Press Release: EMET Applauds the Department of Education

EMET Applauds the Department of Education for its historic investigation of the misuse of taxpayer funds in one of our nation’s Middle East Studies program at the University of North Carolina and calls for the opening of further investigations into Columbia University and Barnard University

(Washington, DC, October 28, 2019) On the first anniversary of the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in the United States, the murder of 11 Jews praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a study was recently released by the American Jewish Committee (October 23rd) which found that 9 out of 10 American Jews feel that anti-Semitism is a growing problem in America, and more than 8 out of 10 say that the problem has gotten worse in the last five years.

And the problem is particularly pronounced among our nation’s college campuses.

According the most recent report (September 2019), by the Amcha Initiative, a group that tracks anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses, anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students rose by 70 per cent this year. This study indicates Israel-related harassment has increased by 70%, attempts to exclude pro-Israel and Jewish students have more than doubled, and the exclusion of Zionist students from participating in student campus life nearly tripling. The research indicated that academic BDS compliant behavior by faculty was linked to 86% of the anti-Semitic harassment on our nation’s college campuses.

And among the most hostile university environments to Jewish and pro-Israel students is Columbia University and Barnard College. A report by Alums for College Fairness documents more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents in Columbia and Barnard since the 2016-2017 academic year and describes Columbia and Barnard as “arguably one of the most prominent settings for university based anti-Semitism within the United States.”  

The report describes how Columbia and Barnard faculty members systematically discriminated against Jewish and Zionist students, and have targeted them while speaking in the classroom, on social media, within editorials and while speaking at extracurricular activities, and names 11 faculty members who are openly anti-Semitic and hostile towards Jewish students.

This brings the issue home of what has been going on within our Title VI funded Middle East Studies Programs. These programs have a very specific legislative intent: To raise a pool of experts with a knowledge of foreign languages and cultures in various regional studies who can best serve the national interests of the United States. These centers are provided for by the American taxpayer in order to be “a national resource” to enhance our nation’s understanding of various regions of the world to protect the stability, vitality, national security, as well as economic interests of the United States.

Ever since 1965 when this law was first passed, billions of dollars have been appropriated to various universities for the regional studies programs, without any oversight or investigation into how these funds are actually being used, and many of these programs have wandered far astray of their original legislative intent.

It is an undeniable fact that many of these universities use the taxpayer funds for one-sided, anti-American and anti-Israel political propaganda, rather than giving our university students a solid education in the languages and cultures of the region, which is why the money was appropriated in the first place.

In 2008, EMET had been responsible for getting Congress to amend the law authorizing Title VI programs, saying that in order to get taxpayer funding the university must demonstrate “a wide range of viewpoints” and a “diversity of perspectives.”

This stipulation of the federal law has been, for the most part, overlooked and disregarded.

However, as a result of several meetings initiated by EMET with the Department of Education (DoE) in 2018, the DoE had instituted a stipulation that in order to receive the federal funding, the universities must write an essay demonstrating what they have done to promote a “diversity of perspectives” and a “wide range of viewpoints.”

It is quite telling that the word “Israel” was never mentioned once in the grant application. Yet, every one of the universities wrote about “study abroad programs in Israel” or “faculty exchanges with Israeli professors,” obviously trying to cover up for their known biases.

Yet, of the 15 universities that received more than 4 million dollars in federal funding for their Middle Eastern Studies programs, more than half had their essays signed by directors of the department of Middle Eastern Studies that also signed a letter supporting an academic boycott of Israel, or has endorsed the academic boycott of Israel.

This means they have received our taxpayers’ dollars under fraudulent terms.

In March of 2019, a consortium of the University of North Carolina and Duke Universities Eastern Studies programs hosted a conference entitled, “Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities.” As with the overwhelming preponderance of the Middle East Studies Programs’ events, this supposedly “academic” program degenerated into an exceedingly biased, anti-Israel hate-fest. This particular event strayed so far from the legislative intent that it even hosted a shocking anti-Semitic performance by the Palestinian rapper, Tamer Nafar, encouraging the audience to sing along and blatantly encouraged the audience to be get into an anti-Semitism mindset.

Because the investigative journalist, Ami Horowitz, was able to film this, a sense of public outrage ensued. As a result of this, Rep. George Holding, (Republican, North Carolina), called for the opening of an investigation into how these taxpayer funds are being used.

We commend the Representative Holding, the Department of Education and Secretary Betsy Devos for this historic investigation, a first in over 50 years since this Act was passed. This should serve to put the academic community on notice that this money was appropriated for a specific legislative purpose.

We now call upon the department of Education to open up a further investigation of Columbia University and Barnard College.

Says EMET Founder and President, Sarah Stern, “Hate has no place in the university campus, even under the smokescreen of ‘academic freedom’. The universities have an important responsibility in shaping the attitudes of future generations of Americans. What occurs in the college classroom formulates opinions that endure for a lifetime and anti-Semitism has reached new and disturbing heights in the United States. Just as the universities have had a special role in correcting the scourge of racism in America since the 1960’s, they now have a special responsibility to correct the current scourge of anti-Semitism. And beyond that, universities should be aware that academic freedom and free speech should be a two–way street, not only for the professor, but for the student as well. The student should be able to engage in academic discourse and be able to freely engage in ‘the life of the mind’, without fear of reprisal by a biased professor. An academic environment should be one that is conducive to real learning. True learning and intellectual inquiry could not take place in an educational atmosphere of fear, bullying and intimidation. We commend Secretary of Education Betsy Devos for the investigation into the University of North Carolina, and now are asking her to please open up an investigation into what is taking place within the Middle East Studies Departments at Columbia and Barnard.”

About the Author

EMET
The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is a Washington, D.C. based think tank and policy center with an unabashedly pro-America and pro-Israel stance. EMET (which means truth in Hebrew) prides itself on challenging the falsehoods and misrepresentations that abound in U.S. Middle East policy.

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