There is a lot of justifiable hand wringing over the Israel bashing and overt anti-Semitism in American academia. The bias is correctly blamed on the leftist "progressives" who buy into the libels promoted by Moslem/Arab students and their campus affiliated organizations. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia has poured a huge sum of dollars both from government and private donors into American colleges to promote whitewashed Islamic studies and influence opinions on the Middle East. However, there is another culprit, namely the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) which feeds faculty to universities and colleges throughout the nation.
MESA promotes itself as: "...a private, nonprofit learned society that brings together scholars, educators and those interested in the study of the region from all over the world."
Most of the "scholars" shamelessly upend Middle East history as follows:
The "learned society" soon sees to it that students who still bear an attachment to Israel "unlearn" Jewish historic religious ties to Palestine, the Balfour Declaration and the betrayal that deeded eighty percent of Mandate Palestine to the Hashemites with absolutely no historic ties to Palestine.
Instead, the narrative taught is that Israel is a colonialist state, which dispossessed an indigenous Arab population with Jewish Holocaust survivors, and now tramples on all Arab fundamental human rights. Furthermore, it follows that Israel's "occupation" is the root cause of terrorism and instability in the region.
One can see how once this narrative is presented as unimpeachably true, gullible snowflakes with tunnel vision will participate in promoting boycott and divest and demanding "justice" in Palestine.
Past presidents of MESA include Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.
He actually thinks being called an anti-Semite is a compliment. Even in retirement on January 2017 he claimed: "a group of people, a lot of them in Israel and some in the United States, who live in a world of their own .... infest the Trump transition team; these people are going to infest our government as of January 20." Got that? Infest....as in lice or vermin.
The present President of MESA, Judith Tucker a blackbelt Israel basher, is Professor of History at Georgetown University and a leader of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. She burnished her credentials for MESA in 2014 publishing a letter calling on "scholars and librarians within Middle East studies to boycott Israeli academic institutions." The letter pledged "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."
In 2018 on behalf of MESA she authored "MESA: Israeli Government Involved in Cyberbullying US College Students " charging the Israeli government with harassment of American students who support Palestinian rights and criticize Israeli abuse of "occupied" Arabs.
MESA's annual meeting is scheduled for November 14-17, 2019 in New Orleans. The agenda and seminars are not yet listed. There is a lot of work involved in rounding up appropriate bigots.
If past is precedent, they will have four full days of back to back meetings, breakout sessions, and an orgy of anti-Israel speakers. Topics: Palestinian victims. Target: Israeli aggressors. Solution: Boycott, divest from, libel and defame Israel. The two-state solution is not really on their radar.
Their previous meeting took place in San Antonio, Texas on November 15- 18.
Here is an example of one discussion : Julie Peteet explored "Mobilities, Indigeneity and Resistance in Palestine" She explained:
I explore the discursive construction of the category of the indigenous, its relations to territory and the state, and tie together mobilities, territory, indigeneity, and resistance as a lens through which to grapple with the policy of closure and a state bent on territorial expansion, displacement, and replacement. [huh?]
Forget her purple prose. Julie has quite an agenda. She is Professor of Anthropology at University of Louisville. Her books and "scholarly" articles call Israel a colonialist power that practices apartheid akin to former South Africa.
MESA's book awards are named for Albert Hourani, whose lifetime passion was as protagonist for "Palestine." He wrote in 1957 that regardless of all other events his heart ".... will be marked forever by what happened in Palestine." And trust me he was not referring to the unending vituperations and terrorism that was foisted on Israel from the time of its founding.
Their 2017 Academic Freedom Award was given to "Palestine Legal" a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of people in the US who engage in advocacy for and academic inquiry about Palestinian rights.
Dima Khalidi, Director of Palestine Legal, acknowledging receipt of the award, stated:
Many thanks to MESA for this honor. The intensifying attacks on academics whose scholarship and public advocacy touch on the Palestinian experience are part of a larger assault on the movement for Palestinian rights, on the First Amendment and on truth itself in this dystopian political moment. We are proud to defend the right to dissent that is so essential to academia and our free society.
MESA also issues many press releases:
April 17, 2019 MESA criticized America for refusing entry to Omar Barghouti:
Mr. Barghouti is a prominent Palestinian activist and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. He had been invited to speak at New York University and at Harvard University, and to meet with leading policy makers and journalists, including a public discussion with the respected American Jewish journalist Peter Beinart.
Among many of Barghouti's pithy quotes is:
A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically.... Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.
Another MESA letter on April 22, 2019 is to Tufts University upholding the free speech rights and employment of Thomas Abowd, a professor of American Studies, Anthropology and Arabic Culture at Tufts University. Abowd is an activist in BDS, demonized Israel and Judaism, called Israel an apartheid state plotting the elimination of indigenous Arabs. His course "Colonizing Palestine" uses sources from violently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic polemicists.
P.S. His contract was renewed.
In June 2017 Michael Rubin wrote :
MESA for all its grandstanding is fast becoming a hate group rather than a true academic umbrella and universities have become unanchored.
If you don't belong to MESA it is extremely difficult to get employment or tenure in Middle East Study departments in all American colleges and universities.
And, here is the catch: If you don't toe the anti-Israel line of MESA, it is increasingly difficult to join the organization.
MESA's goals are obvious, but what is still missing is a solid investigation of their funding.