WASHINGTON, — Major Jewish organizations are lobbying the Senate to approve a bill that would authorize federal monitoring of government-funded Middle East studies programs throughout US universities.
The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives and is now before a Senate committee, would establish a federal tribunal to investigate and monitor criticism of Israel on American college campuses.
On Sept. 17, 2003, the House Select Subcommittee on Education unanimously approved H.R. 3077, the "International Studies in Higher Education Act." The chief sponsor of the legislation was Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a conservative Republican from Michigan.
H.R. 3077 calls for the establishment of a seven-member advisory board that would have the power to recommend cutting federal funding for colleges and universities, which have offered a venue for academic and public debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Two members of the board would be appointed by the Senate, two by the House, and three by the Secretary of Education — two of whom are required to be from US federal security agencies.
The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League, "made passing the bill a major goal," according to Forward, a Jewish weekly based in New York, and "based their charges of bias at Middle East centers on some independent research and anecdotal complaints, but mainly on a book published two years ago by Martin Kramer," a Middle East scholar at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
"Kramer's polemic, ‘Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America,' charges that America's Middle East scholars are (promoting) anti-Israel and anti-American dogmas," writes Forward. "The conclusion of his study, published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank, is that bold action should be taken to reform this program."
The American Free Press newspaper is more critical: "In other words, it would be another federal ‘blue ribbon' panel akin to the Warren Commission that ostensibly investigated the JFK assassination and the now highly-suspect federal commission looking into the 9/11 terrorist attacks."
Some members of the Jewish organization community are uncomfortable with the Jewish groups' strong push for a bill portrayed by critics as an exercise in McCarthyism.
"This bill is bad both on its merits and because of the way it makes us look," a senior official with a major Jewish organization, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Forward.
Arab News has learned that the main promoters of this effort to control intellectual debate on the college campuses are all prominent and outspoken supporters of Israel and harsh critics of the Arab and Muslim worlds. They are the above-mentioned Martin Kramer; Stanley Kurtz, a contributor to the anti-Arab National Review Online and a research fellow at the pro-Israel Hoover Institution; and Daniel Pipes, founder of the pro-Israel Middle East Institute and its affiliate, Campus Watch, an organization that keeps tabs on college professors and students who "are or are suspected of being" critics of Israel.
Another group supporting the bill is the US India Political Action Committee, an Indian-American group that has been working closely with the Israeli lobby now that Israel and India are geopolitically allied.
Not to be overlooked is that this is an election year, and many Republicans and Democrats in Congress are loath to risk losing Jewish votes.