Academic Watchdog Says Georgetown Middle East Studies Faculty 'Most Anti-Israel'

Campus Watch says faculty produces 'radical,' 'biased' scholarship

Ciew shows the spires of Healy Hall on the Georgetown University campus in Washington, DC
View shows the spires of Healy Hall on the Georgetown University campus in Washington, DC / Getty Images
December 7, 2017

Middle East studies faculty at Georgetown University are "the most intolerant, ideological, anti-Israel, and pro-Islamist in the United States," charged a new report by an academic watchdog, published Monday.

Titled "Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers: Middle East Studies Faculty at Georgetown University," the report out of Campus Watch argued that "radical" and "biased" scholarship coming out of the D.C.-based school is of particular concern given the advisory role some professors play for legislators on Capitol Hill.

The faculty listed "underestimate threats to national security" and "misrepresent empirical data," according to Campus Watch, fueled by their propensity for postcolonial theory, a mode of study founded by the late Columbia literature professor Edward Said that considers Israel an imperialist power, and support of "aggressive Islamism."

Georgetown was labeled "an Islamist outpost on the Potomac."

Campus Watch described an "old guard" of scholars, who are now mostly deceased or retired, who founded Georgetown's Islamic studies centers and pursued an anti-Western ideology that would "obfuscate the facts by pretending that radicalization and incitement to jihad do not exist, that jihadists are not real, and that any negative perception of Islam stems, not from the behavior of Islamists, but from the misunderstandings of the American people." This group centered around John Esposito, founding director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), and still an active professor.

Campus Watch claimed the mantle has been taken by a "new guard" of like-minded professors, led by the current director of the ACMCU, Jonathan Brown.

Brown was called "a genuine Islamist, a convert to Islam who has defended the most draconian elements of sharia (Islamic law) and tradition."

His "Islamic" leanings were traced also to his marriage to Al-Jazeera reporter Laila Al-Arian, daughter of Sami Al-Arian, a former computer engineering professor at the University of South Florida who pleaded guilty to supporting terror entities and was deported in 2015 from the United States.

Campus Watch noted it has had "several run-ins" with Brown, including over its coverage of his comments earlier this year in apparent defense of slavery.

Like Brown, Osama Abi-Mershed—director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, with which many of the professors in the report are affiliated—was called out for signing statements in support of boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

"Abi-Mershed's teaching proves that these biases extend into the classroom," claimed Campus Watch, citing the description for a course Abi-Mershed taught a section of last spring, which included "Palestine," but not Israel on a list of post-Ottoman territories that would be studied.

It is unclear who wrote that course description, sections of which were taught by two other professors.

Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch, an arm of historian Daniel Pipes's Middle East Forum think tank, said the goal of the study was to expose and counter pervasive ideological homogeneity among Middle East scholars and to "encourage intellectual diversity throughout academe."

The professors listed among the "new guard" includes adjunct instructors who own little clout in university culture.

Myers said Campus Watch chose to cite "high profile faculty … in addition to less prominent figures to show as broad a spectrum as possible, particularly with the goal of demonstrating that the behavior is endemic to the department."

All of the active lecturers listed in the report were contacted for comment. None responded by press time.

Georgetown spokespeople did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

This summer, Georgetown hired Ahmad Dallal, who has made statements of support for both the Hamas and Hezbollah terror organizations, as dean of its Qatar satellite campus. Dallal was formerly the chair of the university's Arabic and Islamic Studies Department.

UPDATE 3:10 P.M.: This story has been updated to specify the report was released Monday.