Middle East studies in the News
Saudi halo over US academia
by Sandhya Jain
As Iraq gets murkier and Uncle Sam loses credibility in the war on terror, American analysts are waking up to the extent to which Saudi funds have penetrated the nation's soft underbelly. According to Lee Kaplan, Saudis have pumped massive funds into leading educational institutions as part of a concerted plan to turn American academia against Israel and in favour of their vision of a global Muslim state in which Jews, Christians and other infidels will have subordinate status to the followers of Islam (FrontPageMagazine 5 April 2004).
Wahhabism is rabidly anti-West and scorns religious tolerance and human rights. Western attempts to promote democratic reforms in the House of Saud are seen as an insult to Islam; hence Saudi royals have waged a genteel jihad through ideas (i.e., paid the intellectual pipers of the West), even while financing Al Qaeda and Palestinian radicals. The US Senate Judiciary Committee recently found that the Saudi kingdom controlled most Muslim bodies in the country, paying 80% of the mortgages on mosques.
In just three decades, the Saudi royal family has donated over US $70 billion to indoctrinate worldwide institutions against the West and Israel. American academics naturally deny the funds have strings attached, yet it seems reasonable to ask, as Kaplan does, why a theocratic regime with 30% to 50% of its population illiterate, would take more interest in the US educational system than in its own.
Saudi gifts to American institutions are mind-boggling. King Fahd donated US $20 million to establish the Middle East Studies Center at the University of Arkansas. Two Saudi financiers of Al Qaeda gave US $5 million to UC Berkeley's Center For Middle East Studies. Then, Harvard got US $2.5 million; Georgetown US $8.1 million, including a $500,000 scholarship in the name of President Bush; Cornell US $11 million; MIT US $5 million; Texas A&M US $1.5 million and Princeton US $1 million. Rutgers received US $5 million to endow a chair, as did Columbia. Several other universities also received Saudi largesse.
It is not difficult to see how this translates into mind control. American conservatives point out that by funding Middle East Studies Centers and endowed chairs on campuses across the country, the Saudis were able to determine the curriculum taught to American students about the situation in the Middle East. This curriculum is anti-West, anti-Christian, anti-Jew, and moulds students to hate Israel and to hate America as an "imperialist" or "racist" nation.
Historian Martin Kramer laments that Columbia University has become "Bir Zeit on-the-Hudson." Bir Zeit university was created by Israel for Palestinians in the West Bank, but rather than serving their educational needs, turned into a breeding ground for terrorist ideologues, with faculty writing against the US and Israel. At Columbia, Palestinians dominate modern Middle East teaching and discourage diversity of opinion.
A chair endowed by Saudi money is filled by academics renowned for their Palestinian or Saudi activism rather than their scholarship. Columbia's new "Edward Said Chair Of Arab Studies" went to Rashid Khalidi, a University of Chicago historian and Palestinian activist. Said was an English literature professor with specialization on Jane Austen, but his anti-American and anti-Israel views dominated Middle East studies across America. Columbia's Middle East department has another anti-US, anti-Israel Palestinian professor, Joseph Massad. Between Khalidi and Massad, students will be exposed to a one-dimensional view of the Gulf.
The situation has become so lop-sided that Lisa Anderson, head of International Studies at Columbia, publicly admitted that Middle East Studies at Columbia and other campuses are not balanced. Far more serious is the fact that Columbia tried to conceal the source of funds for the Edward Said Chair until pressure from outside academics and the legal requirements of the State of New York compelled disclosure.
Saudi endowed chairs and departments have produced college faculty who mouth the very propaganda provided to children in Saudi Arabian schools. For instance, Connecticut State University's Norton Mezvinsky says Judaism is a religion of "racism" whose adherents believe the "blood of non-Jews has no intrinsic value" and that the killing of non-Jews does "not constitute murder according to the Jewish religion." Joel Beinin, Middle East Studies Professor at Stanford, rants against America's "Zionist lobby" that uses power "to make and unmake regimes."
Joel Beinin is also the sole guest lecturer to the University of Arkansas' Middle East Studies department, funded by King Fahd. It offers an Arabic language course. A sample newsletter published by the department has a full-page poem translated by some students, called "A Letter To A Faraway Friend" (from inside the occupied territory). It subtly demeans Israel and praises martyrdom and death. The rot has spread to virtually every campus. Harvard received US $2 million. At its graduation ceremony, student Zayed Yasin spoke eloquently on "My American Jihad," supported Hamas, and said suicide bombers should be paid. He also raised funds for the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity shut down by the Bush administration as an Al-Qaeda front.
What has particularly upset conservatives is that while these departments are created by Saudi money, they also receive matching State funds through a Cold War provision known as Title VI. After 11 September 2002, Title VI funded an additional 118 Middle East Resource Centers at US colleges and universities to teach Arabic and promote security analysis. But rather than serving the needs of the military and intelligence services, most departments permitted students the luxury of low standards of Arabic and focused on research articles serving the cause of jihad.
Title VI money not only pays the salaries of academics advancing Saudi interests, but also supports activists whose reach extends beyond the campuses. The combined funding for Middle East centers provides stipends, scholarships and fellowships to Gulf students, thus supporting their work as activists. Some students have trained in activism overseas during the summer, and returned to US campuses to deploy their skills, creating an anti-American and anti-Israeli atmosphere. This has resulted in an increase in anti-Semitic attacks on college campuses. Some time ago, Jewish students at San Francisco State had to be escorted to safety by city police during a pro-Israel rally. At Concordia University, 1500 "students" showed up to create a riot and prevent former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking on terrorism; ticket holders needed police escort off campus as well.
Kaplan feels it is time to curb the abuse of Title VI. Academic departments with political agendas violate the principles of Academic Freedom established by the American Association of University Professors. In fact, the US Congress has begun to examine the manner in which it provides Title VI funding; universities would do well to scrutinize the manner in which they receive and utilize funds.
I can empathize with American conservatives as India has also suffered from the domination of pro-Islam, anti-India, Leftist intellectuals. Under their hegemony, Indian universities refused to recognize, leave alone tolerate, diversity of opinion. But whereas our intellectuals failed in their core objective of de-nationalizing Indians and weaning them away from their culture and traditions, anti-Americanism has reached dangerous proportions in American society as a whole. What an irony: America is the main inspiration and support of India's de-nationalized intellectuals and even today accords more importance to a Romila Thapar as opposed to B.B. Lal.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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