Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Harvard Needs Some Schooling on the Middle East

February 14, 2012 11:28 am 6 comments

Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. Photo: wiki commons.

On March 3-4, Harvard University will host a two-day conference on the “One State Solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Guests include veteran anti-Israel academics, the founder of Electronic Intifada and an ex-Palestinian official. No one sympathetic to Israel is identifiable.

This sort of anti-Israel activity, thinly disguised by a veneer of academic posing, has become commonplace at this venerable Ivy League institution. In recent years, Harvard has hosted Holocaust defamer Norman Finkelstein, accused serial fabricator professor Ilan Pappe and Naim Ateek, founder of the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Sabeel ministry. The department sponsoring the upcoming conference is home to Stephen Walt, co-author of the error-prone The Israel Lobby.

These anti-Zionist conclaves are an outward sign of a more insidious transformation of Harvard’s Middle Eastern studies. At the crux of this transformation is the school’s Center for Middle East Studies, which benefits from both taxpayer support and gifts from Gulf Arab donors. Harvard is one of 17 universities receiving federal Title VI funding for the purpose of increasing public knowledge about the Middle East and Islam. By targeting their donations to schools involved in the federally funded outreach effort, the Gulf Arab donors influence not only instructors at the university level but also, through them, those who will teach about the Middle East in primary and secondary schools.

The activities of the outreach center of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies are instructive. The center’s stated mission is to promote “a critical understanding of the diversity of the Middle East region.” But its activities and programming reveal a dogmatic adherence to the polemical, often counter-factual Palestinian version of the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than the presentation of authoritative and diverse scholarly viewpoints.

In 2003, Massachusetts education officials criticized Harvard for promoting a textbook called the Arab World Notebook, calling it “a piece of propaganda.” The book contained falsehoods like the claim that Islam was the “second largest religious group in America,” with six million members based on 1980s figures. Demographers put the current, expanded American Muslim population at just two or three million.

This is how the original published version of the Notebook described the Israeli War of Independence:

“As a result of Israel’s declaration of Independence and its subsequent continued attempts to force the Palestinian Arab inhabitants out of their land, the neighboring Arab states vowed to come to the rescue of the Palestinian civilian population.”

Professor Efraim Karsh’s archival research shows that Arab flight was primarily self-induced. The notion that the Arab states attacked Israel to “rescue” the Palestinians is refuted by their open intent to wipe out the nascent Jewish state.

The Notebook offered an exculpatory narrative to explain the Arab defeat, claiming,

“The Arab armed forces were outnumbered 3-1… against 65,000 well-trained Jewish troops.”

In fact, the entire Jewish population of Israel was 650,000; it was outnumbered at least 40 to 1 by the surrounding Arab states. In comparison to the well-armed Arab armies- including the British-led Arab Legion-the Jews initially possessed no aircraft or tanks and suffered from shortages of artillery, small arms and ammunition. The textbook has been updated, but as a new book—Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network—documents, its fundamental flaws remain.

The outreach center’s current director, Paul Beran, is an activist in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The center’s recommended readings favor anti-Zionist writings, including works by the late Edward Said, a Palestinian polemicist, and the former Israeli professor Pappe, the driving force behind academic boycotts of Israel. The center also recommends the propaganda film Occupation 101, which features notorious defamers of Israel like Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk. Serious scholarship is abandoned to dumbed-down banal fictional works that recycle the theme of alleged Palestinian victimization.

The people who should be the most concerned with the degradation of Middle Eastern scholarship are parents, taxpayers and those associated with universities that tolerate and abet such propaganda. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by al Qaeda, a broad consensus formed that the United States needed to understand the Middle East better, particularly to answer the question, “Why do they hate us?”

With the prominent role of Saudi and other Gulf Arabs in funding Middle Eastern studies, and the anti-Zionist ideology of many academics, state and local officials must assume responsibility for protecting their students and the field of Middle East studies itself from irresponsible university faculty and administrators. Parents and taxpayers must be vigilant and urge school officials to scrutinize educational material provided from universities like Harvard that have compromised their standards of scholarship.

The writer is a senior researcher for the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.

6 Comments

  • As a result of Israel’s declaration of Independence and its subsequent continued attempts to force the Palestinian Arab inhabitants out of their land, the neighboring Arab states vowed to come to the rescue of the Palestinian civilian population

  • “Harvard has hosted Holocaust defamer Norman Finkelstein . . . ”

    I would have thought that it would be tough to dishonestly cause injury to the reputation of the Holocaust.

  • “C.A.M.E.R.A.; Keeping Facts Out of Focus”!

    As the Internet has liberated us from a PROVEN, ZIONIST (Not “Jewish”) Media Domination, the Zionist Element is desperate to recapture choosing what passes as “The News”, today..

    “DECLASSIFIED SENATE INVESTIGATION FILES REVEAL CLANDESTINE, ISRAELI PR CAMPAIGN IN AMERICA”
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/PrintArticle.php?articleId=20687

    Israel’s Foreign Ministry currently Funds such desperate Misinformation Industries as its Scripted, Hasbara Hirelings, G.I.Y.U.S., a fraudulent, “Megaphone” Software and countless other Cyber Scams intended to obfuscate the FACTS.
    FACTS are Anathema to the easily debunked and frantic screeds of C.A.M.E.R.A., ADL, AIPAC, F.L.A.M.E. etc
    There is nothing in this C.A.M.E.R.A. piece that rises above a hysterical, Fact-Free and dishonest defamation of True Scholars and Educated Authors by a well paid, Hasbara, Heel-Nipper.
    There is no State has a more Expensive, Sophisticated and Extensive Propaganda Industry…

    Or Needs One.

    • @Gray:

      Are you serious? Have you actually ever read a CAMERA piece?

      Where is your evidence that the Foreign Ministry funds CAMERA, an American non-profit?

      Just because you say things does not mean they are true. It’s ccalled “empirical evidence.” Look it up.

    • And your pint is what? It’s not okay or only okay to name Israel as the only country that attempts to gain influence through election system? Were you alive during the Cold War? Do you honsetly believe Saudi Arabia is not and won’t be influencing American elections with oil bucks? What about China? The anti-Israel theme is out of proportion to the spectrum of those who attempt to influence American elections and policies. I can’t fault Israel for taking measures to defend itself in an increasingly and proven era of heihtened bigotry, and Jew hating which Harvard is sponsoring.

  • You wrote: “In recent years, Harvard has hosted Holocaust defamer Norman Finkelstein..” I totally agree with you. Norman Finkelstein has on many occasion defamed the Nazi holocaust for what is was. A systematic, factory like, assembly line extermination of the Jews. And in his words there where few survivors. The number he sites is around 100,000, including his late mother and father.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →