The overwhelming anti-Israel bias that has come to characterize Middle East studies at major American universities is no longer the
dirty little secret of academia.
For several decades this field has seen an exponential growth of tenured positions and well-funded Middle East studies
departments. But along with it, this trend has fostered a new orthodoxy of opinion about the subject. Those who do not teach
contempt for Israel and Zionism as well as the influence of the west have generally been driven out of the field.
This culture of bias has also created a hostile atmosphere for pro-Israel students and faculty that has often crossed the line into
What is to be done about it?
One way is for the pro-Israel dissidents within the university community to protest. Last year, some brave Columbia University
students made their complaints known after several egregious incidents of bias and intimidation. The result was a highly publicized
university investigation. Even though it produced a predictable whitewash of the offenders, the protests won't go away.
What else can we do?
An even better way to combat this bias is to examine who is really funding this shoddy scholarship and campus bullying. Though
foreign sources of funds, especially Saudi Arabia, can be blamed, the bulk of the money comes from John Q. Taxpayer. That means
Congress' power of the purse is probably the best way to put a halt to the madness.
After the publication of scholar Martin Kramer's groundbreaking 2001 book about the subject, "Ivory Towers in the Sand," the
momentum has gradually built for Congress to take action to halt the use of federal money to subsidize programs where anti-Zionist
bias is widespread.
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The money is doled out under the aegis of the 1958 Title VI education bill to fund higher education. Title VI has been key to the
creation of departments, such as the notorious examples at Columbia and Georgetown universities, where the works of Palestinian
propagandists such as the late Edward Said were treated as gospel, and Zionism is seen as the main problem in the Mideast.
Advocates of more rigorous scholarship on the region have long complained about the uniformity of views voiced by the Middle East
Studies industry. Now finally Congress has finally acted to provide some accountability for the vast sums spent on this cause.
Yet a question remains: Does the legislation that has just been approved provide real accountability, or will a key last-minute
change in one version of the bill render its passage a meaningless exercise?
The change involved the dropping of a plan, included in a version of the legislation proposed in the House of Representatives, to
create an advisory board that would help foster "diverse opinions" in the field of Middle Eastern studies. In this context, the phrase
"diverse opinions" meant the inclusion of pro-Western and pro-Zionist voices, rather than the monolithic Arabism that currently
dominates the field.
Instead of this board, a Senate version of a bill on the issue leaves it all in the hands of the Secretary of Education. The secretary
would have the power to suspend federal funding to universities where bias is rampant. But according to the wording of the bill, after
60 days the funding would be reinstated, no matter whether complaints had been resolved or not.
So while the passage of the Senate version is certainly a step in the right direction, as long as a powerful mechanism for holding
bias in check is absent, the victory will be purely symbolic.
Those who oppose the more stringent measure worry about government interference in curricula and the heavy-handed use of the
power of the purse. Some academic Arabists go further and allege that the result of this legislation would be a form of
"McCarthyism," in which independent voices would be squelched in a pro-Israel witch-hunt.
But the bill's opponents have it backward.
If there is any danger of a "thought police" running amok in academia, it is under the present system, where anti-Zionist professors
reign unchallenged and enforce a new anti-Western orthodoxy that stifles both the truth and any hope of creative scholarship.
And lest anyone think this is a purely esoteric controversy, the influence of the Middle Eastern-studies industry is not to be
underestimated. The pernicious influence of these academics now extends into American high schools, where textbooks and
teacher education have been co-opted by the anti-Israel crowd.
It's high time that the tenured radicals who see America and Israel as the source of all evil in the world and rationalize if not excuse
the Islamo-fascist enemies of our civilization stop feeding at the public trough.
Let's be clear: these academics have every right to peddle their lies and distortions if they like and to shout it from the rooftops or
the microphones of every National Public Radio outlet they can find (not to mention the oped page of The New York Times). But
they should not do so at the expense of federal taxpayers.
It's vital that the final version of the legislation that's passed on this issue include an advisory board that will act to correct this
imbalance. Such a measure won't solve the problem but it is a vital first step. The anti-Israel bias currently ruling college campuses
will not be defeated until the taxpayer dollars that fuel it is halted at the source.