From the Letters to the Editor column of the September 2004 Perspectives
Middle Eastern Studies
Norman Cantor, September 2004
To the Editor:
In the April 2004 issue of Perspectives there is a long article [by Bruce Craig] detailing the legislation, supported by the Hoover Institution’s Stanley Kurtz, and which is now in Congress, stipulating what can only be called political oversight over the funding of Middle Eastern studies programs. Obviously such oversight contravenes the principles of academic freedom. But what surprises me is the lack of background discussion of the bias that has entered into Middle East studies programs that Kurtz and other neoconservatives and supporters of Israel (like Daniel Pipes) find offensive. In other words, the Middle Eastern studies programs, under the leadership of Arab and Muslim scholars, have become very biased in the direction of anti-Israel prejudices. Such is now the orientation of the faculty of Middle Eastern programs, that it is unlikely that a Jewish person would now be appointed to the faculties of Arabic and Muslim studies, although ethnic Jews—whether in Europe or the United States—have historically achieved high distinction in the field of Middle Eastern studies.
I think the legislation now before Congress involving federal oversight of the field of Middle Eastern studies, as proposed by Kurtz, does raise grave questions about academic freedom. But not to have explicated in your columns the sad impasse that has been reached in Middle Eastern studies, in which anti-Israel bias is rampant, is the height of disingenuousness.