Something Is Rotten in UCLA’s Center for Near East Studies |

TBC Staff - EN


Recently, UCLA’s federally subsidized Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES) has come under fire by a pro-Israel watchdog that conducted a review of the Center’s programs from 2010-2013 and concluded that many featured “anti-Semitic discourse and anti-Israel bias.”

Among the findings of the report by the AMCHA Initiative:

CNES Israel-related events had an overwhelmingly anti-Israel bias: Of the 28 Israel-related events, 93% were anti-Israel;

CNES favors speakers who engaged in anti-Semitic activity prior to speaking at CNES: Of the 31 speakers at the CNES Israel-related events, 84% 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;

Each CNES director had engaged in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity: All three CNES directors from 2010-2013 publicly 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 a founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel.

Professor James Gelvin, a historian studying the Middle East, wrote a spirited defense of CNES on behalf of the Faculty Advisory Committee, which, oddly enough, appeared in an Arabic publication. Gelvin focused his rebuttal on AMCHA’s statistics regarding the number of programs regarding Israel; however, he presents no evidence to dispute the fundamental charge of anti-Israel bias. His answer to the failure to bring speakers who might balance some of the panels critical of Israel is to say that CNES also does not feel the need to “balance” the criticism of Arab states. He further justifies the faculty invited by CNES by asserting that they are “accomplished scholars presenting original work.” If you look at much of what the invited guests have said about Israel, it is highly questionable whether they deserve to be called accomplished and certainly are not presenting original critiques of Israel.

Gelvin becomes positively Orwellian when he tries to explain how a center purportedly devoted to academic freedom can tolerate directors who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, including the current director who, in 2014, signed a letter calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and pledging not to collaborate with Israeli institutions, attend their conferences or publish in Israeli journals. Gelvin’s response is that the BDS movement, which calls for the destruction of Israel, “is not out of the mainstream within the scholarly community” because a few hundred faculty Israel deniers support singling Israel out for special treatment.