Lowey to Education Secretary: Misuse of Higher Education Act Title VI Funding could Stoke the Flames of anti-Semitism


September 29, 2014

Concerns about Anti-Israel Bias in Academic Programs Receiving Federal Funds Must be Addressed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, today sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan urging him to immediately adopt standards to prevent imbalanced higher education programs with anti-Israel attitudes from receiving federal funding.

Lowey’s letter to Duncan comes in response to a statement from several education and Jewish advocates proclaiming that institutions are misusing Higher Education Act Title VI funding, which seeks to help colleges and universities enhance instruction in foreign language and international studies. A comprehensive report is available here, including complaints that certain Middle East studies programs have become unfairly anti-Israel.

“Anti-Semitism is a scourge on society that has far-reaching and dangerous effects. The Department of Education must address concerns that a number of imbalanced programs of Middle East Studies are disproportionately focused on and are biased against Israel,” said Lowey. “Incidents of anti-Semitism have spiked worldwide in recent months, including many that were borne out of protests against Israel’s acts of self-defense against the terrorist group Hamas. It is vital to ensure that academic programs do not become tilted against Israel in a way that engenders anti-Semitism or criticism of Israel that devolves into the defamation of the Jewish people.”

The full letter is below:

September 29, 2014

Secretary Arne Duncan
 U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave SW
Washington, DC 20202


Dear Secretary Duncan,

During a hearing in April, you and I discussed the International Education and Foreign Language Studies program, which advances national security, foreign policy, and economic interests. We agreed that it was necessary to strengthen Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

I was alarmed to read the attached statement from several education and Jewish advocates proclaiming a misuse of federal funds and that some recipients “fail to satisfy Title VI’s intended purpose, flout congressional intent, and thwart American national security and foreign policy interests.” The statement mentioned a number of problems with imbalanced programs of Middle East Studies that are disproportionately focused on and are biased against Israel. This could engender anti-Semitism or criticism of Israel that devolves into the defamation of the Jewish people.

Over the past year, your Department has revised many Title VI program performance measures. While those measures have focused on quantitative metrics, I strongly urge you to immediately adopt standards to prevent imbalanced programs, particularly those that may spread anti-Semitic attitudes, from receiving funds. Additionally, as Congress considers amendments to the Higher Education Act, I am interested in any proposals you may have to reform Title VI to exclude programs with a strong anti-Israel bias.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to working with you to improve Title VI programs.


Nita M. Lowey

Member of Congress

Also this week, since UCLA has yet to respond to the AMCHA Initiative study cited by leading education, civil rights and Jewish groups as primary evidence in their call for Title VI reform, AMCHA wrote directly to UCLA Chancellor Block and published an oped in the UCLA student newspaper.  The 3-year study found significant antisemitic activity and anti-Israel bias at UCLA. The full letter is below, and the op-ed can be found here.

Dear Chancellor Block,

As you know, our non-profit organization, AMCHA Initiative, recently released a study which tracked antisemitic discourse and anti-Israel bias in all of the audio- or video-recorded, Israel-related public events sponsored by CNES, 2010 – 2013. The study was designed and supervised by one of us, Leila Beckwith, who is Professor Emeritus at UCLA and a well-respected faculty member with more than 30 years of research experience.

During the period under investigation, CNES received nearly $1.5 million from the Department of Education under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, a statute which stipulates that its recipients must demonstrate that all Title VI-funded programming reflect “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.”  The results of our study indicate that CNES’ programming has a troubling anti-Israel bias, which distorts its scholarly and educational mission and is a violation of its federal funding requirements.

In particular, our study found:

  • CNES Israel-related events had an overwhelmingly anti-Israel bias:Of the 28 Israel-related events analyzed, 93% were anti-Israel, as identified using a systematic and objective definition of bias;
  • Most CNES Israel-related events contained antisemitic content:Of the 28 events, 75% contained antisemitic content, as identified using a systematic definition of antisemitic activity based directly on the definition of antisemitism used by the U.S. State Department;
  • CNES had a disproportionate focus on Israel:Of all the public events pertaining to significant Middle East political conflicts, 61% focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, significantly more than on any other conflict, including the “Arab Spring” uprisings and the Iranian nuclear threat.  In addition, events were held about 14 Middle East countries.  Of those countries, 27% of the events were about Israel, four times more than any other country except Iran;
  • CNES favors speakers who engaged in antisemitic activity: Of the 31 speakers at the CNES Israel-related events, 84% have engaged in antisemitic 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 antisemitic activity:All three CNES directors from 2010-2013 publicly opposed the UC Israel Abroad Program, despite touting that program as part of the center’s fulfillment of its Title VI funding requirement.  In addition, each of the directors has endorsed boycotts of Israeli universities and scholars, and one is the founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel.  Besides revealing their personal anti-Israel biases, these three directors’ actions to subvert UCLA students’ educational opportunities in Israel and to boycott Israeli academic institutions and scholars are in direct violation of their charge as directors of a Title VI Center, which includes “maintain[ing] linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center.”

We are aware that in response to the release of our study, the UCLA media relations office issued a statement claiming that the university “remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints.”  However, UCLA’s statement nowhere addressed the extensive data we had collected showing that the egregiously anti-Israel public outreach events of CNES clearly violated the Title VI stipulation that the center’s programing reflect “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.”

We believe that our study warrants careful review by your office, and we urge you to forthrightly address the serious problems we have raised regarding CNES.


Leila Beckwith

Co-founder AMCHA Initiative

Professor Emeritus, UCLA


Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Co-founder AMCHA Initiative

Lecturer, UC Santa Cruz



Cc:      UC President Janet Napolitano

UC Regents

California State Senator Holly Mitchell (District 26)

California Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (District 54)