Just when you thought the controversy over American Jewish leaders’ relationship with Qatar was old news, a shocking new revelation forces us to direct our attention to that ugly episode once again.
The new scandal has to do with major American universities accepting large donations from the government of Qatar and not reporting them. That’s bad enough. But for friends of Israel, there is a disturbing new twist because it turns out there is a direct connection between Qatari money and pro-Palestinian groups on our college campuses.
Yes, the very same Palestinian campus groups that are always being denounced by American Zionist leaders—including some of the leaders who visited and praised Qatar two years ago. Sadly, it seems that while some American Zionists were boosting Qatar’s PR image, Qatar was promoting the Palestinian propaganda groups that are preying on our college students.
This disturbing information comes to us courtesy of the diligent and invaluable Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), headed by the noted scholar, Dr. Charles Small.
Over the past few years, ISGAP has conducted a research project called “Follow the Money,” which helped inspire the current U.S. Department of Education investigation into the problem of foreign funding for American universities.
There is nothing illegal about a university accepting a grant from a foreign regime—even from a brutal, two-faced, terror-sponsoring dictatorship like Qatar. But when a university hides the fact that it is receiving such money, there’s a problem. Parents who pay tuition have a right to know if the university to whom they have entrusted their children’s education is being influenced by hostile foreign parties.
The ISGAP “Follow the Money” researchers found that of the $4.9-billion Qatar has donated to various U.S. universities in recent years, only $1.9-billion was properly reported.
Among the targets of the ongoing federal investigation are Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Georgetown. Among the regimes from which they have been taking—but allegedly not reporting—large gifts are from Russia, China, and several Arab regimes. Qatar is by far the largest of these donors.
The ISGAP “Follow the Money” researchers found that of the $4.9-billion Qatar has donated to various U.S. universities in recent years, only $1.9-billion was properly reported. That’s not a typo—it involves billions, not millions. Three billion dollars is a lot of hidden money.
Funding U.S. universities is an important way for Qatar to boost its image in America. The money serves as “a hedge against criticism of the governments providing the funding,” ISGAP notes. Professors whose salaries, fellowships, or think-tanks are funded in part by Qatar will be reluctant to criticize the Qataris, whether in their classrooms, conferences, books, or articles.
According to the New York Times, Qatar provides anti-American terrorists such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban with “safe haven, diplomatic mediation, financial aid and, in certain instances, weapons.” So, there is plenty for American professors to criticize—unless their willingness to speak out has been compromised.
And friends of Israel have special reason to be worried. Qatar is the world’s leading financer of the Hamas terrorists. It is also the prime financer of the antisemitic Al-Jazeera international media network.
Now we know that Qatar’s anti-Jewish activities also extend to our college campuses. ISGAP states in its report: “Our research has found a correlation between the funding of universities by Qatar and the Gulf States with the presence of groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and a deteriorating environment that fosters an antisemitic and aggressive atmosphere.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, members of Students for Justice in Palestine “regularly demonize Jewish students who identify as Zionists.”
When certain Jewish leaders visited and praised Qatar two years ago, some of us sounded a skeptical note. We doubted that such a vicious regime would suddenly stop funding terrorists just because a few Jewish officials visited.
But now it turns out that the situation was even worse than we feared—while the Qatari regime was wining and dining American Jewish officials, it was actively promoting the very groups that are demonizing and intimidating American Jewish college students.
It’s time for those who defended Qatar to publicly acknowledge their mistake. I am asking this not in the spirit of “we told you so,” but in the spirit of accountability. Those who ask to be respected as leaders of the Jewish community must be accountable, and they must be willing to admit their errors—especially when their error aided a regime that has been victimizing our own sons and daughters.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is now available on Kindle. He is on the slate of the Orthodox Israel Coalition – Mizrachi: Vote Torah (Slate #4) and urges all readers to vote.