Along with the various ethnic, gender, LGBQ, and women's studies departments on university campuses, the Middle East Studies departments tend to be the worst when it comes to propaganda and indoctrination. In recent years, many of them have been funded with Saudi money. In some cases, they have been established with Saudi money. They routinely specialize in anti-Western, anti-Israel, pro-Arab, pro-Islamic BS. They are one of the leading causes of the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping our campuses. In short, they are an embarrassment to the very concept of education and scholarship.
So it is hardly surprising that UC Santa Cruz (America's Wackiest University) would choose another dime-a-dozen anti-Israel, pro-BDS activist to head up their new Center for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Meet Jennifer Derr.
How refreshing it would be to see a Middle East studies department chaired by someone who is pro-Israel. For that matter, even a professor or two would be helpful.
As pointed out by Campus Watch, Derr taught a class in 2014 entitled, "The History of Palestine: From Colonialism to Occupation." Gee, where have I heard that before? She should been fired for plagiarism. What's next, a class on the History of the Lost City of Atlantis?
Or how about this?
"Jennifer Derr's work explores the configuration and experience of the colonial state in Egypt through its construction of the agricultural environments that lined the banks of the Nile River. Derr traces the intersections of the colonial state in Egypt with the material experiences of environmental infrastructure, resource allocation, disease, and the geographies of colonial capitalism."
Far be it from me to debate Middle East history with Derr (who has lived ten years in the region). Her area of expertise seems to be in disease outbreaks that occurred in Egypt in the 20th century, which she links to colonial agriculture (in this case, the Brits) and Nile dam construction. I am not arguing the history because I am not qualified, but do I sense a bit of post-colonial emphasis here on blaming all of the problems of the Middle East on the West, colonialism and capitalism? Just asking. After all, that is a large part of Middle East studies teaching in our universities.
Of course, if Derr is such an expert on the Middle East, some wise guy like me (who is not) might ask the learned professor why she doesn't support a boycott of say, Syria, Sudan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or virtually every other country in the region besides Israel. I would even throw in neighboring countries like Iran and Turkey.
UCSC's own announcement of the establishment of this center, which is also linked in the above CW article, also raised my eyebrows a bit. Particularly this item:
"One cannot have a complete understanding of the Jewish past without studying the Middle East and North Africa; likewise, one cannot have a complete understanding of the MENA without studying the region's Jews," said Alma Heckman, assistant professor of history and Jewish Studies, and the Neufeld-Levin Chair of Holocaust Studies at UC Santa Cruz.
"Since the ancient past, Jews have lived across the MENA region, from Morocco to Iran and everywhere in between," she added. "Jewish Studies and MENA Studies are inherently complementary. Working in tandem with the UCSC Center for Jewish Studies, the new MENA Center enriches the unique programmatic offerings at UCSC that connect across Jewish and MENA studies."
Working in tandem? I can't wait to see how that works out. I know nothing about Dr Heckman, and I agree with her words in the second paragraph. However, I seriously wonder how any Jewish studies department, given the current climate and state of Middle East studies departments in the US, could welcome the establishment of such a center at UCSC, especially when it is headed by a supporter of BDS.
This new center is new. Both it and its director deserve a chance to show how they will proceed. Perhaps, MENA and the Jewish studies department will work harmoniously together. Perhaps, MENA will teach serious scholarship and not just be a propaganda center against the West and Israel. I would be surprised if that turns out to be the case, but I am willing to wait and see. (What else can Little Ol' Me do?) If my suspicions are proved correct, maybe the Department of Education will take a close look at UCSC given President Trump's inclination to cut funding for universities that tolerate anti-Semitism.