CAMERA Op-Ed: Anti-Israel Ideology Tarnishes Brown University

A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in the New York Post on March 29, 2024.

A monthly series of polls by Harvard CAPS/ Harris reveals disturbing, antisemitic attitudes held by many young Americans, including on Hamas’ massacre of Israelis – 51% found it justified; and Jews as a class – 67% considered them oppressors.

That so many youth admit to holding views that would have placed them on the racist fringes of society in their parents’ generation points to the moral confusion fostered in many American classrooms.

Brown University’s contribution is notable, not only for the influence on campus of extremist ideology promoted at its Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) but because it aims to shape even younger minds through its Choices Program, a social studies curriculum for high schoolers, that includes units informed by the same radical ideology.

According to the Choices Program’s website, its resources are used by 1 million students across the United States and in 200 international schools.   

Brown has one of the highest proportions of faculty who publicly support anti-Israel boycotts. (A study by the Amcha Initiative reports a positive correlation between faculty support for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions and antisemitic activity on campus.)

It is telling that among American universities, Brown currently has one of the highest proportions of faculty who publicly support anti-Israel boycott. (A study by the Amcha Initiative reports a positive correlation between faculty support for academic boycott of Israeli institutions and antisemitic activity on campus).

As the CMES’s founding director in 2012, Professor Beshara Doumani lost no time in establishing a “New Directions in Palestine Studies” initiative to “shape the agenda of knowledge production on Palestine and Palestinians” and build “an international community of scholars dedicated to decolonizing and globalizing” the field of study.

Under this agenda, “settler-colonialism” is deemed the ultimate evil of the modern world and Jews are portrayed as settler-colonialists who took over native Palestinian land. The concept of a Jewish homeland, Jewish history, and indeed, the very notion of a Jewish people is discredited, relegated to “myth” and “legend” or depicted as a “militant” and racist concept. Efforts to combat antisemitism are confronted as part of a Jewish colonial conspiracy to “delegitimize” Palestinian “resistance” – the preferred term for terrorism – lauded as heroism.

In 2021-2023, Doumani served as president of Birzeit University. Under his tenure, the student faction of Hamas won landslide victories in student elections. Military-style parades were held on campus, with student factions of terror organizations celebrating and encouraging terrorist bombings and the murder of Israeli civilians. Students involved in terrorist attacks were glorified at university events. Under Doumani’s helm, the radicalism that permeated the university was not attenuated; it increased. 

Back at the program Doumani started at Brown University, visiting scholars have portrayed the Jewish national liberation movement as a racist ideology akin to Nazism. At various Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) events, a visiting fellow taught that “antisemitism, Zionism and Nazism were varying forms of racism and nationalism, nurtured in a similar geography and in the same intellectual climate.”

A visiting professor declared that “Zionism didn’t reject…the logic of Europe, the logic of an ethnic, racial, pure state; actually, they adopted this logic…”

Another professor referred to Jewish “Kristallnacht mobs” who are “thirsty for Palestinian blood.” Such extremist rhetoric reeks of Holocaust inversion and evokes ancient, antisemitic blood libels.

The CMES also funds post-doctoral research associates to help shape scholarship on the subject. One such associate is co-founder of the fanatical, terrorist-supporting Palestinian Youth Movement that cheered Hamas’ massacre and organizes pro-Hamas campaigns and marches on campuses and on the streets. An event with her just days before the Hamas massacre promoted “renewal and revolt in Palestinian youth movements.”

When dozens of student organizations at Brown University responded to Hamas’ savagery on Oct. 7 by calling the terrorist group’s actions “just,” their legitimization of the atrocities reflected the lessons they were being taught by educators at Brown.

On Israel, Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Brown’s Choices Program for high school students delivers similar ideology with contributors who include some of the same activist-scholars who are, or were, part of the university’s CMES.

The CMES professor who spoke of Jewish “Kristallnacht mobs” appears in the curriculum’s videos to teach students that Israel is an apartheid state guilty of racism. Other videos embedded in the curriculum feature CMES scholars with histories of anti-Zionist activism misinform students that Israel was established as a settler-colonialist state on the indigenous land of current-day Palestinians, that the native Arabs welcomed Jewish immigrants but were thrown off of their own land and deprived of their livelihoods, that Israel was established as a state for only Jews who continue to deprive indigenous Palestinians of their homes, civil rights and liberties.

Arab aggression against Jews in pre-state Palestine and post-state Israel is legitimized or downplayed while Palestinian terrorism is entirely ignored.

The essential truth of the Jewish people’s claim of indigeneity, evidenced by massive archaeological and historical documentation of a continuous Jewish presence in the land, is disregarded or dismissed.

The educators use their platform at Brown University to distort both history and current events, indoctrinating students with a false version of the Arab-Israeli conflict and imbuing them with animus against the Jewish state and its supporters.

In the curriculum’s student readings, terror organizations are called “resistance groups,” while their deadly attacks are justified as “armed struggle against Israeli occupation.” The Western world’s terrorist designation of Hamas is minimized by suggesting that only the U.S. and Israel consider it a terrorist group, but “the U.N. does not” and Hamas “calls itself an Islamic national liberation and resistance movement.” Jews are depicted as European colonial interlopers with no significant connection to Israel, the overall message being that an independent Jewish state is wrong.

A review of federal data indicates that Brown University  received millions of dollars in funding  from  “Palestinian territories” and Arab countries, which includes endowment of the professorship Doumani holds and funding for foreign students. The part of the Choices curriculum that deals with the Middle East was promoted with funding by the Qatar Fund International for teacher training workshops and scholarships to enable teachers to purchase the curriculum. Such foreign funding helps promote sectarian activism over objective scholarship and partisan politics over scholastic rigor in U.S. schools and universities. 

Is it any wonder we’re witnessing a new generation whose prevailing set of values includes history’s oldest hatred?


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