Title VI of the Higher Education Act was established to strengthen our nation’s security by training future national security professionals and educating the public on international affairs. It currently provides millions of federal dollars to 129 international studies and foreign language centers at universities nationwide. One of the main requirements is that universities must present “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.” However, rather than doing just that and serving American national security interests, recipients often do quite the opposite.
From 2010-2013, the University of California Los Angeles Center for Near East Studies (CNES) was one of those recipients. During that period it received $1.5 million from the Department of Education under Title VI. But at UCLA, the federal dollars funded anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism.
A recent study, Antisemitic Activity and Anti-Israel Bias at the Center for Near East Studies, University of California at Los Angeles 2010-2013, tracked anti-Semitic discourse and anti-Israel bias in public events sponsored by CNES over the three-year-period. The examination of outreach events during that time demonstrated that 93% of their Israel-related events were anti-Israel, and 75% contained anti-Semitic content. Hardly the “diverse perspectives” called for by the grant.
In addition, CNES had a disproportionate focus on Israel. Of all the public events pertaining to significant Middle East political conflicts, 61% focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, significantly more than on any other Middle East conflict, including the historic turmoil raging in many countries in the region and the Iranian nuclear crisis. Indeed, despite the fact that CNES held events focusing on 14 Middle East countries, more than ¼ of them pertained to Israel, four times more than any other country except Iran. How can such a myopic focus on Israel serve our national needs and equip scholars to understand a region as complex and significant to our national interests as the Middle East?
To make matters worse, CNES favored speakers who have engaged in anti-Semitic activity. Of the 31 speakers at CNES Israel-related events, 84% had engaged in anti-Semitic activity, including the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, denying Jews the right to self-determination, comparing Israelis to Nazis and condoning terrorism.
Not surprisingly, each of the three CNES directors from 2010 – 2013 has shown egregious anti-Israel bias. Although the Center’s federally mandated mission obliges the directors to maintain “linkages with overseas institutes of higher education…that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center,” all three of the directors have signed petitions endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities and scholars. One of the directors is even a founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel. In addition, all three directors have publicly opposed the UC Israel Abroad Program, despite touting the Israel Abroad Program as part of the Center’s fulfillment of its Title VI funding requirement.
Another disturbing finding of the study is that CNES received a donation of $10,000 - $20,000 from the Saudi government-owned Arabian American Oil Company. A Saudi government website which showcases UCLA’s Islamic Studies program also includes openly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic discourse.
It is appalling that UCLA is using taxpayer dollars to promote a one-sided, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias to impressionable students. This completely distorts UCLA’s scholarly and educational mission and is a clear violation of the Higher Education Act. In addition, the fact that CNES is praised by the government of Saudi Arabia on its official website, and that CNES’ anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitic discourse is consistent with the policies of the Saudi government is extremely worrisome.
What’s happening at UCLA’s CNES is another example of the corrupt way professors are gaming the system and manipulating their access to public funds and vulnerable students in order to promote their own personal political agendas, including their hatred of Israel. Reports suggest UCLA is not unique in this regard.
Congress is poised to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The study on UCLA’s Center for Near East Studies provides important evidence that the Higher Education Act is being dangerously abused. Congress must reform the legislation and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent as they were intended -- to contribute to our national security preparedness and protect America’s best interests.
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