Is ‘love and desire in Iran’ a threat to US national security?

What is really behind the US Department of Education’s fury over a Middle East studies programme?

DeVos Reuters
US President Trump and Vice President Pence wait as Education Secretary DeVos speaks to students at an event at the White House, May 3, 2017 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

The United States Department of Education has recently been incensed by a Middle East studies programme run by two major American universities. Why? Let us explore.  

“The Education Department”, according to the New York Times, “has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake the Middle East studies program run jointly by the two schools after concluding that it was offering students a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough ‘positive’ imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region.” 

You will have to read a bit further down the report to discover that what the US Department of Education, led by Betsy DeVos, is really concerned about is the programme’s supposed “anti-Israeli bias”.

President Donald Trump‘s civil rights chief in the Department of Education, Kenneth L Marcus, it seems, is now leading a campaign to make all US universities Israel-friendly. Marcus is a Zionist crusader who, as the New York Times puts it, “has made a career of pro-Israel advocacy and has waged a years long campaign to delegitimize and defund Middle East studies programs that he has criticized as rife with anti-Israel bias”. 

We learn from the report that two courses offered as part of the programme, titled “Love and Desire in Modern Iran” and “Middle East film criticism”, particularly angered the Evangelical Zionists led by Marcus and DeVos who are currently in charge at the Department of Education.  

Imagine the chutzpah, the nerve, to convene a conference, or offer courses, that include discussions of “Love and Desire in Modern Iran”, or even worse “Middle East film criticism” – with taxpayers’ money that could be put to far better use building bombs and fighter jets to gift to Israel and sell to the Saudis so that they might slaughter Palestinians and Yemenis. Love and desire in Iran? The cinema of Abbas Kiarostami or Elia Suleiman, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, or Moufida Tlatli? You must be out of your “Eye-Rain-an” mind!   

“We do not see how these activities support the development of foreign language and international expertise for the benefit of US national security and economic stability,” US Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Robert King has declared.

Wise up and do as we say and start training spies and other intelligence officers for the benefits of the US and Israel or else we will shut you down – to put it in the plain English these fanatical prudes understand and want to parrot in Arabic and Persian and Turkish too.

The usual suspects

The delusional functionaries who believe they can control the critical thinking of an entire nation are of course the usual suspects. According to another report published by the Daily Mail, DeVos ordered an investigation into the programme back in June, after North Carolina Rep George Holding, a Republican, complained that “it hosted a taxpayer-funded conference with ‘severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric'”.

The conference, the report adds, was titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities”. Of course. These are all Pavlovian signals. You just utter the word “Palestine” or “Gaza” or “settler colonialism”, and all the dog-whistles are out jamming the airways.

What the platoon of Zionists nestled and tucked away in various branches of the US government dislike is what they call “taxpayer dollars” being spent on academic gatherings investigating any aspect of their favourite settler colony. What they want to do with those “taxpayer dollars” is to enable the garrison state to kill more Palestinians or anyone else who dares to say “no” to the armed robbery of their homeland.

Those are the kind of taxpayer dollars they enjoy spending. But “love and desire” in Iran – or film, fiction, poetry, truth, reality, rebellion in words and deeds against the colonial thieves? You must be kidding. That is a threat to US and Israeli national security.   

The bogus charge is loud and clear: “The Trump administration has threatened to withdraw federal funding for a Middle East studies course jointly taught by Duke University and the University of North Carolina because it believes the course is too positive in its depiction of Islam in comparison with its portrayal of Judaism and Christianity.”

It is imperative for the world to know, as they indeed do, by “Judaism and Christianity” they mean Zionism and particularly the irredeemably anti-Semitic Evangelical Zionism to which the ruling oligarchy gathered at the Trump administration, beginning with US Vice President Mike Pence, belong. 

The fields of Jewish or Christian studies are thriving or suffering alongside Islamic studies all at the mercy of the meagre budgets allocated to social sciences and humanities across US campuses. Anyone who has studied or taught or chaired any relevant department in any major or even minor US campus knows this charge is a Zionist subterfuge for prevalent Islamophobia that begins with their commander-in-chief, Donald Trump, and extends all the way to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

For close to 40 years now, my colleagues and I have been fighting to secure funding for Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other religious studies disciplines within the shrinking budgetary allocations in social sciences and the humanities in American universities. That fact is entirely blindsided by these fanatical stormtroopers tucked away in the US Department of Education.  

Legal observers who know the machinations of the Israeli Fifth Column in US governmental agencies inform us: “While the department’s micromanagement of the Duke-UNC program in response to the demands of Israel advocates is unprecedented, this attack is a continuation of nearly two decades of right-wing targeting of area studies programs, and Middle East studies programs in particular.”  

Redefining ‘American national security’

At stake is the academic and intellectual freedom that the Zionist paratroopers and Hasbara-apparatchik see as the culprit in cultivating the critical judgement of the responsible citizenry in the US that will in and of itself dismantle the decades of propaganda with which they have fooled Americans.

As the ACLU put it: “In a move that would make even Senator McCarthy blush, the Trump administration is threatening to pull federal funding from a Middle East Studies program for failing to toe the government’s line on Islam and Muslims.” 

This, however, is a lost cause. As a group of concerned UNC-Duke graduate students put it: “This is the first time in a decade that the state has intervened to make an academic department more amenable to its politics. Title VI extortions in the mid-2000s attempted to force Middle East Studies programs to churn out tools for the state through programs that focused on linguistic skills, security frameworks, and hostility to the Middle East and Muslims during the War on Iraq.”

The battle these bureaucratic functionaries are waging against the critical thinking of an entire nation is, of course, entirely futile. The cat of their thievery of Palestine is out of the bag and their bete noire, the mighty and magnificent Edward Said, even or particularly after his death has enabled and let loose an entire generation of bold and brilliant critical thinkers around the globe who have flooded university presses and commercial publishers with an avalanche of books exposing their corrupt and crooked colonialism in Palestine.

We on the other side of their fence are the real defenders of US national security. They are in fact defaming, maligning, and endangering the very idea of being American. They had their heyday and they did the best they could to keep this nation stupid and ignorant. But they lost the game. We won. We sneeze on our campuses here in the US and the whole world says gesundheit.  

We are redefining the very terms of “American national security” away from bombs and fighter jets and tanks and bullets and spies and gaudy propaganda precisely towards love and desire and life and hope and beauty and truth and justice in Iran, in Palestine, in the Arab world, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And there is nothing they can do to stop us. We love and desire. They hate and disgust. The world is on our side. History is on our side.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.