Four of six directors of federally-funded university Middle East studies centers who signed a letter pledging "not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions" have yet to clarify whether they spoke for their centers or merely for themselves. They are:
- miriam cooke, Middle East Studies Center, Duke.
- John Esposito, Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown.
- Helga Tawil-Souri, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University.
- Osama Abi-Mershed, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University.
As CW revealed earlier this week, Abi-Mershed's claim that "we are not tax supported" was refuted by his dean, who confirmed that, "the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies has been, and we hope will remain, a recipient of Title VI designation and support."
Two others, Lila Abu-Lughod, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, and Gabriel Piterberg, who directs the Center for Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, confirmed that their pledges were merely personal and will not affect the centers they lead.
The letter each signed stated:
we call on our colleagues in Middle East Studies to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and we pledge not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel.
By signing the pledge the directors risked running afoul of federal policies. As leaders of taxpayer-supported U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers (NRC), whose mission is to provide America with individuals having expertise in key languages and areas, they are required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act to give "assurances" that they will "maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center."
Did Osama Abi-Mershed, miriam cooke, John Esposito, and Helga Tawil-Souri pledge their personal boycott of Israeli institutions? Or do they speak for the centers they lead?
Taxpayers deserve to know if their dollars are being used to support academic centers that fail to follow federal policy.
Winfield Myers is director of academic affairs and director, Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
To make your voice heard:
To bring the directors' actions to the attention of the correct government agency, please draw on the note below (best to use your own words) and send it (best by postal mail or fax) to
Program Officer; World Area: Africa, International, Middle East
U.S. Department of Education, OPE
Higher Education Programs
International and Foreign Language Education
Foreign Language and Area Studies Program
1990 K Street, N.W., 6th Floor
Mail Stop K-OPE-6-6078
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 502-7589
Fax: (202) 502-7680
Dear Ms. McKissic:
I request that the U.S. Department of Education cease all funding for the following centers:
- Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown, directed by Osama Abi-Mershed.
- Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, directed by John Esposito.
- Middle East Studies Center at Duke, directed by miriam cooke.
- Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU, directed by Helga Tawil-Souri.
The directors of these four centers have pledged "not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions." Their stated intentions as directors demonstrate the failure of the centers they lead to adhere to their assurance to "maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center" as required by federal statute in return for Title VI funds.
I do not wish to see my tax dollars used to support programs that violate federal policy.