GOP Senators Express ‘Grave Concern’ to Education Secretary Over Taxpayer-Funded Anti-Semitic Near East and Mideast Programs

Republican senators expressed “grave concern” on March 8 to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona over U.S. taxpayer-funded anti-Semitic Near East and Middle East programs on America’s college and university campuses.

The letter was signed by Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“We write with grave concern that the Department of Education, over the course of decades, has been allowing taxpayer-funded antisemitism to take place on college campuses throughout the United States,” they wrote in the letter.

The senators accused university Near East and Middle East programs of not abiding by Title VI of the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA), which include the requirement that program recipients “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs, as described in the grantee’s application.” This violation, wrote the senators, is done through having “a disproportionate amount of their curriculum on criticizing Israel.”

Although the senators acknowledged that criticizing the Jewish state is not anti-Semitic, “the type of scrutiny coming from these taxpayer-funded programs and professors” goes against the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by dozens of countries including the United States.

Specifically, wrote the senators, these programs and professors have been violating the working definition’s examples of anti-Semitism including “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, comparing the Israeli government’s actions to Nazi Germany, holding Israel to double standards not applied to any other Democratic nation, Holocaust denial, and more.”

An example the senators cited is that, according to the AMCHA Initiative, which combats anti-Semitism on U.S. college and university campuses, between 2010 and 2013, 93 percent of UCLA’s Center for Near East Studies public events related to Israel displayed bias against the Jewish state.

The senators alleged that “some universities may have even violated anti-terrorism laws by hosting convicted terrorists as speakers,” for example, New York University hosting a webinar in 2020 with convicted terrorist Leila Khaled, who hijacked a plane in 1969 and was released in a prisoner exchange in 1970, when she attempted to hijack another plane. Khaled belongs to the U.S.-designated terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Another example of anti-Semitism in Mideast studies programs on college campuses the senators cited was the North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies—a joint Duke-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill program—“portray[ing] Islam in a positive light but fail[ing] to teach students the history of the persecution the Jewish people and other ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East have faced for centuries,” as alleged in a 2019 letter to the program from the Education Department under President Donald Trump.

According to a 2022 AMCHA Initiative study, “160 academic departments at 120 U.S. colleges and universities issued or endorsed wholly one-sided, anti-Israel statements containing rhetoric that meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.” Examples cited by the letter’s signees include “a UC Berkeley professor who lectured that Palestinian terrorist acts were ‘counter-violence’ that ‘pales in scale’ to actions by Israel and claimed ‘Holocaust denial is a form of protest’” and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who labeled Israel a “racist” country and compared its policies to Nazi Germany.

“Because of the widespread antisemitism taking place on college campuses, many Jewish and pro-Israel students no longer feel safe,” wrote the senators. “In fact, universities with faculty who actively support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel were 3.6 times more likely to have their Jewish and pro-Israel students targeted for physical harm on campus.”

The senators gave the Education Department until April 28 to respond to numerous questions including “to what extent have college and university programs in the United States used federal funds on speakers and programs that meet the IHRA working definition of antisemitism over the last decade” and the department’s “plan for ensuring programs and professors on college and university campuses receiving HEA Title VI funding are in compliance with federal requirements requiring diverse perspectives.”

A Department of Education spokesperson responded on March 10 to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on the letter by confirming it received the letter and referring to a fact sheet about Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and a Q&A about the 2019 executive order signed by Trump on combating anti-Semitism, especially on college and university campuses.

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