By Paul Miller
A high-profile academic center used federal funds to promote anti-Semitism on the campus of the University of California Los Angeles, a watchdog says.
The university’s Gustav E. von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies “is promoting a one-sided, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias to impressionable students,” Leila Beckwith said Wednesday during a Board of Regents meeting.
Beckwith is a UCLA professor emeritus and co-founder of AMCHA Initiative, the watchdog group that audited CNES events from 2010 to 2013. The CNES program, she said, “completely distorts UCLA’s scholarly and educational mission and is a violation of the Higher Education Act.”
During the period AMCHA reviewed, CNES received approximately $1.5 million from the Department of Education under Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 2008, fearing that recipients would engage in biased programming, lawmakers amended the act to require recipients “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.”
As Congress considers reauthorizing the law, AMCHA and numerous others say the amended act is “not working.”
Nine other organizations joined AMCHA to condemn the alleged anti-Semitic programming. These groups, including Accuracy in Academia, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, sent their report to U.S. House and Senate leaders to alert them that “Middle East centers funded under Title VI have failed to comply with federal law, by using taxpayer dollars to present biased, anti-American, anti-Israel views in their outreach programs.”
The AMCHA study reviewed all public events concerning Israel, utilizing the U.S. State Department’s own definition of anti-Semitism. Anti-Israel bias also was examined, as well as the total number of events sponsored by CNES that pertained to all Middle East countries. Biographical information was also prepared about every speaker and the three CNES directors.
The AMCHA report revealed that 93 percent of CNES Israel-related events had an overwhelmingly anti-Israel bias. Seventy-five percent contained anti-Semitic content and 84 percent of featured speakers have engaged in anti-Semitic activity, including the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, denying Jews the right to self-determination, comparing Israelis to Nazis and condoning terrorism.
“It’s the leadership of all three CNES directors that has fueled this clearly anti-Israel behavior,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA co-founder and a University of California faculty member. “Each of them opposed the UC Israel Abroad program, despite touting the Public Abroad program as part of the center’s fulfillment of the Title VI funding requirement. In addition, each of the directors endorsed boycotts of Israel, and one is the founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel.”
Faculty directors of CNES were Susan Slyomoviks (2010-2012) and Sondra Hale and Gabriel Piterberg (co-interim directors, 2012 – 2013). They did not respond to request for comment.
Civil rights expert and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Kenneth L. Marcus, told Watchdog.org, “Universities that receive Title VI funding often have the most hostile environments for Jewish students.”
“After this morning’s revelations, we expect UCLA to do what they pledged and offer a diversity of perspective. We also expect Congress to hold recipients of Title VI grants accountable to the high standards they created or to not renew the program,” said Marcus, a former staff director at the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
A university spokesman, in a statement to Watchdog.org that did not address the AMCHA study directly, said “Israeli academics, students, speakers and artists are regularly part of programming at UCLA,” and that the university “remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints.”