Hatred Masquerading as Scholarship in the Classroom
“[T]hey will bomb Gaza back to the Stone Age they said, and that they did–and yet there are very few spots on planet earth today nobler to the human spirit of resistance to tyranny and injustice than Gaza–now held like a shining jewel on the loving ring of humanity around the globe–I kiss that noble ground and hold it dearer than cities full of ignoble postmodern architecture built on the stolen land of other people.” – Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, referring to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge; Facebook, August 6, 2014. (link to source)
The above quote, replete with biases and omissions, does not simply represent the viewpoint of one lone professor. It represents an extensively held perspective that has become a rigid orthodoxy that permeates through many of our nation’s Middle Eastern Studies Departments. This bias is being spoon-fed to our nation’s college students and sold to them as scholarship. As American parents who save for years for their youngsters’ college tuitions, many of us should be outraged that this bigotry is masquerading as solid erudition to our youngsters. As American citizens, we should be outraged that this sort of thinking is being subsidized by the American government in the form of Title VI grants to universities, and is shaping the thinking of our current and future American thinkers and leaders.
In fact, so blatant are the biases of the program, that 218 scholars from Middle Eastern Studies programs across the country, ranging from Columbia University and New York University on the East, the University of Chicago University of Illinois, and Michigan State University in the Mid-West to University of California in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, San Diego, Riverside, Santa Cruz, and hundreds of points in between, have all recently signed a petition for an academic boycott of Israeli Universities and any joint program with Israeli scholars.
How did this come about?
Title VI of the Higher Education Opportunities Act, which had formerly been known as The National Defense Education Act was implemented in 1958, during the height of the Cold War, in order to ensure that we were prepared to confront the challenges of the Soviet threat. At that time, it was felt that our students were woefully ill-equipped to be competitive in the world against the Soviets in their knowledge of foreign languages and regions. It was then determined that certain universities were to be granted sizeable sums of money from the federal government in order to establish and help maintain regional or area studies centers, such as African Studies, Asian Studies, Latin Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies etc. in order to ensure that our nation had a generation of well-trained regional experts to meet the national security and defense challenges arising out of the former Soviet Union.
Our government therefore provided tax payers’ dollars to give birth to a regional studies industry in order to meet a specific national and security need. However, with the ensuing years, the original legislative intent of Title VI was totally ignored, and the universities simply took the money without any sort of oversight.