Several decades ago, Israel’s right to exist may have been hotly contested in the Middle East, but it was not much challenged in the halls of the academy. In courses on the Middle East conflict, the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians was treated largely as a tragedy between two legitimate nationalisms fighting for the same territory.
Today, the situation has been transformed and the transformation is filled with irony. Increasing numbers of Arab countries are, however grudgingly, acknowledging the country’s existence while more and more college campuses are treating Israel as a pariah both within and without the classroom.
Wrapping their courses around a biased syllabus, classes on the Middle East conflict offer their students slogans instead of complex and objective analyses. Funded by advocacy movements for the Palestinians, lecturers tour campuses across the United States to denounce the occupation and Israel’s right to exist.
Scholars trained in the field of Middle East Studies seem to believe it their mission to use their classrooms as platforms for the political changes they deem correct in the region. Supported by senior administrators and colleagues sympathetic to their mission, these experts now hold tenured positions in many of our prestigious universities. They have become a significant part of America’s educational establishment and the gatekeepers for the next generation of scholars.
For these reasons, I joined SPME and help fund its activities. I want to do whatever I can to restore academic respectability to the study of the Middle East. Israel may have won its many wars in the region, but it has lost the campus battle for a reasonable and fair hearing of its claims and of its history. To surrender this battleground at this time would be a terrible loss for Israel and for American Jewry.
Donna Robinson Divine
Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Government
 It is increasingly difficult to find books on the Middle East Conflict that offer a balanced account. University Presses have published highly tendentious accounts of Israel’s history and politics creating the impression that the country has deprived the rightful inhabitants of the land of their national birthright.