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Tracing the origins of Zionist lobby’s malign influence on American academia

By Ivan Kesic

The ruthless police crackdown on pro-Palestinian protests in universities across the United States is a continuation of years of silent repression and malign Zionist influence on American academia.

More than 20 universities in the US are protesting against the genocidal Israeli war on Gaza, where nearly 34,500 people have been killed since October last year, mostly women and children.

According to reports, more than 900 people have been arrested on US campuses since April 18 when a pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia University in New York was forcefully removed by police.

The police were called by university president Nemat Minouche Shafik to dismantle the tent encampment set up on campus, which triggered a massive outcry from students and faculty members.

The unwarranted police action against students at Columbia University led to the expansion of protests to other university campuses including Yale University in Connecticut, City University in New York, Northeastern University in Boston, Arizona State University in Phoenix, Indiana University in Bloomington, Washington University in St Louis, University of Texas in Texas and University of California in Los Angeles among others.

Like Columbia, the University of Texas president Jay Hartzell also faced a strong backlash from students and faculty members on Friday after he called in police to break up the pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Hundreds of Texas University faculty members signed a letter expressing no confidence in Hartzell for “needlessly putting students, staff and faculty in danger” after riot police moved against protesters.

The protesting students and professors are calling for universities to divest and disassociate themselves from companies that are aiding the occupying regime’s no-holds-barred aggression on Gaza.

The US police, known for its notoriety, has responded with brute violence, drawing anger and outrage.

According to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’, a major monograph on the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, the Zionist influence on academia has faced more problems than politics, media and think tanks.

The origins of Zionist influence on US academia

The origins of the Israeli lobby’s influence can be traced to the late 1970s when the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) monitored campus activities and trained young advocates for Israel.

AIPAC, along with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), also recruited students to help them identify professors and campus organizations with anti-Israel positions, which they would document in dossiers and then systematically slander in their publications.

Toward the end of the 20th century, these lobby groups did not pay much attention to shaping the discussion at universities because the Oslo peace process was underway, with little violence in the occupied territories, and consequently with less criticism of the Israeli regime’s policies.

However, at the beginning of the new century when peace negotiations failed, the extremists led by Ariel Sharon took the helm of the Israeli regime and the Second Intifada ensued, the criticism at higher education institutions in the United States became much stronger and more intense.

The Israeli lobby, exerting considerable influence, responded with an aggressive attempt to "take back the campuses," and the most important organization in that campaign was once again AIPAC, which more than tripled its spending on pro-Israel college programs.

According to AIPAC leadership at the time, these funds were intended to significantly expand the number of students involved in activities in favor of the Israeli regime on campuses, their competence, and their involvement in the national pro-Israel effort.

Hundreds of students were sent to AIPAC all-expenses-paid courses in Washington DC where they received intensive advocacy training, and they were instructed to concentrate on networking with campus leaders of all kinds and winning them over to promote the regime’s cause.

The multi-year campaign resulted in annual AIPAC Policy Conferences being attended by over 1,200 students from 400 colleges and universities across the US, including 150 student body presidents.

Simultaneously, this campaign to cultivate students has been accompanied by efforts to influence university faculty and hiring practices.

Israel lobby groups involved in US academia

In addition to AIPAC, other pro-Israel lobby groups have also been involved in pro-Israel campaigns at American universities, notably the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), an umbrella organization for the coordination of 26 different Zionist groups in US universities.

Although the ICC is not registered under the required Foreign Agent Registration Act, its leadership admitted that they have close ties and coordinate actions with Israel's ministry of strategic affairs.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) likewise initiated a series of advocacy training sessions for college students with the aim of defending the Israeli regime on their campuses.

A similar role was played by the David Project (TDP), which partnered with Christians United for Israel (CUFI), organizing training programs for students to agitate for Zionism.

The founder of the David Project was an Islamophobe who advocated banning the construction of mosques on American soil and co-founder of CAMERA, another Zionist group involved in smearing pro-Palestinian students on campuses.

New groups also emerged, such as the Caravan for Democracy (CFD), which brought Israeli settlers to speak at American universities, promoting the farce of Israel as "the only democracy in the region."

The website Campus Watch, an affiliate of the Middle East Forum (MEF), was also established, whose dossiers continued AIPAC's tradition of publicly defaming all campus critics of Israeli politics.

Press TV website in July 2023 published an investigation on how the Middle East Forum has shaped into a hardline Zionist and anti-Muslim think tank,  founded by Daniel Pipes in 1990.

Its website stated that its mission is to “promote American interests in the Middle East (West Asia) and protect Western values from Middle Eastern threats”, secretly serving the Zionist agenda.

American-Israeli agendas at work

The ICC and the TDP were actively engaged in pressuring American universities to reject multimillion-dollar donations from Muslim governments to Islamic studies programs, characterizing them as "anti-American."

On the other hand, under the guise of expanding cultural cooperation and with the true goal of whitewashing the regime, Zionist megadonors launched a series of so-called "Israel studies" programs at American universities.

Fred Lafer and Sheldon Adelson, donors to such programs at New York University and Georgetown University, respectively, admitted that their motivation was to counter the Arab viewpoint at those institutions, referring to the pro-Palestine position.

After the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) spread across American colleges and universities, Adelson raised an additional 50 million in a secret summit in 2015 to fight the movement.

According to him, the funds raised were to go to operations on US campuses to fight the BDS movement and to "researchers" who would supply information about groups on campuses critical of Israel and recommend possible legal avenues to block their activities.

The precise amount of donations to American universities is difficult to determine because dozens of donors and Zionist charities regularly pay millions and some are given anonymously.

In the case of the University of Pennsylvania alone, pro-Israel lobbyists Marc Rowan and Ross Stevens are known to have donated 50 million and 100 million respectively.

AIPAC, the group that enjoys maximum influence on American academia, received about 12 million monthly donations before the start of the war in Gaza, and the receipts have multiplied since then.

Last month, prominent progressive organizations in the US formed a coalition to defend lawmakers targeted by the powerful AIPAC and counter its sway in US Congress.

Pertinently, one of the key but underreported factors of the unwavering US support for the Israeli genocidal war on Gaza is the overwhelming presence of Zionist Jews in the Biden administration.

The Zionist Jewishness of Biden's cabinet was pointed out recently by The Forward, a progressive media for a Jewish American audience, as well as the Israeli right-wing newspaper Times of Israel.

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