For more than a decade, the allocation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. funded doctoral and post-doctoral grants on Palestinian issues has been decided by a group of Middle Eastern-studies professors that includes some of the most polarizing and radical figures in the field.
The Bethesda, Maryland-based Palestinian American Research Center (PARC), a registered nonprofit, receives controversial Title VI funding from the U.S. State Department and Department of Education for "Palestinian studies." Yet, the organization perpetuates the failures of Middle Eastern studies in America - namely, the admixture of polemics and academia.
The list of PARC members includes Stanford's Joel Beinin, who denounces American "imperialism" on al-Jazeera television; Columbia's Rashid Khalidi, reportedly a former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) spokesman; NYU's Zachary Lockman, supporter of a proposed academic boycott of Israel; Penn's Ian Lustick, who blames the U.S. for the war on terror, rather than those who carry out violence in the name of Islam; and Boston University's Augustus Norton, an apologist for the Lebanese terrorist organization, Hezbollah.
While PARC no longer enjoys the shelter of a university, it was hosted in recent years at Villanova University (under the directorship of Professor Ann Lesch), and Randolph-Macon College (under the directorship of Professor Michael Fischbach). Today, at least 15 U.S. colleges and universities are included among PARC's institutional supporters, including Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, and other venerated schools.
According to PARC's tax returns, the organization has raised more than $550,000 since 2002. It received at least $47,000 in U.S. government funds in 2006. It also received "foreign grants" from a member of the radical London School of Economics Students' Union (LSESU), a professor of the West Bank's radical al-Najah University, as well as other funds from the U.K., Lebanon, Greece, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and beyond.
The influx of outside funds raises an important question: how much do foreign donors influence the program?
Moreover, how much influence do Palestinian administrators have in the program? For example, Hadeel Qazzaz, listed on the website as the "Palestine Director" of the organization, appears to be more of an activist than an administrator. She apparently splits her time with the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green Party, conveniently located in the same offices as PARC in Ramallah. A teary-eyed Qazzaz appears on YouTube lamenting the Israeli strictures that prevent her son from traveling. She also lectures on Palestinian women's lives "under occupation."
For an organization purporting to support academic work, PARC has produced very little beyond the dissertations they fund. Of the bits that have been posted on the organization's website, not one article condemns the Palestinians for the culture of violence that continues to spread. Rather, as the website states, PARC seeks to foster an "appreciation of Palestinian culture and society."
Some of the postings can best be described as Palestinian propaganda used to condemn the Israeli measures taken in response to the violence. For example, one article penned by a grant recipient named Lori Allen (now a lecturer at University of Cambridge in the U.K.) was a lengthy apologia for Palestinian suicide bombing. Despite some effort to maintain objectivity, Allen explained how Palestinians were expressing "resistance to occupation and sacrificing for that struggle," and how, after the "outbreak of the intifada, Israel has stepped up attacks on civilians . . . stifling Palestinians' hopes for a better future."
Worse, Allen uses the Palestinian claim that the "Israeli occupation can kill anyone, anytime" to justify her morally repugnant conclusion: "At least suicide bombers go out fighting."
In an effort to contribute to academics, PARC takes part in the activities of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the ossified organization that promotes groupthink among the professors of Middle Eastern Studies in America. MESA has been hammered by critics who argue that the annual meetings are little more than whitewash sessions for the corruption, violence, and authoritarianism that plague the Middle East. Indeed, PARC hosted a MESA panel in 2000. PARC contributed by bringing in lecturer Salim Tamari from the West Bank to discuss the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an organization dedicated to perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solving it.
U.S. taxpayers should know that PARC is part of the U.S. Department of Education's system of overseas research centers authorized under Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Under the aegis of the U.S. government, PARC continues to give out grants of $3,000 to $8,000 for activism in the name of academia. Yet a preliminary review of the organization suggests that this is money poorly spent.
The Department of Education, in particular, should be encouraged to conduct a full review of PARC to ensure that its activities conform to the Title VI mission.