by Winfield Myers
"Too many of the centers [of Middle East studies] that currently exist are so infused with ideology, so obsessed by the Israeli-Arab conflict, they have become less interested in scholarship and more interested in scoring political points."
Pascal Menoret, who has a history of anti-Israel activism, will be officially named the Renee and Lester Crown Chair in Modern Middle East Studies in a September 8 ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University, the nation's only non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored college.
While teaching at NYU's Abu Dhabi campus, Menoret was among the faculty signatories to an "NYU Out of Occupied Palestine" petition urging the university to "divest from all companies in its portfolio that contribute to or profit from the Israeli occupation," which the petition defines as including "the West Bank and East Jerusalem." It goes on to decry Israel's alleged "denial of the most basic human and civil rights to the 4.5 million Palestinians who live in these occupied Palestinian territories." His Facebook page cover photo extends this theme, as it shows a portion of Israel's security fence at the Aida refugee camp in Beit Jala in the West Bank on which is painted Palestinian agitators hurling stones at Israelis, thereby romanticizing violent "resistance."
In 2014 Menoret, who specializes in Saudi cultural history, signed a petition defending the NYU chapter of the virulently anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from "disciplinary action" for the mock eviction notices it slipped under dormitory doors—many of them belonging to Jewish students—allegedly to mimic the notices given to Palestinians prior to home demolition.
Menoret's appointment to the prestigious Crown Chair confers the university's imprimatur on an individual whose politicized, anti-Israel actions are inimical to Brandeis's history and mission while ensuring that students are taught that Israel--the region's sole democracy--is an unjust, oppressive nation unworthy of their support. When Brandeis opened the Crown Center in 2005, then-president Jehuda Reinharz justified it by observing: "Too many of the centers [of Middle East studies] that currently exist are so infused with ideology, so obsessed by the Israeli-Arab conflict, they have become less interested in scholarship and more interested in scoring political points." What was true of others then is today true of the Crown Center as well.
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