The Problem with Israel-Studies Departments

In February, the University of Washington returned a large donation to Rebecca Benaroya, who had earmarked the money, among other things, for funding a new Israel-studies department. The incident set off a debate about “donor intent versus academic freedom,” writes Scott Shay.

When the University of Washington returned a $5 million gift intended to start an Israel-studies department, the reason was simple: the professor tasked with running the department had no intention of teaching a balanced perspective on the history and current governance of the state of Israel. He was, instead, a staunch supporter of the pro-Palestinian movement—and the university put his anti-Israel viewpoints ahead of student education and donor intent.

Academic integrity must be protected as much as academic freedom. The University of Washington story is instructive. As reported by Forbes in mid-April, . . . the donation was for the purposes “of endowing a chair, whose holder ‘will demonstrate a strong commitment to studying, teaching, and disseminating knowledge about Jews and Judaism, as well as the modern state of Israel.’”

The University of Washington/Benaroya spat is emblematic of the larger issue of Jewish-studies departments and Israel-studies programs increasingly teaching primarily or exclusively the perspectives of Palestinian and Arab nationalist scholars, essentially [transforming] the field into Palestine studies. They are not teaching the views of genuinely excellent scholars across the political spectrum, and the real losers in this lack of balance are students who are never given the change to challenge the views they are taught. In this, many Israel-studies scholars have betrayed their academic responsibility and perverted the meaning of academic freedom.

Read more at RealClear Religion

More about: Academia, Israel on campus, Israel Studies


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy