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Republican Senators Urge Department of Education to Examine Anti-Zionism in College Programs

A group of Republican US Senators issued a letter Wednesday asking US Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Miguel Cardona to determine whether taxpayer-funded federal grants have supported college programs that foster anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

A lack of viewpoint diversity in higher education is a major source of the problem, the letter said, explaining that Near East and Middle East studies programs often fail to present the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and dedicate “a disproportionate amount of their curriculum on criticizing Israel.” Much of the criticism, it added, which includes comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, imposing double standards on its government, and denying its right to exist, may be considered antisemitic according to the International Holocaust Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

“Some universities may have even violated anti-terrorism laws by hosting convicted terrorists as speakers,” it continued, citing New York University’s hosting Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who twice hijacked planes brimming with Israeli passengers, at a webinar held in 2020. “A core reason college campuses are plagued by antisemitism is because professors who teach the curriculum indoctrinate students with anti-Israel bias and viewpoints.”

Citing another professor who said “Holocaust denial is a form of protest,” the letter described anti-Zionist ideology in higher education as “obsessive” and “negative” and said “many Jewish and pro-Israel students no longer feel safe” because of it. They argued that many colleges are possibly non-compliant with Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HEA), a provision requiring college programs to “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views,” and that DOE has failed to address it.

The letter, signed by Sens. James E. Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), among others, urged the DOE to create a plan for addressing anti-Israel bias in academic programs and to propose ways that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) can help Jewish students feel welcome on campus.

AMCHA Initiative noted that many Near East and Middle East programs receive lucrative grants from the DOE’s National Resource Center Program (NRC), a Cold War era initiative providing financial awards to universities teaching foreign languages, international studies, and knowledge about a particular world region. In fiscal year 2022, Congress appropriated $25 million for NRC grants. Compliance with Title VI of the HEA is a necessary prerequisite for receiving the money.

The Senators’ letter comes amid pervading concern that higher education has become a hotbed of antisemitism, evidence of which has been put forth by Jewish organizations such as StopAntisemitism and AMCHA Initiative, which last year published a study showing a correlation between antisemitic incidents on the campus and the presence of anti-Zionist faculty, who, it said, are the principal purveyors of extreme anti-Israel opinions.

Being pro-Israel on college campuses is an academic, professional, and social liability, numerous students have told The Algemeiner.

In Feb. 2022, a Jewish SUNY New Paltz student was expelled from a sexual assault awareness group for supporting Israel. Earlier this month, a University of Chicago student said she self-censors in class “because humanities grades especially are largely based on your aligning with certain beliefs.” Most notably, a graduate student at George Washington University allegedly received disciplinary charges for complaining about a professor who invited an antisemite to address the class.