NIAC Calls out Anti-Iranian Stanford Professor

Here’s something curious, via the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

It seems Stanford professor Jeffrey Ullman harbors some antipathy toward Iranian students as evinced by his negative views of their government and its politics (specifically vis-à-vis Israel).  Doesn’t he know that Iranian students have long stood at the vanguard of the reform and Green movements — at the risk of great personal danger?

Apparently not. When an Iranian student wrote Ullman asking for some help with admissions, Ullman, according to a NIAC letter to Stanford, replied:

You need to read
And even if I were in a position to help, I will not help Iranian students until Iran recognizes and respects Israel as the land of the Jewish people. I know that you may not hold the same insane position as the mullahs that run your country, but it is a matter of principle.
If Iranians want the benefits of Stanford and other institutions in the US, they have to respect the values we hold in the US, including freedom of religion and respect for human rights.

NIAC has alleged that Ullman’s views — particularly his refusal to help Iranian students based on the political positions of their government — amount to “racial and political discrimination.”

Ullman has pushed back a little, directing viewers to his Stanford faculty page that reads, “If you are reading this page in connection with the NIAC Vendetta, you should Read This First.” Likewise with an FAQ page written by Ullman on “Answers to All Questions Iranian,” where the above disclaimer has been affixed to the top of the page.

A professor of computer science, Ullman focuses on database theory, database integration, data mining, and education using the information infrastructure. His FAQ page is littered with historical mistakes (or fibs); a recurring theme is the implication that “technologically advanced” societies are inherently superior, and therefore deserve to conquer other less-advanced societies. One example:

Question: Why did the US take land from the Native Americans?

Answer: Because that’s the way things happen and always have happened. Technologically more advanced civilizations replace less advanced civilizations.

This perspective dovetails nicely with the notion of the “Start-Up Nation,” doesn’t it?  Naturally, Ullman refers to the West Bank by the name used by Israeli settlers and other far-rightists: Judea and Samaria.

Unsurprisingly, Ullman’s FAQ page on Iran and Israel reads like a Hasbara manual, from Israel’s ‘generous offer’ of 2000 right down to Naqba denial — “The notion that Arabs were pushed out of the land of Israel is nonsense.”

“I think that Iranians, from their president on down, could use a history lesson. Here are the relevant facts,” he writes in the introduction.

But Ullman’s sloppy history is not limited to the founding of the state of Israel. He is equally ignorant about Iran. “As I understand it, Mossadegh nationalized the oil resources that had been developed by US and other Western oil companies,” writes Ullman. He could have looked at a source as un-academic as Wikipedia to find that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had the concession for all Iranian oil until 1953, when it was nationalized by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. This man is a professor at an elite West Coast university and he’s reciting history based on his “understand(ing)”? Aren’t academics (good ones, at least) supposed to look things up?

Ullman also makes sweeping generalizations which can’t be backed up by reality. For example, I’m sure Ullman would consider Iran an “Islamic fundamentalist” state, yet he writes, “One of the great shames of Islamic fundamentalism is that it neglects to develop a technologically capable population.” That will come as a shock to Iranians, since, proportionally, there are more Farsi-language bloggers than any other tongue, Iranians use cellphones and Twitter, and many watch satellite TV. In fact, it was under the U.S.-supported Shah where, while “advanced technologies” were available to a tiny elite slice of the population, much of the country languished in poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition.

I won’t waste any more time picking apart this ridiculous document; I’ll let the experts decide if Ullman’s views amount to actualized “discrimination” or simple bigotry. But, if I were an academic at prestigious Stanford, I’d be damned embarrassed that a colleague had written such drivel–and that it appeared on a Stanford URL.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Haha, nice. I like this guy. Mixed up between realist and liberal, BUT, he is fundamentally right. Iranians need to step up and take accountability for their government. After-all, without the complicit attitude of the Iranian people, Iran wouldn’t be run by fascists.


    I -“One of the great shames of Islamic fundamentalism is that it neglects to develop a technologically capable population.”

    II – and yet… we’re sanctioning Iran because we believe it’s developing Nuclear Weapons?

    The above two statements (I + II) do not correlate.
    For a professor and an academic to miss such fundamentals, is quite disheartening.


    Using the professor’s logic – then, Cyrus shouldn’t have liberated the enslaved Jews – he had enough power not to.
    You can’t cherry pick from history circumstances where power alone wins (ex. the Native Americans loss this man speaks of) and has no need for moral conduct –
    and then be grateful that Cyrus blended in morality and right with his might and power, when saving the Jewish people.

    The wailing wall in Jerusalem today – a remnant of the 2nd Temple – was built under Iranian rule – (both Cyrus and Darius) – who freed the Jews enslaved under Babylonian rule.
    If Cyrus was interested in his might alone – he wouldn’t have liberated the Jews out of captivity.

    Might alone for the Native American example, but Might + Morality for when Jews were liberated under Cyrus.

    There is very little logic in this man’s arguments – testament to how prejudice blinds people – even academics!

  3. Zionism is fundamentally a racist ideology. It corrupts the mind. Even otherwise bright academics can also be rabid Zio-supremacists.

    Zionism is not merely a “belief,” it is a political movement with a history combined with an ideology, and today the Zionist state, Israel, defines Zionism in practice, which is the most important way to experience Zionism and understand its colonial and racist nature.

    “Given the initial aims of the movement, it could not have been otherwise. Once the premise was laid down, the inexorable logic of history determined the consequences. Wanting to create a purely Jewish, or predominantly Jewish, state in Arab Palestine in the twentieth century could not but lead to a colonial type situation and to the development (completely normal, sociologically speaking) of a racist state of mind, and in the final analysis to a military confrontation between the two ethnic groups.”
    Maxime Rodinson, _Israel: a colonial-settler state?_ Monad Press, 1973.

    If one believes that it is justified to create and to continue to maintain a Jewish exclusivist state in Palestine–which is common to virtually all known strains of Zionism–then his/her views are inherently colonial even if he/she don’t acknowledge it. Such views can also be judged racist since those goals could not be achieved without dispossessing the native population of Palestine (the Palestinian people) and denying them their inalienable rights in their homeland.

    “The principle setting up the Israeli case of settler- colonialism is that in a certain territory (as yet not well-defined, since various Zionist parties claim different borders for the territory) members of the group known in Israel law as the `Jewish people’ have superior and exclusive political rights as opposed to all others, including natives of the same territory.”
    Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, _Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel_, Pluto Press, 1992, p. 80.

  4. As I was telling some friends the other day, Ullman’s attitude is actually firmly rooted in the existing tradition and practice of Collective Punishment and Disproportionate Response so consistently followed by his favorite country in the middle-east!!
    Imagine I said, as faculty member, I will not academically interact with, say, the British until they disagree with their government, in something of my personal opinion, and not even that, until they overthrow their government! How bizarre is that?

Comments are closed.