87 Groups To U.S. Dept. Education: Middle East Studies Programs Boycotting Israel Shouldn’t Get Federal Funds
Letter joined in by Legal Insurrection Foundation: “it is unacceptable that federal funds could be used to implement an academic boycott that directly contravenes the purposes for which these funds have been granted”
On April 20, 2022, in the aftermath of the Middle East Studies Association’s endorsement of an academic boycott against Israel, 87 organizations (including Legal Insurrection Foundation) sent a joint letter organized by The AMCHA Initiative to the U.S. Secretary of Education asking the federal government not to fund Middle East studies programs boycotting Israel.
The letter provides, in part:
We are 87 education, civil rights and religious organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of members and supporters. We are deeply concerned that in the wake of the recent Middle East Studies Association (MESA) vote endorsing an academic boycott of Israel, some directors and affiliated faculty in federally-funded Middle East Studies National Resource Centers (NRCs), most of which are institutional MESA members, may feel emboldened to implement the boycott in ways that will substantively hurt U.S. students and faculty and directly violate the legislative intent of Title VI of the Higher Education Act. We therefore urge you to establish safeguards to ensure that an academic boycott of Israel, or of any country within the academic purview of a federally funded area studies program, may never be implemented by the program’s affiliated personnel.
As you know, NRCs were established by Title VI HEOA in order to equip university students and faculty with a full and unbiased understanding of regions and countries vital to U.S. national security. The federal legislation providing these NRCs with millions of taxpayer dollars stipulates that the funding is specifically intended “to promote access to research and training overseas, including through linkages with overseas institutions.”
An academic boycott, however, calls for the exact opposite: it seeks to deny access to research, training and education in and about the targeted country, and to break linkages with the targeted country’s educational institutions.
* * *
While acknowledging that a faculty member’s right to express support for an academic boycott of Israel is protected by academic freedom, it is unacceptable that federal funds could be used to implement an academic boycott that directly contravenes the purposes for which these funds have been granted. Area studies programs whose directors or affiliated faculty engage in such behavior should be ineligible to receive or renew Title VI funding…
— The AMCHA Initiative (@AMCHAInitiative) April 20, 2022
The federal government’s National Resource Centers (NRC) program offers grants to university international studies programs. One of NRC’s focus areas is the Middle East. A press release from AMCHA Initiative, which signed the letter, explains the NRC program this way:
NRCs were established by Title VI of the Higher Education Act to equip university students and faculty with a full and unbiased understanding of regions and countries vital to U.S. national security, including countries in the Middle East. The federal legislation providing these NRCs with millions of taxpayer dollars stipulates that the funding is specifically intended “to promote access to research and training overseas, including through linkages with overseas institutions.”
Here’s how the U.S. Department of Education’s NRC grant application for next year explains the program’s purpose:
to establish, strengthen, and operate comprehensive and undergraduate centers that will be national resources for: (a) Teaching of modern foreign languages; (b) instruction in fields needed to provide a full understanding of world regions where the modern foreign languages are used; (c) research and training in international studies and international and foreign language aspects of professional and other fields of study; and (d) instruction and research on issues in world affairs (emphasis added).
The grant application also identifies reflecting diverse views as an “absolute priority” for NRC:
Absolute Priority 1.
Applications that (1) explain how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs; and (2) describe how the applicant will encourage government service in areas of national need, as identified by the Secretary, as well as in areas of need in the education, business, and non-profit sectors (emphasis added).
Got it? The country needs college grads who understand what goes on in other countries, especially trouble-spots like the Middle East. Ergo, the federal government funds university programs that give their students a fully rounded understanding of international affairs.
Recent NRC grant recipients for Middle East studies almost perfectly coincide with universities that were MESA members at the time the organization passed its boycott resolution last December. Now, MESA is encouraging Middle East studies departments, scholars, and others not to study Israel, but instead to boycott it, as LIF has covered in previous posts:
- Middle East Studies Association Moves Toward Endorsing BDS Academic Boycott Against Israel
- Florida State Drops Middle East Studies Association Membership As Group Moves Towards Israel Boycott
- DeSantis Office: Florida Opposes Middle East Studies Association Conducting BDS Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Through FSU
- Middle East Studies Association Boycotting Israel “Is Basically the Old Anti-Jewish Boycott”
- Middle East Studies Association Members In “Legal Jeopardy” If Carry Out Israel Boycott On Campuses
- Will George Washington U Let Middle East Studies Ass’n Operate International Anti-Israel Academic Boycott From Its HQ On GWU’s Campus?
- Membership Voting To Ratify Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Starts At Middle East Studies Association
- Middle East Studies Association Losing Institutional Members As Anti-Israel Boycott Resolution Voting Starts
- Academic Ethnic Cleansing: Middle East Studies Association Signs Onto Boycott of Israel
- Israel-Boycotting Middle East Studies Association Loses Another Institutional Member, Takes Down Membership List
- Breaking With Past, American Association of University Professors Refuses to Condemn Boycott of Israel By Middle East Studies Ass’n
How to square the federal government’s need for graduates who fully understand the Middle East with MESA’s call for university Middle East studies departments to boycott Israel? It can’t be done, of course. By definition, Middle East studies departments that boycott Israel cannot give their students a fully rounded view of the Middle East. They would be ignoring an important Middle Eastern country, one crucial to many issues – not least being the conflict with the Palestinians, the conflict of Iran against Israel and Sunni Arab states, water security, etc.
Imagine that, in the wake of the U.S.’s post-Sputnik promotion of science education, the federal government had funded science departments that refused to study physics. Would that have made sense? That’s something like the problem AMCHA’s letter seeks to avoid.
As AMCHA put it: “The organizations point out that an academic boycott, however, calls for the exact opposite [to promoting access to research and training overseas]: it seeks to deny access to research, training and education in and about the targeted country, and to break linkages with the targeted country’s educational institutions.” So, AMCHA, et al., have asked Secretary Cardona to prevent NRC funds from going to university programs that boycott Israel, or whose faculty boycott Israel.
As sensible as the request is, politics bears only a passing relationship to common sense. How will Sec. Cardona respond? Will he respond? Stay tuned.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.