Full-spectrum Israel studies

August 7, 2014

Charles Keidan’s article distorts the nature of the growth of Israel studies and the role that my organisation has played in that expansion (“Partial gifts”, Opinion, 24 July).

In the past eight years, the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise has brought more than 100 visiting Israeli scholars to nearly 70 universities. The reason we have been successful is because we do not engage in advocacy or expect our professors to do so.

Israelis apply to the programme and, after a screening process by fellow scholars that evaluates their English skills, academic reputation, research area, personal interests and dynamism, we present the universities that we have chosen to work with a list of candidates. Each university chooses a professor who meets its qualifications and needs.

One of our goals has been to normalise the discussion of Israel so it is taught the way Russian or French studies are taught. Israel has been taught almost exclusively through the prism of conflict, which is misleading and ignores other aspects of Israeli politics, history and culture.

The scholars represent a range of research approaches and political views, from right to left on the spectrum. Candidates have included non-Jews and Israeli Arabs. Keidan complains about a lack of non-Zionist scholars, but there is no shortage of these professors. He could have found some at the meetings of the Association for Israel Studies and the Middle East Studies Association. They are also leading advocates of boycotts against Israeli universities.

Mitchell Bard
Executive director
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise

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