(November 29, 2018 / JNS) It’s hard to believe, but this administration, as well state governments, are funding anti-Israel incitement on college campuses across the nation.
How? By sending millions of dollars to support Middle East Studies programs, which are dominated by Israel-hating, anti-Semitic professors.
Almost half of the programs are led by faculty who have endorsed academic boycotts of Israel, and develop and lead BDS rallies and other anti-Israel activities. Even worse, in order to get these government grants, they must conduct teacher-training workshops for teachers of K-12 public schools. This, according to Sarah Stern of EMET (The Endowment for Middle East Truth), who has been working on this issue for years, amounts to little more than “trickle down propaganda.” Nurturing and growing the anti-Israel movement in the United States, which has been going on for decades, has horrific long-term ramifications for Israel and the Jewish people. We are funding the academic headquarters for anti-Israel incitement. This funding has to stop.
It all started innocently enough. In 1965, in the wake of the Cold War, Congress passed an education act that included developing Regional Studies Departments. The objective was to develop proficiency in languages such as Russian and Arabic, and their cultures, so that the Defense establishment would have a candidate pool to draw from to combat existential threats to the United States. As with many good intentions, it didn’t work out exactly as planned, particularly in regards to the Middle East Studies Departments.
Over the past decades, these programs have been overtaken by rabid anti-Israel leadership and staff. At New York University and Columbia University, fully 24 faculty members, including the department chairs, are actively supporting an academic boycott of Israel. Department chairs at NYU and the University of Michigan recently led BDS rallies. Though some modicum of objectivity is required in order to receive the grants, many of the chairs of these programs are simply lying and no one is holding them accountable.
Worse yet, the material that is being given to elementary-school teachers can only poison the minds of the young, impressionable children who are in their charge. Just one example “in 1948, Israel had three times the military force of its Arab neighbors who merely wanted to enter Israel to save their brothers and sisters from the Zionists.” The teacher’s guide that is most widely used is Audrey Shabbas’s The Arab World Studies Notebook, which characterizes Israelis as villainous racists. They are also openly teaching curriculums that include substantial teachings of Muhammed, and the practice of Islam and Islamic prayer. Can you imagine the outcry if public schools were openly teaching about Jesus and Christianity?
Despite the fact that in 2008, EMET had successfully worked with Congress to amend the law authorizing this program, so that it reflects “a diversity of perspectives,” nowhere is there a hint of anything resembling the Jewish perspective in these studies. There is nothing taught about the persecution of Jews in Arab lands or the mufti of Jerusalem’s attempted partnership with Hitler. More importantly, there is nothing taught about the miracle, thank G-d, of how over half of the world’s Jews have returned to our historic homeland; how Israel does everything it can to avoid war; how Israel has the most moral army in the world, notifying residents of Gaza with a 90-minute warning before striking; how we give help to our neighbors with critical medical care and agricultural development; or the force for incredible good we have been to the region and the world.
Educational incitement is ultimately as great or greater a threat to Israel and our people as weapons. Israel-bashers and Jew-haters have to be taught to hate. Followers of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Woman’s March leader Linda Sarsour have to be taught. Through our tax dollars, we are unfortunately, helping to train the next generation.
Spearheaded by Tammi Benjamin of the AMCHA initiative, 69 organizations recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking her to address this insanity. No doubt the “deep state” within the department, especially those who oversee the program, will push back and find allies to cry about academic freedom. But federally and state funded academic freedom does not mean freedom to lie nor freedom to incite.
The typical administration response to this campaign would be to “slow-roll” the organizations who signed the letter. We can envision yet another program review, which will take a year or more to complete. It would likely include a few findings and some watered-down unenforceable action items, all while the incitement gathers more followers. The national security question to ask is: “Does this program still meet the original intent of the Defense establishment?” It seems to be working at cross-purposes to national security interests. Does the U.S. government and state governments still need to fund these programs? If it can be demonstrated that there is a dearth of Arabic or Farsi speakers, one could appreciate the need for funding the learning of those languages. Barring that, is there still a case to be made to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on these programs?
The truth is that this has been going on for decades now. And, as Sarah Stern says, “It is no wonder that by the time students go to university, there is only one nation state in the entire world that they are eager to rally against: the State of Israel.” It’s time to put an end to this insanity.
Gary Schiff is a longtime expert in natural-resources policy and management for Israel. He has written for Jewish News Syndicate, American Thinker and The Times of Israel. He and his family recently moved to Jerusalem.