The overwhelming anti-Israel bias that has come to characterize Middle East studies at major American universities is no longer the dirty little secret of academia.
After the publication of scholar Martin Kramer's ground-breaking 2001 book Ivory Towers in the Sand, the momentum has gradually built for Congress to take action to halt the use of federal money to subsidize programs where anti-Zionist bias is widespread.
The money is doled out under the aegis of the 1958 Title VI education bill to fund higher education. Title VI has been key to the creation of departments, such as the notorious examples at Columbia and Georgetown universities, where the works of Palestinian propagandists such as the late Edward Said were treated as gospel, and Zionism is seen as the main problem in the Mideast.
Advocates of more rigorous scholarship on the region have long complained about the uniformity of views voiced by the Middle East Studies industry.
Finally, Congress has finally acted to provide some accountability for the vast sums spent on this cause. The question is: Does the legislation that has just been approved provide real accountability, or will a key last-minute change in one version of the bill render its passage a meaningless exercise?
The change involved the dropping of a plan, included in a version of the legislation proposed in the House of Representatives, to create an advisory board that would help foster "diverse opinions" in the field of Middle Eastern studies. In this context, the phrase "diverse opinions" meant the inclusion of pro-Western and pro-Zionist voices, rather than the monolithic Arabism that currently dominates the field.
Instead of this board, a Senate version of a bill on the issue leaves it all in the hands of the Secretary of Education. The secretary would have the power to suspend federal funding to universities where bias is rampant. But after 60 days, the funding would be reinstated, no matter whether complaints had been resolved or not.
So while the passage of the Senate version is certainly a step in the right direction, as long as a powerful mechanism for holding bias in check is absent, the victory will be purely symbolic.
Those who oppose the more stringent measure worry about government interference in curricula and the heavy-handed use of the power of the purse. Some academic Arabists go further - and allege that the result of this legislation would be a form of "McCarthyism," in which independent voices would be squelched in a pro-Israel witch hunt.
But the bill's opponents have it backward.
If there is any danger of a "thought police" running amok in academia, it is under the present system, where anti-Zionist professors reign unchallenged. Those who would provide an alternate view are shunned, and generally chased out of the field. The result is an atmosphere for students that often borders on anti-Semitism.
And lest anyone think this is a purely esoteric controversy, the influence of the Middle Eastern-studies industry is not to be underestimated.
As the recent series of Jewish Telegraphic Agency articles on "Islam and Education" - published nationally and in this newspaper - proved, the pernicious influence of these academics now extends into American high schools, where textbooks and teacher education have been co-opted by the anti-Israel crowd.
We strongly urge that the final version of the legislation that's passed include an advisory board that will act to correct this imbalance. The anti-Israel bias currently ruling college campuses will not be defeated until the taxpayer dollars that fuel it are halted at the source.