Despite numerous reports that Yale University is considering offering him a position, outspoken LSA Prof. Juan Cole refused to comment on whether he will leave the University.
“As things stand, no offer has been made,” Cole said.
Cole said he will not comment until he receives an official offer from Yale.
“Right now it would be like asking me if I am running for president,” he said.
Earlier this year, Cole was named one of the nation’s 101 most dangerous academics by right-wing author David Horowitz.
Numerous conservative commentators have criticized Yale’s consideration of Cole, based on comments he has made on his blog, Informed Comment. On the site, Cole has been highly critical of Israeli defense policies and the Iraq war.
John Fund, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, censured Yale for considering Cole and accused him of being “a notorious anti-Israel professor.” According to Fund’s column, Cole said Israel was the “the most dangerous regime in the Middle East.”
Cole responded to Fund’s allegation of being anti-Israel on his blog, calling it a lie. He said while he is not anti-Israel, he does believe that Israeli policies of assassinating suspected terrorists were dangerous to U.S. interests because they inspire sympathy for fundamentalist groups like Hamas, Palestine’s leading political party.
A spokesperson for Yale University said the university had not yet made a decision on whether to offer Cole a position as professor of contemporary Middle Eastern studies and would not comment on Fund’s column at this time.
While Cole’s commentary on the Middle East remains controversial, his most recent endeavor, the Americana Translation Project, has drawn widespread support.
The organization, founded earlier this year, will partner with Arabic language publishers to translate important works of American political thought into Arabic and distribute them throughout the Middle East.
Cole hopes that his project will help to educate people about core American values – such as freedom of religion and democracy – in a region where most information about the United States comes from television and film.
Cole said the widespread ignorance of the United States in the Middle East creates a fertile environment for anti-American propaganda.
He also said the lack of information available about America is not only troubling from an intellectual standpoint but is also potentially dangerous. For example, there is not a single Arabic university that teaches American history in Arabic, Cole said.
“The kind of anti-American propaganda that fuels terrorism flourishes in an intellectual atmosphere of near ignorance,” Cole said.
Cole hopes that his organization will help to combat that ignorance by making important American texts widely available.
In the past, the United States Information Agency translated important American books and operated a series of libraries across the Middle East. However, the agency was scrapped in the mid-1990s after drawing fire from Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
While the Americana Translation Project is in its beginning stages, Cole has been developing the idea for several years. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Cole grew increasingly concerned with the lack of information about the United States available in the Middle East.
“I guess you could say this is one person’s response to September 11,” Cole said.
Since it was announced late last year, the Americana Translation Project has already received more than $13,000 in donations from the readers of Cole’s blog. Earlier this year, the Translation Project was granted nonprofit status, a distinction that will help it raise funds from large foundations.
While Cole said he is happy with the public’s response to his project, he remains guarded about the impact the project will have.
“I don’t necessarily think the mere publication of books will change attitudes, but . I believe that the more information people have, the better,” Cole said.