This interview was first published at Israel National News and republished here at the Tundra Tabloids with the author’s consent.
Who Funds the “Academic Scholarship” that Attempts to Delegitimize Israel?
Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Ofira Seliktar
“The issue of who finances the so-called ‘academic scholarship’ that delegitimizes the State of Israel, and of who supports the various campus activities against it, is extremely complex and multifaceted. The partial initiatives to study this subject are far from adequate.
“Yet we know certain facts concerning this topic. Various foundations, mainly with Arab and Muslim donors, play a leading role in funding Middle East and Israel scholarship throughout the world. Many donations are dispersed through foundations set up by royal families.”
Ofira Seliktar is professor of political science (emerita) at Gratz College, Pennsylvania, and a former scholar in residence at the Middle East Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of nine books and scores of articles on American intelligence.
Seliktar gives a number of examples. “The Saudi Prince Waleed Al Talal Foundation stands out with regard to the size of its donations in the United States. It has funded, for instance, Middle East centers in elite universities, including Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, and Berkeley.
“The Sultan bin Abdul Aziz ibn Saud Foundation is another prominent Saudi foundation. It has donated large sums of money to the Middle East center at Berkeley as well as to a number at other American universities. The Saudi Khalid Bin Abdullah, Bin Abdul Rahman al Saud Foundation has endowed a chair at Harvard University.
“The Sultan of Oman Foundation has also endowed a chair at Harvard University. Qatar is a relative newcomer to the field. It is developing a highly ambitious program to shape Western higher education. A foundation has been set up by the country’s Ibn Kahlifa Al Thani ruling family. It has already become a major player in Middle Eastern and foreign policy scholarship.
“Iran is promoting the Shi’ite version of Islam and Iranian foreign policy. Its funding is funneled through the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Culture and Guidance, the Ministry of Information and Security — which is responsible for intelligence — as well as a multitude of religious foundations. A very prominent one is the Alavi Foundation, which, in turn, is run by the Mustazafeen Foundation. The latter is the largest parastatal conglomerate in Iran, created by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The Alavi Foundation has given grants to more than thirty universities across North America. The sanctions designed to rollback Iran’s nuclear program did not impact the Mustazafeen Foundation, which, as a parastatal group, has its own budget.
“Many prominent institutes and journals have also received large donations from Arab sources. These include the Middle East Policy Council and its Middle East Policy Journal. This journal published, for instance, the initial essay of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt on the Israel Lobby, which was later published as a book.
“Yet another institute subsidized by Arab donors is the Institute for Palestine Studies. Its publication, The Journal of Palestine Studies, pioneered the academic studies of ‘Israel as a Colonial State’ and ‘Israel as an Apartheid State’. The Qatar Foundation bought the printing giant, Elsevier Press. It publishes, inter alia, Lancet, a very prestigious medical publication. Lancet has published, for instance, an inflammatory op-ed on alleged Israeli atrocities during the Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.
“A second source of anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian scholarship are free-standing foundations. Much publicity was given in the early 2000s to the activities of the Ford Foundation. In 2003, Edwin Black published a series of articles for the Jewish Telegraph Agency in which he outlined how the foundation funded anti-Israel activism. One among the many issues he unveiled was the funding of anti-Israel activism at the UN World Conference against Racism, which was held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa. When this became known, the US Congress ordered the Ford Foundation to refrain from making grants to those that promote hostility to the image of Israel.
“Yet another category of donors to anti-Israel activities are oil companies and large conglomerates with extensive ties to the Middle East. The largest contributor is the oil company, Aramco. An article in Aramco World explains: ‘The Middle East is the only area study that is not really geographically based…Any intellectual subject that involves either the Arabs or Islam, contemporarily or historically, is a legitimate subject for scholars to take on.’ The article continues, saying that Aramco will support ‘paving the way to greater interregional understanding’ by investing in Middle Eastern centers in American universities.
“A subject which requires extensive and detailed study is the funding by various German foundations of scholarship that is critical of Israel. This has to be seen as being within the general framework of funding by German foundations of studies in Israel.”
Seliktar concludes: “Systematic research on the subject of the funding of the delegitimization of Israel is beyond the capacity of even an entire team of scholars. It would require the resolve and the resources of the State of Israel. One can only wonder why this national security threat has not been addressed by the Israeli government.”?