/Israeli civilian death ratio of roughly 400:1.)

From his past service in the Israeli army to his present work for the INSS, Elran’s career has been defined by and dedicated to securing Israel’s colonial project and crushing Palestinian resistance to it. Personally—and, more troublingly, institutionally—Elran embodies the history of anti-Palestinian violence in which he has long been a career participant. And it is in light of this fact, ultimately, that the University’s decision to offer Elran’s latest “counter-terrorism” course must be understood and vigorously opposed. Taught by an Israeli-general-turned-INSS–specialist and funded by the Israel Institute—an organization that uses millions of tax-exempt dollars to push a pro-Israel agenda in U.S. academic spaces—Elran’s course represents nothing less than the incursion of Israel’s military complex onto the University’s campus.

No principle of “academic freedom” or “intellectual inquiry” justifies hosting classes taught by complicit Israeli military personnel—particularly not classes that misrepresent Palestinian history, treat Palestinian deaths as fodder for “strategic” military reflection, and inundate students with the Orientalist worldview of Israeli colonists.

For these reasons and others, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are announcing a sustained, student-led campaign against Elran’s course for the duration of this quarter. We urge those interested in expressing support for our campaign and opposition to Elran’s course to sign on here, as well as to follow our Instagram for periodic updates about upcoming events and actions. Above all, we look forward to a future in which the University’s Palestinian students will no longer be forced to watch leading participants in their ongoing Nakba be hired by their administration, welcomed on their campus, and handed positions of power in their classrooms.

Until Liberation,

Students for Justice in Palestine

#IsraeliMilitaryOffOurCampus #CounterColonialism


Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Chicago is UChicago’s chapter of a nationwide network of students dedicated to supporting Palestinians in their struggle for liberation, especially by raising awareness about and organizing against the Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and people.

Note: Course materials for Professor Elran’s “Security, Counter-Terrorism, and Resilience: The Israeli Case” course were anonymously shared with SJP and have been internally confirmed by Maroon editors. To protect privacy concerns, The Maroon will not share the documents directly.