At a dedication for the university's Israel studies institute Thursday night, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. said the institute is necessary to promote open discussion in a university environment typically dominated by Arab-funded Middle East programs.
"The Arab program here is funded by Arab sources and is their narrative," Ambassador Daniel Ayalon told an audience in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. "It is not academic; it is not objective."
He said the institute â" now named the Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies in honor of a donation from the couple â" will provide a needed Israeli perspective.
Ayalon said former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon often emphasized the need to bring greater Israeli connections to American universities. Ayalon said Sharon would have been proud of the institute's potential for expanding knowledge of the Israeli cause.
American universities have long been the demographic least supportive of Israel, Ayalon said. He said the biased programs portray Israel as having caused most conflicts in the Middle East, including the Iraq-Iran war and conflict between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
"The Middle East has been violent for some time, and all these examples I've mentioned have nothing to do with Israel," Ayalon said.
He said democracy is the solution for the Middle East, but many countries there are hesitant to change. In Arab countries, democracy is seen as "a Western colonial action," rather than a way to progress, he said.
This ideological battle is being played out between Israel and Iran, Ayalon said.
"The other Arab countries are on the fence waiting to see which structure [of state] will win because they want to be on the winning side," he said. Once one prevails, other Middle Eastern countries will change their governments to follow suit, Ayalon predicted.
Israeli studies are important because of the close link between Israel and the U.S. politically and economically, Ayalon said. Though Israel has only 2 percent of the Middle East's population, it buys 38 percent of U.S. goods sold to the region, he said.
Through discussion, debate and even criticism of the appropriateness of Israel's actions, the university's Institute for Israel Studies will provide students with a better understanding of what stance to take, Ayalon said.
"This will be a great platform for debates and discussion on the issues," he said.
Contact reporter Anthony Glynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.