PSLS and Partners Warn DOE against Israel Advocacy Groups’ Lobbying Campaign to Restrict Federal Funding for Middle East Studies
Today, a group of civil rights organizations – including Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, the National Lawyers Guild, and others – submitted a letter to the Department of Education (DOE) voicing their strong objection to the Amcha Initiative and the Brandeis Center for Human Rights’ lobbying campaign to curtail what the Israel advocacy groups characterize as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic” programming in Middle East studies centers. The campaign demands that the DOE and Congress deny federal funding for these programs based on politically motivated and faulty studies declaring that such programs are anti-Semitic. The letter warns the DOE that government regulation of academic programming would contradict academic freedom and First Amendment principles, and “would put the Department in the position of determining the scope of legitimate academic viewpoints, a form of government interference that not only intrudes on a sphere traditionally left to academic experts, but also approaches a prescription of orthodoxy.”
Despite the campaign’s claim to be fighting against bias in Middle East studies programs, the letter makes clear that “the Brandeis and Amcha proposals threaten to inhibit – not promote – a wide-ranging debate on world affairs. Their likely outcome is not more debate, but less –in other words, a chilling effect on engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Middle East Studies centers altogether….that will undermine the purpose of the HEA.”
The Higher Education Act, enacted to support teaching in areas of study considered relevant to US foreign policy, is up for Congressional reauthorization this year.
The Brandeis and Amcha campaign around the HEA is part of a larger effort by these and other Israel advocacy organizations to restrict the free speech and academic freedom rights of those who criticize Israeli policies or express support for Palestinian rights, including via complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which have been roundly dismissed by the DOE thus far.
To view the full letter, click here. For the resources included with the letter, visit the links below: