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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →