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Palestinian Funding of Anti-Israel Programs on US Campuses

The phenomenon of Arab money buying influence in American universities is not new, but recently, novel data has been released on the extent of this practice. According to new regulations, US universities and colleges must report any donation received from a foreign entity valued at over $250,000. As it turns out, many schools failed to comply with the reporting requirements to date. The Trump Administration launched an investigation into this issue, and recently published novel data on the contributions made by Arab states to US institutions. It turns out that between the years 1981 and 2020, Arab countries donated about $10 billion to American schools. About 40% of this amount was not reported at all. The largest donors were Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. Among the recipients were notable institutions like Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Cornell and Georgetown. The funds are intended for the establishment of research centers, endowed chairs, and academic programs on Islamic, Arab and Palestinian issues. Apparently, the Palestinians have a surplus in their budget, because otherwise it is difficult to understand how the “State of Palestine” appears on the list of donor countries. In the last four years, the “State of Palestine” has donated about $4.5 million to American universities. It may seem like a small amount of money, but it does make a big difference. For example, in 2017, Palestine donated $275,000 to Harvard, the prestigious university. This was followed by $775,000 in 2018, and $525,000 in 2019. This year, the Palestinian Authority donated $643,000 to Brown University to establish a chair for Palestinian studies. The Palestinian Authority lives mainly on generous donations from many countries, and by 2019 it has also received US aid amounting to about half a billion dollars a year. As a reminder, it currently lacks all resources to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and cut about half of its employees’ salaries, but apparently has reserve funds to invest in rich American universities. For about 20 years, the Arabs and the Palestinians have been waging a campaign of delegitimization, dehumanization and misinformation against Israel. The motivation of the Arabs led by Saudi Arabia was to change their image in the United States, which was severely damaged in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11. The Palestinian motivation was, and still is, to harm US-Israel relations and undermine Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense against violence and terrorism. The Arabs and Palestinians focused mainly on American campuses and elite universities. The boycott movement against Israel (BDS), which operates mainly on college campuses, is just the tip of the iceberg of the campaign. The donations and grants to universities are intended, among other things, to fund activities against Israel and to inculcate students with the Palestinian narrative of the conflict. Universities claim that they maintain their independence and academic freedom and that there is no connection between donations and the content of academic and scientific activity. In many cases this claim is unfounded. Donors have a major impact on academic appointments, and this, in turn, influences courses, research and campus activity. There is ample evidence that Middle Eastern institutes and chairs are staffed by lecturers who dictate pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel stances in classrooms. The result is the intensification of anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel on campuses. The Arab donations also explain why university presidents are showing continued helplessness toward students who riot and harm Jewish and Israeli students and lecturers. Israel needs to make sure that the Biden Administration continues to check and act against these serious violations of donor disclosure rules. – Professor Eitan Gilboa (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)