March 14, 2023
Contact: Sarah Stern
EMET Offers Its Profound Gratitude to US Senator James E. Risch and 14 other Senators for Letter on Antisemitism in our Nation’s Federally Funded Middle Eastern Studies Programs to the Department of Education
(March 14, 2023, Washington, DC) –
EMET Offers Its Profound Gratitude to US Senator James E. Risch and 14 other Senators for their Letter on Antisemitism in our Nation’s Federally Funded Middle Eastern Studies Programs to the Department of Education
EMET offers its sincere and profound gratitude to Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID) and his 14 colleagues on their letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona regarding the significant roles anti-Israeli sentiment and antisemitism play in our nation’s Middle Eastern Studies programs, federally funded by Title VI of the Higher Education Act.
The Senators who signed this letter are: Mike Crapo (R-ID), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tedd Budd (R-NC), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Cornyn (R-TX), Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
In 2008, EMET successfully worked with the US Congress to amend Title VI of the Higher Education Act, which offers federal grants to universities for area studies programs. The amendments required that in order to get federal funding our nation’s universities offer programs that offer “differ perspectives and a wide range of viewpoints”.
EMET subsequently, together with representatives from the Brandeis Center and the Amcha Initiative met with the Department of Education to formulate certain questions that the universities would have to respond to, in order to indicate that they are meeting these legislatively mandated requirements. Shockingly, it has come to our attention that these questions are not even scored when reviewing the universities’ grant applications for federal funding.
Title VI Area Studies programs are supposed to be able to provide the United States with a cadre of talented, well-educated language and cultural affairs graduates who would go on to serve in our nation’s national security and defense interests. Unfortunately, our nation’s Middle East Studies programs have become hotbeds of paltry propaganda and deeply entrenched anti-Israel biases; and this has given intellectual validation to the rising tide of antisemitism within the United States.
Increasingly, Jewish and Zionist college students find themselves facing an increasingly hostile and discriminatory environment. The hostility almost always targets Israel, the only Jewish state in the world. While critiques of certain policies of the state of Israel are not antisemitic, this obsessive scrutiny and negative focus may well cross the line into antisemitism, and frequently does, according to the definition of antisemitism laid out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition.
Many professors have gone so far as to unfairly target Jewish students in a highly personal and discriminatory fashion. These obsessions even include what may be violations of US anti-terrorism law through hosting events featuring convicted Palestinian terrorists. This increasing wave of antisemitism is leaving many Jewish students feeling helpless and unsafe with no protection from college administrators. “Taxpayer dollars should not fund antisemitism on college campuses, and Jewish and pro-Israel students should not feel afraid for being Jewish and expressing support for Israel,” the members wrote.
The letter seeks a response from the Department of Education, no later than April 28th, 2023, to the following questions:
1. To what extent have college and university programs in the United States used federal funds on speakers and programs that meet the IHRA working definition of antisemitism over the last decade? If the Department of Education does not know because you are not sufficiently reviewing grantee reports on HEA Title VI activities, why is the Department not enforcing the law?
2. Has the Department of Education ever evaluated applicants’ viewpoint-diversity statements? If so, when did it stop evaluating those statements What was the reasoning for that decision?
3. Does the Department of Education understand its failure to evaluate viewpoint-diversity statements sends an unmistakable signal that it does not place importance on this issue? If the Department doesn’t even evaluate these statements, how can the Department differentiate between those applicants who are making sincere efforts to address this problem and those who are not?
4. Please outline the Department of Education’s plan for ensuring programs and professors on college and university campuses receiving HEA Title VI funding are in compliance with federal requirements requiring diverse perspectives.
5. What is your best estimate of how many colleges and universities across the U.S. have become unsafe for Jewish students? How can the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and other offices ensure Jewish students have demonstrated reasons to feel safe on campus?
Says Sarah Stern, EMET Founder and President, “At a time when antisemitism is reaching unprecedented heights in the United States, we, at EMET, wholeheartedly endorse this letter. We have long held the belief that the university holds a critically important place in the attitudes of future American thought-leaders and is the incubator and shaper of the ideas and values that permeate throughout the United States. For far too long, our nation’s Middle East Studies programs have been hotbeds of anti-Israelism, which tends to easily morph itself into antisemitism. This situation has been festering for decades and is now manifesting itself throughout many various institutional and societal domains in American society, where Jews are feeling attacked and discriminated against. Our American Jewish college students have long been on the front lines. We at EMET remain profoundly grateful to Senator James Risch and 14 of his Senate Colleagues for this exceedingly important letter.”
About The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET is a pro-American, pro-Israel, and pro-human rights, foreign policy think tank and policy shop in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.emetonline.org
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