In recent months a debate has emerged on American college campuses about whether the teaching of Middle East history and politics on American campuses is slanted by the prevalence of Palestinian professors.
Last winter, the Jewish chaplain at Columbia University called for administration officials to hire a full-time Jewish academic to teach Middle East politics, to "balance" the several full-time professors of Palestinian or Arabic descent who conduct classes on the subjects.
Into the fray comes New York University, which this week announced the opening of the Taub Center for Israel Studies, whose director will be noted Jewish historian Robert Chazan.
The Taub Center will include an endowed professorship and two graduate fellowships in Israel studies. The center, launched with a $3 million gift from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, will also sponsor lectures, seminars and other programs for students, faculty and the community, NYU officials said.
"The Taub Center … will bring fresh perspective to a tremendously exciting and emerging area of scholarly endeavor," New York University President John Sexton said in a release.
In other words, according to another NYU official, the center will seek to present an alternative to American Middle East studies program allegedly under the sway of pro-Palestinian academics.
"This center will bring a certain viewpoint to bear," an NYU official explained.
While other campuses offer some modern Israel courses, NYU officials say the Taub Center will be the first permanent home for research, education and publication on modern Israel.
For example, Brandeis and Indiana Universities, and University of California-Berkeley each have a visiting professor from Israel and Emory University has a center for modern Israel as part of its Middle Eastern studies section.
NYUís Taub Center, however, will also collaborate programming with the Skirball department of Hebrew and Judaic studies, the NYU department of Middle Eastern studies and the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies.
The center is not offering a specific degree in Israel studies, an official said. Center board members include Jewish philanthropists Michael Steinhardt, Laurence Tisch and Sylvia Hassenfeld.
Some activities will begin next fall.
Middle East scholar Michael Oren, author of "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East," launched the center with a lecture at a dinner party Thursday night.