MESA Culpa

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By Malcolm A. Kline

Accuracy in Academia has proudly joined a distinguished cadre questioning the federal funding of biased Middle East studies programs in American universities and colleges, and academic elites in those programs don’t like it one bit.

In addition to AIA, the other groups questioning whether Title VI grantees are living up to the federal mandate of education for defense and inclusion of diverse perspectives in Mid East courses include:

  • The AMCHA Initiative,“a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.”
  • American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
  • Endowment for Middle East Truth
  • The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
  • Middle East Forum
  • Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
  • Simon Wiesenthal Center
  • Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
  • Zionist Organization of America

When we released our statement on Title VI Middle East studies programs on September 17, 2014 (Constitution Day), I stated, “Accuracy in Academia is not even asking universities to take a side in the war on terror but is neutrality too much to ask? Particularly given the amount of federal funding Middle East Studies departments get—easily in the millions—a bit of balance on issues related to Israel seems more than called for.”

“Balance is not achieved by attacking Israel from 20 different directions.” It did not take long for the Title VI establishment to react to the shared concerns of our group.

“MESA resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” Amy W. Newhall, the executive director of the Middle East Studies Association wrote in an emailed statement to Inside Higher and published the following day—September 18, 2014. “It supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses.”

“However, MESA is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as ‘anti-Israel.’ Their real goal seems to be to shut down open discussion of issues of public concern by demonizing academic and other critics of Israel, Zionism, and U.S. policy in the Middle East, in many cases by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. They are even willing to threaten federal funding for university-based Middle East studies centers, which have a long and distinguished history of providing the United States with thousands of people trained in the languages, politics, cultures and histories of this critical region.”

“If Prof. Newhall’s association defends the status quo against diverse perspectives, then it is they who are trying to shut down debate,” Kenneth L. Marcus, President and General Counsel of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law stated in a letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Regarding Professor Newhall’s claim that MESA stands ready to take a stand against anti-Semitism,Winfield Myers of the Middle East Forum points out, “Were this true, MESA would have condemned flagrantly anti-Semitic statements by Joseph Massad and Hamid Dabashi of Columbia, Ali Mazrui of SUNY Binghamton, As’ad AbuKhalil of Cal State Stanislaus, and countless others. Yet it consistentlydefends such speech rather than condemning it.”

Finally, I would like to ask, if academic freedom is really free, why should taxpayers pay for it?

Article originally published at

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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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