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The Trump administration's crackdown on campus criticism of Israel is Orwellian

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23.09.2019

If you criticize Israeli policy, you will lose your federal funding. That is the message the Department of Education is sending with its threat to withdraw federal support for the Consortium for Middle East Studies, operated jointly by Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, if it does not alter the content of its programming.

Just three months after Education Secretary Betsy Devos ordered an investigation into a conference about the politics of the Gaza Strip that the consortium had sponsored – an authoritarian threat, in and of itself – the Department of Education issued a letter demanding that the Duke-UNC consortium remake its curriculum. Or else.

The Department of Education’s letter, published last Tuesday, charged that the Duke-UNC program was failing to meet its federal mandate – by focusing too much on cultural studies and topics like “Love and Desire in Modern Iran” and not enough on “advancing the security and economic stability of the United States”. In other words, it seems the program was teaching its students about the complex and varied cultures of countries in the Middle East instead of how to dominate them.

The letter did not mention directly the conference on Gaza, during which several well-respected American, Israeli and Palestinian experts spoke. But it didn’t have to. The DeVos-ordered investigation is part of the Trump administration’s attempt to crack down on campus criticism of Israeli policy – a goal to which the administration made its commitment explicit when it appointed Kenneth L Marcus assistant secretary of civil rights in the Department of Education. That the investigation........

© The Guardian