It’s common knowledge that Middle East Studies programs at America’s elite universities have become ground zero for violent anti-Israel incitement, featuring professors, courses and conferences that excuse—and in some cases, even support—Palestinian terrorism.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Princeton University’s Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, created in 2003 and originally financed by the royal family of Morocco, is offering a new fellowship based on the righteousness of the Palestinian cause and the illegitimacy of Israel.
Once again, another Arab-financed and sponsored curriculum on another prestigious American university campus seeks to further roil the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for the dismantling of Israel by classifying the Jewish state as the Palestinians’ “homeland.” At the same time, the word “Diaspora,” a term created to describe the world’s Jews scattered in exile after the destruction of the Second Temple by Rome in 70 A.D., is being further corrupted to describe Palestinian Arabs worldwide.
More than anything else, the fellowship description of “Society under Occupation: Contemporary Palestinian Politics, Culture and Identity” reads like a Palestinian propaganda pamphlet:
“Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has now persisted for over thirty-seven years, during which time the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories has grown to hundreds of thousands and Israeli control over the territories has been strengthened by the use of checkpoints, by-pass roads, military engagement and, most recently, the construction of a wall separating Palestinians from Israel and from one another. Despite living under occupation, as refugees, or outside their homeland, Palestinians have maintained a vibrant cultural and political life. In 2005-2006, the Institute will focus research on contemporary Palestinian life, both under occupation and in the diaspora. We wish to explore Palestinian culture, society and religious life, as well as Palestinian national identity and contemporary Palestinian political, legal and ethical thought. We also hope to examine Palestinians’ understanding of dispossession and occupation, and their visions of a post-occupation future.”
This description is blatantly biased against Israel. It implies that the areas of the West Bank under dispute are all “occupied,” that hundreds of thousands of Israelis, even those living in Jerusalem, are “settlers,” and that Israel somehow seeks to “control” the Palestinians with “checkpoints,” “bypass roads” and “military engagement.” There is no mention that Arab terrorism and suicide bombings necessitated these activities of normal self-defense.
That the 37 years of “occupation” are a response to an Arab world that has vowed, since Israel’s creation, to violently destroy her, is never mentioned. Nor is the fact that, with the Oslo Accords, Israel gave back nearly everything for a promised “peace” that has been nothing but an ongoing war of attrition against her people, costing the lives of over 1,000 Israelis and maiming for life 10,000 more.
Yet the fellowship description continues by stating that the Palestinians are “living under occupation as refugees” and are “outside their homeland.” Since 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza live under the control of the Palestinian Authority, that statement is an outright falsehood. And “outside their homeland” means inside Israel’s 1948 boundaries. In reality, most of the “refugees” from 1948 are long since dead, their ancestors still claiming to be “refugees.”
By implication, “checkpoints and bypass roads” are also mentioned in the fellowship description as if they exist to deny Palestinian Arabs their rights. Checkpoints have been proven to stop suicide bombers sent and paid for by the Palestinian government, as well as the smuggling of armed terrorists who murder Israelis, even non-Jews. That bypass roads were created because Palestinians shoot at Israelis on the highways in the West Bank isn’t clarified, nor is the fact that West Bank Palestinian Arabs, after passing a security check, are then free to use those same bypass roads.
And of course, the Security Fence erected to keep out suicide bombers that the Palestinian Authority praises as martyrs and rewards with money is a “wall,” separating the Palestinians from the Israelis—according to the fellowship.
According to Miguel Centeno, the acting director of the Institute for Transregional Study at Princeton, the purpose of the fellowship is to “bring people onto campus to expand intellectual diversity.” Centeno stated that “Princeton’s role as an international university is to support the work of scholars that we consider important.”
When I asked Centeno about the program description, he maintained that it was unbiased. I detailed my criticisms as outlined above and he responded, “We cannot write a proposal that takes in all claims by each side.” He continued, “The job of the University is not to make ideological choices.”
“Not even to mention terrorist attacks and their effect on Israelis?” I asked.
“I feel perfectly comfortable with the paragraph as it stands,” replied Centeno in an irritated tone. “It was approved by Princeton and we will stand institutionally by the paragraph.”
When I had asked Centeno for the name of the author, he initially declined to reveal it but finally said, “You can assume I wrote it.”
The announcement for the fellowship on Princeton’s own website makes clear that the description’s perspective will be the “theme” of the university’s Middle East studies department through 2005 and 2006; that is, that the Palestinians are dispossessed as a result of Israel’s existence, and that Israel is subjugating them and using military might against them without provocation, thus keeping them from their “homeland.” In short, the course is little more than an Arab-subsidized activism program against Israel and its Jewish population.
Centeno himself claimed that he has no objection to Israel’s existence but “does not like Ariel Sharon.” One wonders why Centeno objects to an Israeli prime minister who withdrew from the West Bank 14 times to effect a cease-fire, encountering each time more terrorist attacks on his own people. Indeed, Israel has endured some 22,000 terror attacks by Palestinians since the second Intifada began in 2000.
On the subject of Palestinian and Arab terrorism, Centeno said he hoped the program would help people to “understand” terrorism, “not excuse or condone it, but explain why terrorism occurs, why does a society produce this?”
It is a near certainty that the program will blame Palestinian terrorism on Israeli “occupation,” “checkpoints” and “military engagement” and not on the thugs who run the PLO and encourage such activities among the Palestinian population as they steal their foreign aid money. Terrorism has become something to be explained and understood in Middle East studies departments at our universities, not something to be combated and eliminated.
Further inspection of the previous fellows and visiting professors under the program reveals that even the Israeli or Jewish academics in the department are chosen for their anti-Israel zeal. Past recipients have included Yoav Peled of the political science department at Tel Aviv University, who made news in 1997 after his niece was murdered in a suicide bombing by Palestinians. Peled flamboyantly invited a PLO spokesperson to the girl's funeral and, at the funeral, explained how her death was all the fault of then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Peled pronounced this view to the world in an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, where he argued that Netanyahu was the cause of Palestinian terrorism.
Richard Falk, another past fellow, wrote in The Nation that the United States and Israel are wrong to defend themselves from terrorists and that such self-defense contributes to a “cycle of violence,” as if not reacting would somehow deter those who commit terror attacks. Falk, during his earlier years at Princeton, was a cheerleader for the Ayatollah Khomeini, writing in 1979 that, “The depiction of Khomeini as fanatical, reactionary, and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false. Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane government for a third-world country.” Falk has also called Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon a “war criminal.”
Sylvain Cypel, a former reporter for Le Monde (the French and EU have been notorious for funding PLO terrorist groups), was another fellowship recipient. Cypel regularly writes of Israeli “oppression.”
Of even greater interest is past fellowship recipient Anders Strindberg. Despite common knowledge that the Christian population in the West Bank has shrunk enormously due to Muslim persecution, Strindberg writes that the Christians in the Holy Land were victims of the “Judaization” that created Israel. He even accuses Israel (falsely) of desecrating and destroying Christian religious shrines, something the Palestinians have done on more than one occasion. He also refers to Israel within the 1948 borders as “occupied Palestine.”
Strindberg’s rants against Israel are particularly troubling, since Israel officially recognizes Christianity as a religion with freedom of worship whereas Article 7 of the Palestinian Authority Constitution states that Islam is not only the official religion of Palestine but also the basis behind all law. The PA constitution is similar to that of Saudi Arabia, where Christian persecution is well known. Indeed, the Christian community in the West Bank has appealed to the pope himself to save them from Muslim persecution. Yet Strindberg—who has also praised the Shia terrorist group Hizbollah (which has played a huge role in the destabilization of formerly Christian Lebanon)— writes that it is Israel’s Jews who are persecuting Arab Christians. Strindberg also says Christian Zionists are under the control of “neoconservatives” and the “Israel lobby” in America, and emphasizes the opinion of Mahmoud Abbas that Israel is really Palestine. He doesn’t mention that Abbas’ Ph.D. thesis denied that the Holocaust ever occurred in Europe.
One has to wonder if Strindberg has even heard about the 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity, where Christian priests were held hostage by terrorists from the PLO. When the church was finally freed, it was discovered that the Palestinian terrorists inside had defecated on Christian shrines and stolen all the gold icons.
But Strindberg is just one example of Princeton’s “diversity” of views in Middle East studies. Incredibly, I could not find any past fellowship recipients who actively promoted Israel’s right to exist in published documents, nor any who disproved and condemned Palestinian propaganda and lies against the Jewish state.
Centeno can’t see the abject bias in the fellowship description for his department’s theme for next year, because such demonization against Israel now passes as diversity— no matter how untrue the academic “studies” against Israel may be. Thus, the “theme” of Princeton’s Transregional Study department for 2005-2006 will be an extension of the Israel-bashing that has always existed there.
Centano insisted that all programs in his department are funded directly by the university, but even programs funded by Princeton University always present notorious Israel-bashers and haters such as Hussein Ibish, formerly communications director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and Mustapha Barghouti, a candidate who ran against Mahmoud Abbas in the recent Palestinian Authority election for president. Barghouti, who once headed the Palestinian communist party, or the PPP, had the endorsement during the election of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The U.S. State Department has classified the PFLP as an illegal terrorist organization.
Any effort to bring peace to the Middle East and end the War on Terror through education should be based on objectivity that recognizes Israel’s right to exist, its attempts at a peaceful settlement and the losses its people have suffered, as well as viable workable solutions. The message from Princeton’s Transregional Study department is simply the unending vilification of Israel, much of it without being fairly or factually developed, along with attempts to validate the Palestinians as the “victims” of Israelis.
The War of 1948 (started by the Arab world) left a greater number of Jewish refugees who fled to Israel—and, it should be mentioned, today comprise the majority of Israel’s population—than Palestinians who fled during the conflict. Yet, who in succeeding generations of Princeton’s students will even know that basic information if the university’s Middle East studies department teaches them the unending Palestinian canard of “occupation” when referring to all of Israel, or of Jewish “persecution" (despite Muslim Arabs practicing real religious exclusion)?
Step by step, our universities are becoming like the indoctrination centers that exist in the universities of the totalitarian Arab world. Princeton’s Institute for Transregional Study’s theme for 2005-2006 is a prime example of that transformation.