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Follow the Money

The prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) is shocked—shocked—to discover that Muammar Qaddafi is a very bad man. So the once venerable institution is diverting some of the $2.5 million pledged through Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam into a scholarship fund for Libyan students.  As for the Ph.D. bestowed on the young man in 2008 for a dissertation on (if you please) the virtues of global democratization, he will be keeping it, at least for the moment. After all, in the words of one faculty member, there is "no substantial evidence" to support long-standing allegations that someone else wrote the work.

Relevant Links
The Emir of Washington Square  Zvika Krieger, New York. Did New York University sell out for $50 million in oil money?
On the Money Trail  Stanley Kurtz, National Review. Which foreigners give how much to American higher education, and which gifts raise legitimate concerns?
Academics against Israel and the Jews  Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Case studies of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias at universities around the world. (PDF, 2007)

A crazy dictator like Qaddafi gets the attention, but his is hardly the only corrupt and repressive regime in the Arab and Muslim world, let alone the most lavish, to have invested in Western universities with the clear expectation of a quid pro quo. When another one of these governments erupts or falls, will its academic beneficiaries suddenly discover that the money they took over the years has been similarly tainted?

The transparency of programs like the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding—established in 2005 with the Saudi royal's $20-million gift to Georgetown University, and staffed with reliable apologists—is glaring. Alwaleed himself could not have been clearer, stating that because of the events of 9/11, "the image of Islam [had] been tarnished in the West"; hence, his donation to Georgetown, along with one to Harvard in the same amount, was intended "to teach about the Islamic world to the United States."

Alwaleed's terms had been on even brighter display years earlier. Offering $10 million to New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he noted pointedly that the "United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East" since "our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek." Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani promptly and publicly spurned the money, calling Alwaleed's statement not only wrong but "part of the problem." What Giuliani explicitly rejected, universities have implicitly embraced.

The effect has been felt most saliently in academic studies of the Middle East. An early and rather clumsy attempt at influence-buying, as Martin Kramer notes in his Ivory Towers on Sand, was a 1977 grant to Georgetown from Libya; the motives behind it were so blatant that three years later the money was returned with interest. But this, like earlier sallies by the Shah of Iran (to endow chairs of Iranian studies) and the Turkish government (for an Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington), was merely the prelude to a flood of oil money.

Between 1995 and 2008, according to the researcher Stanley Kurtz, Arab Gulf states gave $234 million in contracts and about $88 million in gifts to American universities. Although amounting to only a drop in the bucket of total university endowments, such targeted gifts, like the $20 million contributed by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to the University of Arkansas, and various multi-million-dollar donations to Berkeley, Cornell, Princeton, Texas A&M, Columbia, Rutgers, and other schools, have meant a very great deal locally. 

The aims of these investments are very specific: the creation of a particular sort of cultural "understanding." And in this respect they have paid off, especially in the area of faculty hiring and concentration. Early on, there was much touting of secularization in the Middle East, a commodity that failed to materialize. As for radical Islam, a subject in much greater need of "understanding," it was downplayed both before and even after 9/11. Instead, the supposedly "separate political wings" of Hamas and Hizballah, the way that elections in the Arab world allegedly tend to "moderate" radical groups, and the so-called "incrementalism" toward democracy of tyrants like Qaddafi were held up as hopeful signs. To this day, even as the study of Israel itself has been marginalized, the Palestinian cause has been presented as the pivotal issue of all time and the real key to everything one would ever need to know about the Middle East.

Although report after report has documented the strong anti-Israel bias coming out of these programs, the U.S. government has also abetted them financially through Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1998, which provides funds to centers of Middle East studies undertaking language instruction and, ominously, outreach to local primary and secondary schools. But the American government is one thing, foreign donors something else, and these particular foreign donors something else again. Here the fundamental issue remains: why was the money taken in the first place?

Sometimes, to be sure, the deal stinks a little too much. In a surprising display of backbone, UCLA returned a $1-million gift from Turkey after it was revealed that scholars would be prevented from using Ottoman archives that might confirm evidence of genocide against Armenians in World War I. But this was a rare exception. In 2003, the Harvard Divinity School would have been happy to take $2.5 million from Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, despite his support for Holocaust denial, were it not for the activism of one persistent student. The next year, back at the trough, Harvard accepted two $1-million gifts from unnamed donors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and another $14.5 million two years later. In 2008, thanks to a gift of $50 million, New York University set up a campus for international students in the UAE (sorry, no Israelis allowed), as have other American universities.

British universities, perennially short of cash, have also benefited nicely from Middle Eastern largesse. In Great Britain, indeed, the teaching of Middle Eastern history and Islam has been so transformed that it is now primarily conducted by Muslim Middle Easterners themselves. Saif Qaddafi's alma mater has been a particular hotbed of anti-Israel hatred; calls for the boycott of Israeli scholars are frequently voiced by LSE faculty, including heads of its Middle East Center, set up with a grant from the Emirates Foundation and also funded by Libya. 

Today, Libya is noticeably more murderous than it was even a few weeks ago. But Saudi Arabia has for decades been a reliably oppressive, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian supporter of terrorism and radical Islam. Is the idea that these countries are free to oppress their religious minorities, incite against Jews, flog as many Indonesian maids, hang as many gay teens, and, in extreme cases, fire on as many protestors as they please—and that American and European universities get to keep their money at least until the revolution forces second thoughts (and then only when the revolution shows signs of succeeding)?

It would appear so. With events in the Arab and Muslim Middle East being televised, YouTubed, Tweeted, and e-mailed, the true nature of Arab and Muslim regimes can no longer be hidden, except perhaps by paid-for savants in the West.  After the revolution, and assuming a moderately happy outcome, the citizens of these countries would be well advised to demand their money back.

Alex Joffe is a research scholar with the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

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SW on March 2, 2011 at 3:13 am (Reply)
The "paid-for savants in the West" have always sought the largesse of the authortarian Muslim world, for a true democracy in which individuals build a middle class and control some portion of not only wealth but power are harder, much harder to relieve of their assets. The various Western universities seeking endowments and offering quid pro quo for them naturally have gone to "where the money is." As one sees throughout history it is not with the common man, which explains why those who "grovel" -- a fine verb which Joffe has chosen -- grovel correctly and effectively where they may gather in their spoils. Shock from the bright boys? Perhaps pretense of shock is the better description.
Alan Abbey on March 2, 2011 at 9:08 am (Reply)
The story is true enough, and troubling, to be sure. But it begs the question of Jewish groups and universities that accept $ from problematic individuals (Boesky, Milken, et. al.), and also endowments of Jewish/Israeli studies, as well, no? Sauce for the goose, as it were?
poyani on March 2, 2011 at 11:08 am (Reply)
As time goes on it is becoming clearer and clearer that our colleges and universities are nothing but servants of the powerful and the elite in this country.

In 77 they accept funding from Gaddafi. In 79, when the US state department declares Libya a sponsor of terrorism, they suddenly discovered that Gaddafi was a dictator. When Bush forgave Gaddafi in 2003 and brought him back in the fold, they mysteriously forgot that he was a dictator. Now, that Clinton is urging him to step down, all the sudden they have rediscovered Gaddafi's authoritarianism and cruelty.

Meanwhile, they are still taking money from the Saudis. Perhaps these institutions of higher learning are unaware that Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world named after its dictators. Go figure.
Geoff on March 2, 2011 at 11:49 am (Reply)
With the Saudis, its always important to ask the question I asked of "visiting [clerical] scholars" and their sponsors at the Univesity of North Texas - we are glad to have you come and understand you, we want to send Christian and Jewish scholars to SA help you better understand us. When they politely decline, push 'em. Their contempt and chauvinism quickly rises in front of all. Very awkward for University administration.
SW on March 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm (Reply)
As to Abbey's noting that "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," I heartily agree. Another JID article about Jewish philanthrophy brings up the subject of the very real distinction between true charitable giving expecting no quid pro quo, and that form of modern "follow the money" philanthropy with is simple and outright expectations of quid pro quo.

The high forms of charitable giving do not barter for political connetivity and policy directions, compliance with one view over another, and the like. Should Jewish philanthropy be held to the same standards we might expect -- but generally do not see -- from others? Absolutely.

Here's a novel notion. Let universities all operate with total transparency and explain where and how and why they make their decisions. But I shan't hold my breath that this will be forthcoming.

It is, however, important to note that while "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," some kind of moral equivalence between this article and a donation for a library somewhere are rather distant cousins, at the very best.
David on March 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm (Reply)
This is part of a much broader problem with funding on campus. Corporate, military, and government money (foreign or domestic) frequently influences research agendas.

It's a much trickier question how the money influences the work of individual scholars - if at all. I received a dissertation grant from a "Right-Wing" foundation (in my field, it pays to be conservative), and have found myself listed on follow-the-money type websites. I can promise you the source of the money has had zero influence on my thought process. Transparency allows you to judge for yourself.
zohra masoudi on March 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm (Reply)
It also happens in the other direction, though. Recently a large university in the south of the United States sacked its Jewish Studies director since he was taken not to be Zionist enough, and appointed someone far more aligned with the current Israeli government. The motive was perhaps not entirely disinterested, since local fundraisers for the Program are said to have promised to finance new posts were he to go. Once he went, suddenly money was donated for two new posts.
SW on March 3, 2011 at 2:16 am (Reply)
It is intriguing how comments on an article about the willful ethical blindness of the London School of Economics, Georgetown, Harvard and very large sums of money from Arab totalitarians has dissolved into a discussion of small amounts of money from a few Jewish sources who hold to democratic principles. This diversion of focus is sad, but seems quite consistent with the goals of those who would muddy the waters when something as overtly corrupt as the LSE-Arab connection is scrutinized. It is the invasive mentality of playing numerical equivalence between thousands and millions, as playing moral equivalence between economic truth and economic manipulation for hardened political aims fully seen as anti-Israel.
Ellen on March 3, 2011 at 5:53 am (Reply)
Prince Alwaleed is a nice piece of work, generally, and now that things are heating up even in that oasis of political rigor mortis (ie, Saudi Arabia), he is getting even more pathetic. When he gave his donations to Georgetown and Harvard ($10 million each), to improve the tarnished image of Islam and the KSA in the West, Debra Solomon of the NYT asked him a very appropriate question in an interview. That was: why don't you give similar sums of money to universities in your own country to teach them values of tolerance so your own youth had a greater willingness to coexist with nonMuslims and nonWahabis?

His response to that question was a big evasion. Now, most recently, with the proverbial handwriting on the wall for all the wretched Arab regimes, Alwaleed writes an OpEd for the NYT in which he openly warns that the KSA better start implementing a process of gradual reform before it gets swept away like the others. In other words, he is breaking with the code of silence whereby Saudi princes never accuse other royals of being corrupt, brutal, etc

Why is he going out on this limb and causing a loss of face for the House of Saud? Because he can see the rumbling volcano and doesn't want his name and business interests to be dragged down by the overthrow of his family. Outstanding cosmopolitan that he is, he is the first little rat to desert the sinking Saudi ship, as it springs its first very tiny leak.

It couldn't happen to a more deserving group of people, and that includes all the British universities and their corrupt dealings with Arab despots.
Joseph on March 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm (Reply)
"The prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) is shocked—shocked—to discover...."

Can't we finally retire this exhausted, worked-to-death Casablanca allusion?
zohra masoudi on March 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm (Reply)
Despite the critical comment about my raising this issue, it was wrong of the University of Kentucky to bow to the power of the purse when that pressure comes from Jewish sources. Just as wrong as when Muslim sources of funding do exactly the same.
SW on March 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm (Reply)
Remarkably thin skin, my friend. Let's compare the University of Kentucky's small "deal" with the following tidbit in the morning papers:

"Between 1995 and 2008, eight universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, University College London, the LSE, Exeter, Dundee and City – accepted more than £233.5 million from Muslim rulers and those closely connected to them." Telegraph/UK, 03 March 2011

While you may find this also a "critical comment," there is no "exactly the same," but rather millions compared to a pittance.
SW on March 5, 2011 at 3:39 am (Reply)
Following the story yet another day, one reads this in the Daily Mail:

"The dramatic departure of Davies, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England and head of the Financial Services Authority, was prompted by the university's controversial decision to accept a £1.5million donation from Saif Gaddafi - a year after he was awarded a PhD - and a £2.2million contract with Libya to train its civil service. Former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf is to conduct an independent inquiry into the LSE links with the Gaddafi regime but academics remain angered at the damage done to the university's reputation in accepting Libyan money.
Daily Mail, UK, 5th March 2011

Since another comment wanted to cite "Jewish money" as an equivalence in number as in ethics, I await reading said opposing comments with hard data from a verifiable news source.
zohra on March 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm (Reply)
Enough already, the point is that universities, like other institutions that seek to attract funds, are easily corruptible, and it is not only Muslims who are capable of bending them to the wishes of those providing the funds. This is hardly news nor does it need to be proved.
SW on March 7, 2011 at 9:41 pm (Reply)
"Enough already" to what? Criticism of all those who use their financial influence to alter public perception is most assuredly fair game, and correct to identify. Why "enough already" when not enough exposure of this practice has been done, unless "enough already" is merely meant to silence ongoing critique and deepening investigations. Rather than "enough already," it would be better to avow "not enough already."

"Hardly news?" Not enough news yet, would be the free man's rallying point, Muslim or Jew. Corruption is corruption, and to argue "enough already" and all corruption "hardly news" seems an odd argument.
zohra on March 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm (Reply)
You are entirely right, the politics of the Middle East are now so fraught that different groups try to bend institutions to their will through the use of money, and it is wrong.We should not be surprised, and that is why I think enough time has been taken up with this issue. It is the nature of the beast, and no group is blameless here.
Joshua Teitelbaum on March 8, 2011 at 6:29 am (Reply)
Good article, Alex.

"In 2003, the Harvard Divinity School would have been happy to take $2.5 million from Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, despite his support for Holocaust denial, were it not for the activism of one persistent student."

I would just add that that student was Rachel Fish.
Ellen on March 8, 2011 at 8:44 am (Reply)
The kerfuffle in the faculty lounges of the UK because of the outing of their academic establishment for being on the payroll of the world's most disreputable tyrant has an ironic beauty to it.

These are the same UK academic institutions that for years have been at the forefront of efforts to boycott Israeli academia over the treatment of the poor self destructive Palestinians. Now they are getting a real blowback worthy of a biblical plague. I'd like to see lots of heads rolling, over there. Davies isn't enough. Their whole academic elite has been corrupted by Arab oil wealth and antiSemitism (combined with the old genteel British variety).

Roger Cohen of the NYT had a nice column today putting Davies in the stockade. Let the show go on. Lovely to watch.
SW on March 8, 2011 at 10:53 am (Reply)
One of the comments on the various UK news sites basically said that the older, entrenched faculty of a number of these institutions were nothing less that "cultural Marxists" for whom the various disciplines -- economics and the like -- were nothing more that good excuses to press forward the regressive and economically losing game of socialism. Caught in their own game, they are simply guilty of sucking up to "capital" and as willing as any to bow their heads to those who would feed and fill them.

There is indeed an ironic beauty to these many Leftists who propose to manage economics by being themselves nothing more than fancy welfare recipients.
That their proceeds come from tyrants looting public treasuries at the expence of the poor is nothing different that Engels supporting Marx through the low-wage labor of his family's workers. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

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