Middle East studies in the News
A Range of Perspectives, But All Anti-Israel
Professors are lining up to endorse academic boycotts, and student groups regularly stage public anti-Israel protests and increasingly harass pro-Israel and Jewish students. How much of the biased, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic education at universities is government funded? A new report reveals that the answer is: a lot.
On Sept. 17, the AMCHA Initiative, a California-based nonprofit organization, released a thorough report detailing the biased and unscholarly activities of the federally funded Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES) at the University of California at Los Angeles. The report provides a disturbing window into the ideas and arguments about Israel and Jews being promoted by academic institutions and proves that the CNES is acting in violation of its federal funding requirements. Nine other organizations, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations and the Zionist Organization of America have endorsed the report and issued a joint statement calling on Congress to end taxpayer funding of these centers.
As a function of the Title VI funding that it receives from the U.S. government, the center must provide educational events for the public. Title IV also obligates the center to provide a range of perspectives on the subject matter through these public events. The AMCHA Initiative analyzed all of the public events held by the Center for Near Eastern Studies from 2010 through 2013, during which time the center received $557,180 for this outreach program and an additional $826,500 for its foreign-language and area-studies fellowships. Verity Educate, an independent, nonpartisan organization that examines educational materials for factual accuracy and objectivity, obtained an advance copy of the report. Our analysis of the evidence reveals that the center employs a technique we refer to as "shifting the spectrum."
In this case, the speakers themselves, their scholarship and the center as a whole present the public with a radical view of the Arab-Israeli conflict that includes anti-Semitism, demonization of Israel and Israelis, and an infantilization of Palestinians. This public face is so one-sided that truly radical ideas come to appear centrist or moderate. Speakers regularly manipulate historical facts and present arguments or interpretations as universal truth. These educators, many of whom are also political activists, shift the conversation and spectrum of debate so that only their own ideology and prejudices appear legitimate. The Center for Near Eastern Studies, therefore, offers a full range of anti-Israel arguments and perspectives while omitting an entire spectrum of scholarship from a pro-Israel or simply neutral perspective. Essentially, CNES provides the public with an "education by prosecution" in which one side in the conflict, Israel, is put on trial and prosecuted without any means of defense.
Of the 28 events focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, 27 were found to exhibit anti-Israel bias. Not a single speaker provided a positive view of Israel or its people or spoke about the range of political discourse regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those who spoke on Arab-Israeli conflict-related themes promoted anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ideas to such an extent as to make these radical statements appear moderate.
A sample of events just from 2011 reveals the depth of the disparity. In a lecture on Jan. 11, 2011, a professor from Al-Quds University in Jerusalem promoted the view that Jews today in Israel are unrelated to the Jews of biblical times and had fabricated the religious significance of the Western Wall. Another lecture held just 16 days later featured a post-doctoral student from Concordia University who explained to the audience that Jewish nationalism originates in "unprocessed violent cultural memory" and then blamed the Holocaust as the source of violence in the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
In October 2011, a professor from the University of London presented the idea that Arabs are justified in denying the Holocaust because Israel oppresses Palestinians. The only event that even mentioned a perspective other than one denigrating Israel and Jews was a film screening of "Between Two Worlds," in November 2011. This film explores the divisions in the Jewish community with respect to Israel. However, of the perspectives presented in this film, 10 criticized Israel directly, four appeared impartial, and only five spoke in favor of Israel.
Events in 2012 continued in this vein, with a lecture that labeled Israel a "settler-colonialist" state in order to delegitimize its existence and a professor who admitted that she deliberately excludes the Israeli perspective from her classes to promote her political perspective.
Lest one see UCLA's activities as par for the course, the Center for Middle East Studies at Harvard University is instructive. After some public concern about its politicized outreach programs, Harvard ensured its compliance with academic standards and funding guidelines by focusing on education instead of indoctrination. In recent conversations with Verity Educate, the Harvard center has disavowed such propaganda. UCLA can as well.
The AMCHA Initiative report on UCLA's Center for Near Eastern Studies leaves no doubt that this institution provides a biased view of the Arab-Israeli conflict that fails to "reflect diverse perspectives and generate debate," as the wording of Title VI funding stipulates. The only question that remains is what Congress will do about it.
Ellen R. Wald is the executive director of Verity Educate and teaches Middle East history at Jacksonville University.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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