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87 Groups To U.S. Dept. Education: Middle East Studies Programs Boycotting Israel Shouldn’t Get Federal Funds

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”

http://youtu.be/MF8pNDtLb4Q

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 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:

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.

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Comments

NOTHING should get federal funds if not directly provided for in the Constitution.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to irv. | April 24, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Hundreds of upticks.

    henrybowman in reply to irv. | April 24, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    And the only things, outside the federal government itself, whose funding is authorized by the constitution are “needful” federal property in the states (such as military bases and post offices), post roads, and projects benefiting the COMMON welfare, that is, all states equally.

    Peabody in reply to irv. | April 24, 2022 at 4:11 pm

    Hundreds more upticks. I’m not going to be outdone by a bear.

2smartforlibs | April 24, 2022 at 2:34 pm

Ho9w many liberal counties are we paying for?? THe answer isn’t hard to find they all have free healthcare and we pay for their defense.

It seems to me that each Center is free to carefully define its scope in its application. If the applications included Israel in the definition of Middle East, then a federal funding cut or non-renewal is appropriate. But if someone establishes a Turkey-Syria-Lebanon Center, I have no problem with such an express definition.

It’s just disheartening and dismaying that things have come to this point. It’s nauseating how successful the vile Muslim supremacists/terrorists have been in peddling their utterly contrived and fallacious alleged victimhood propaganda mythologies — with attendant vilification and slander of Israeli Jews and Israel — to gullible, stupid and morally feckless Dhimmi-crats who are eager to jump onto whatever bandwagon claims alleged “victim” status.

AnAdultInDiapers | April 25, 2022 at 3:56 am

The headline makes me go ‘surely people should be allowed to boycott whoever they wish’.

The details of the article however.. I find myself entirely in agreement. It would be farcical to provide funds to support activities the group being funded have explicitly stated that they won’t do.

I don’t think a thorough understanding of Middle East history, politics, religion or territorial tensions is needed to engage academically with institutions in that area but Israel is a world leader in some fields so excluding them would make a mockery of international collaboration.

(All of which ignores the confusion around boycotting Israel and not, for instance, the slave owning states a little further South).