Columbia’s Slippery Boycotters

Martin Kramer writes at Commentary:

In a post in late August, I asked whether Columbia University’s federally-funded Middle East Institute was boycotting Israeli institutions of higher education.

Why? Its director, anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod, has signed a pledge by some Middle East studies academics “not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions.”

Did that personal pledge extend to the Middle East Institute, a Title VI National Research Center under her direction?

The president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute asked Abu-Lughod herself and she replied:

My decision does not affect the Middle East Institute where we welcome distinguished scholars and students from all over the world, fund language training for students in all Middle Eastern languages, support study abroad in all the region’s universities, and support, modestly, summer research for students in all the countries of the region, including Israel.

The Middle East Institute serves the Columbia community. It does not have any institutional partnerships with other universities, whether in the US or abroad.

Kramer finds this reply unpersuasive and concludes:

No Department of Education official is going to detect a stealth boycott or do any serious follow-up on whether taxpayer dollars are going to political activists in academic guise.

That means that the reform of Title VI, a creaking holdover from the Cold War, is impossible.

If you think that Title VI, on balance, does more good than harm, you’re just going to have to accept that some of your tax dollars will go to agitprop for Hamas.

If you think that’s totally unacceptable, you should favor the total elimination of Title VI from the Higher Education Act, now up for reauthorization. There is no middle ground.


Related: Columbia, Harvard, Yale anthropologists among 360 backing boycott of Israel: More than 350 anthropologists from around the world have endorsed a boycott of Israel and its academic institutions.

The statement was posted on Oct. 1 on the website jadaliyya.com with 231 signatories and a call for others to add their names to the list. On Friday, the list had reached 360 names.

“As a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments,” reads the statement, which endorses “boycott[ing] Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in these violations.”

Israeli academic institutions, the statement said, “are complicit with the occupation and oppression of Palestinians” with “intimate connections between Israeli academic institutions and the military, security, and political establishments in Israel”…

 

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