On March 3, 2012, Harvard University will host a two-day conference on the “One
State Solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Featured guests include
academics who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state, the founder of Electronic
Intifada and an ex- Palestinian official. No one remotely sympathetic to Israel
Tragically, this is the sort of anti-Israel activity
thinly disguised by a veneer of academic posing that one has come to expect from
this venerable Ivy League institution.
In recent years, Harvard has
hosted such figures as Holocaust defamer Norman Finkelstein, accused serial
fabricator professor Ilan Pappé, and Naim Ateek, founder of the anti-Israel,
anti-Jewish Sabeel ministry.
The university is also home to Stephen Walt,
co-author of the error-prone The Israel Lobby.
The transformation of
Harvard’s Middle Eastern studies from sober scholarship to anti-Israel advocacy
has coincided with a rise in financial gifts from wealthy Arab donors, including
a reported $20 million gift by Saudi businessman and international investor
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud in 2005. However, the most insidious component
of this shift is the position the school’s Center for Middle East Studies
occupies as a beneficiary of both Gulf Arab largesse and taxpayer funding
through federal Title VI grants.
Harvard is one of 17 universities that
receives Title VI funding for the purpose of increasing public knowledge about
the Middle East and Islam. By targeting their donations to schools involved in
the federally supported outreach effort, the Gulf Arab donors influence not only
instructors at the university level but also, through them, those who will teach
about the Middle East in primary and secondary schools.Saudi Arabia and
the Global Islamic Terrorist Network
, edited by Sarah N. Stern and published in
November 2011 by Palgrave Macmillan, details the extent of the Saudi
infiltration of American education.
The book’s Web site includes data
from the US Department of Education indicating that from 1995 to February of
2008, Gulf and other Arab states provided $329 million to American schools. The
figure has undoubtedly grown since 2008.
Two well-known academics,
Stanley Kurtz and Martin Kramer, testified before Congress about the need for
better oversight of how Title VI funds are used. In 2007, Kurtz warned of the
capture and use of public outreach programs by Saudi and Gulf Arab donors to
shape America’s K- 12 education on the Middle East.
There is hardly a
better example of the dangers Kurtz, Kramer and Stern warn us of than the
activities of the Outreach center of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern
Studies. The center’s stated mission is to promote “a critical understanding of
the diversity of the Middle East region.” But the activities and record of its
director and its programming reveal a dogmatic adherence to the polemical, often
counter-factual Palestinian version of the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than
the presentation of authoritative and diverse scholarly viewpoints.
Outreach Center’s director, Paul Beran, is an activist in the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The center’s recommended
readings heavily favor anti-Zionist writings, including works by the late Edward
Said, a Palestinian polemicist, and former Israeli professor Ilan Pappé, the
driving force behind academic boycotts of Israel.
The center also
recommends the propaganda film Occupation 101,
which features notorious defamers
of Israel like Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk, whose “despicable” anti-Israel
animus led Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, to call for his
removal as UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian Arabs in 2011. The center’s
Web site steers teachers to writings by anti-Zionist Jews.
entitled “Teaching Sense-Making Around Israel/Palestine” rejects discussion of
Palestinian terrorism and describes any focus on the conflict’s religious
dimension as “unsophisticated.”
Israel is labeled a regional “hegemon,”
ignoring the fact that Muslim and Arab populations outnumber the Jewish state by
400 million to 8 million and possess land area a thousand times
Distortion and misinformation are only part of the
Of equal concern is the intellectual dumbing-down that
inevitably follows the abandonment of serious scholarship. This is apparent in
the banal selection of reading materials recommended by the Outreach Center. A
bevy of fictional stories recycle the theme of alleged Palestinian victimization
The center even plans to devote a day-long seminar to a
cartoon book produced by a young activist named Sarah Glidden, whose insight
into Israel consists of a two-week tour with the Birthright program.
blogger Joshua Malbin noted, “If the most memorable experience of your life is a
package tour taken by literally 200,000 other people to date, you don’t get to
write a memoir.” Malbin could have added, if you do write such a memoir, how
does that get to be the sole topic of a seminar at Harvard University? The
people who should be the most concerned with the degradation of Middle Eastern
scholarship are parents, taxpayers and those associated with universities that
tolerate and abet such propaganda.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks by al-Qaida, there was a broad consensus that the United States needed
to understand the Middle East better, particularly to answer the question, “Why
do they hate us?” With the increasing role of Saudi and other Gulf Arabs in
funding Middle Eastern studies and the oft-noted radicalization of many of the
professors in this field, state and local officials must take on the
responsibility of protecting their students, and the field of Middle East
studies itself, from irresponsible university faculty and
Parents and taxpayers must be vigilant and urge school
officials to carefully scrutinize educational material provided from
universities like Harvard that have compromised their standards of
scholarship.The writer is a senior researcher for the Boston-based
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Any
opinions expressed above are solely his own.