MESA Attacks Efforts to Reform Title VI of the Higher Education Act

by Winfield Myers  •  Sep 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Yesterday ten organizations, including the Middle East Forum, announced an effort to educate Congressional leaders and policy makers on the need to reform federally-funded Title VI Middle East studies centers, which have for years produced biased, anti-American and anti-Israel material.

Predictably, Amy W. Newhall, executive director of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA),responded not by countering the signatories' charges, but by attacking their character and motives.

Newhall claimed "MESA resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism." In fact, "It supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses."

Were this true, MESA would have condemned flagrantly anti-Semitic statements by Joseph Massadand Hamid Dabashi of Columbia, Ali Mazrui of SUNY Binghamton, As'ad AbuKhalil of Cal State Stanislaus, and countless others. Yet it consistently defends such speech rather than condemning it.

She next offered this bit of sophistry:

MESA is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as "anti-Israel."

A touching sentiment disproved by MESA's silence in the face of genuine anti-Semitism, as noted above. Plus, the participating organizations never suggest that criticism of Israeli policies is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

Newhall proffers the intellectually lazy claim that:

Their real goal seems to be to shut down open discussion of issues of public concern by demonizing academic and other critics of Israel, Zionism, and U.S. policy in the Middle East, in many cases by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism.

This view exempts the professoriate from the kind of criticism expected by other professionals, including businessmen, attorneys, politicians, and actors. Moreover, the organizations involved have neither the desire nor ability to "shut down open discussion" of anything.

Finally, Newhall charges:

[The signatories] are even willing to threaten federal funding for university-based Middle East studies centers, which have a long and distinguished history of providing the United States with thousands of people trained in the languages, politics, cultures and histories of this critical region."

As Campus Watch and others have demonstrated, Title VI centers produce politicized, biased research with disturbing regularity.

MESA itself has thwarted Title VI's mission by boycotting Department of Defense funds for language programs, including immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when the need for expertise in Middle Eastern languages and cultures was dire. This bias against efforts to strengthen national security continues: MESA's web site states that, "MESA publications will not accept advertising from defense and intelligence related agencies from any government."

Newhall's shrill attacks on efforts to reform Title VI of the Higher Education Act reveal the radicalism of the Middle East studies establishment she represents.