UAE closes Zayed Center (“Harvard and the Holocaust” Follow-up)

August 18, 2003


1. “A troubling gift” (Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2003)
2. “For Harvard, questions on Arab leader’s gift” (Washington Post, July 18, 2003)
3. “Sheik helps School, but there’s a hitch” (Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2003)
4. Press release: “Wiesenthal Center commends UAE decision to close Arab League-Backed anti-Semitic think tank”


[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to the dispatch of June 2, 2003 titled Harvard and the Holocaust.

The United Arab Emirates has decided to close the Zayed Center, the controversial Arab League-backed antisemitic think tank from which Harvard University, colleges at Cambridge University in England, and others have agreed to accept money, and with which prominent figures such as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter, agreed to associate themselves with.

Among other things, the Zayed Center:

* Published a book titled “Those Who Challenged Israel,” containing the thoughts and theories of Holocaust deniers David Irving and Roger Garoudy.

* Hosted academics such as Mohammed Ahmad Hussain of Cairo University, who said Jews invented the Holocaust as part of a “long term orchestrated campaign aiming at the perpetuation of the ‘persecution of the Jews’ or what they call the Holocaust”.

* In April 2003, the Zayed Center hosted Saudi Professor Umayma Jalahma, who declared that “the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare for holiday pastries.”

* The Zayed Center also released a press statement that declared “The Zionists are the ones who killed the Jews of Europe.”

After I sent out details about the Zayed Center in my June 2 dispatch to many journalists who subscribe to this list, several major newspapers commissioned articles on Harvard’s acceptance of money from the Zayed Center. These include the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Several human right organizations including the David Project of Boston and the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles have also been asking many probing questions as to why prominent American institutions and figures have continued to associate themselves with the Zayed center.

-- Tom Gross



A troubling gift
By Rachel Lea Fish
Opinion Main
The Wall Street Journal
June 6, 2003

In July 2000, the Harvard Divinity School accepted $2.5 million from the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, for the creation of an endowed professorship in Islamic religious studies. A professorship in Islamic studies is long overdue at Harvard Divinity School, something I especially appreciate as a student of Islam. But when I learned more about the donor, Sheik Zayed, I became dismayed.

Why? Amnesty International has repeatedly documented the terrible human-rights record of Sheik Zayed’s country: its lack of elections, use of corporal punishment on political prisoners and trafficking in Bangladeshi child slaves. Sheik Zayed has ruled the United Arab Emirates as unelected president since 1971.

That is bad enough. But, perhaps more important, Sheik Zayed also funds the Abu Dhabi-based Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up, a prominent think tank of the Arab League, founded in 1999. The Zayed Center, described on its Web site “as the fulfillment of the vision of Sheikh Zayed,” promotes Holocaust denial, anti-American conspiracy theories and hate speech in its lectures, symposiums and publications.

In August 2002, the Los Angeles Times quoted Mohammed Murar, the executive director of the Zayed Center, saying about Jews that “the truth is they are the enemies of all nations.” His comment came on the heels of a Zayed Center report stating that “the Zionists are the people who killed the Jews in Europe.”

The Zayed Center has a history of giving Holocaust deniers like David Irving a forum to promulgate their ideas. In 1998, Sheik Zayed’s wife donated $50,000 to finance the defense of infamous Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy in a French court.

In April 2002, the Zayed Center hosted Thierry Meyssan, the French author of “The Appalling Fraud,” which claims that the U.S. military staged the 9/11 attacks. The center translated Mr. Meyssan’s book into Arabic, hailed its publication and widely advertised the work. A month later, Lyndon LaRouche, the fringe political figure who has made disparaging remarks about Judaism, was an honored guest. Just last month, the center hosted Umayma Jalahma, a professor of Islamic Studies at King Faisal University, who declared: “The Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare for holiday pastries.”

Despite Sheik Zayed’s track record, Harvard Prof. William Graham, now dean of the Divinity School, hailed his donation. “This endowment,” he told the Harvard Gazette in September 2000, “is a most welcome gift. We are delighted with this encouraging development.”

At the time, Mr. Graham was probably not aware of Sheik Zayed’s links to hate speech and Holocaust deniers. So a group of Divinity School students, including me, went to him this March with a dossier of evidence and a request that Sheik Zayed’s hate money be returned. Mr. Graham told us that he was going to have an “independent” researcher look into the matter and that he would get back to us in four to six weeks. We’re still waiting. It should be noted that Mr. Graham has not been afraid to take a public stand on Harvard’s ties to the Middle East last year he signed a petition calling for the university to disinvest from Israel but so far he has not spoken out on Sheik Zayed’s gift.

By accepting the sheik’s money, the Divinity School honors and validates the hate speech he promotes. Harvard would never accept money from a Ku Klux Klan financier. Is the hate funded by Sheikh Zayed’s money any less abhorrent?

When anti-Jewish and anti-American rhetoric is on the rise in Europe and the Arab world, Harvard’s faculty, administration and alumni should not turn a blind eye to veritas: the truth that a prominent donor bankrolls hate speech that all people of conscience should condemn.

Unfortunately, this problem extends beyond Harvard. Sheik Zayed is also a backer of Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Saudi rulers facing lawsuits for their ties to al Qaeda have funded professorships now under fire at Berkeley.

American students need to learn more about Islam and the Middle East, and the Harvard Divinity School should enhance its Islamic studies program. But there is no place for money from rulers who abuse their own citizens, spread Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism and validate conspiracy theories about 9/11. Harvard Divinity School should put its own ethical and moral teachings into action and return Sheik Zayed’s money.

Ms. Fish is a student at Harvard Divinity School.



For Harvard, questions on Arab leader’s gift
Graduate crusades over alleged anti-Semitic links
By Alan Cooperman
The Washington Post
July 19, 2003

(Extracts only)

When she received a master’s degree in theological studies last month, Rachel Fish accepted her diploma from the dean of Harvard Divinity School and handed him something in return: 130 pages of research and a petition.

The research was on anti-American and anti-Jewish propaganda allegedly emanating from a Middle Eastern think tank, the Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up. The petition urged Harvard University to give back a $2.5 million gift from the center’s namesake, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates.

Over the past six months, Fish, 23, has almost single-handedly created a furor over the sheik’s three-year-old donation, which was earmarked for a professorship in Islamic studies at the divinity school and had attracted little notice.

The endowed chair is on hold as the divinity school dean, William A. Graham, and the university president, Lawrence H. Summers, examine the sheik’s links to the think tank and consider whether to reject his money, a university spokeswoman said.



Sheik helps School, but there’s a hitch
Anxious O.C. parents laud the $15,000 gift, but a link to controversial speakers is questioned.
By Claire Luna
Los Angeles Times
July 3, 2003,0,5059530.story

First there were the bingo nights and lemonade stands as fund-raisers to preserve smaller class sizes. Then came the jaw-dropper: $15,000 from the leading sheik in the United Arab Emirates.

Now there’s a hitch: Officials in the Capistrano Unified School District are wondering if it’s proper to take the money.

The strange turn of events began earlier this week with word that the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had wired $15,000 to help parents at Las Flores Elementary School save teachers’ jobs and maintain the smaller class sizes. Parents throughout south Orange County have been holding fund-raisers to cushion the blow from state budget cuts in schools, and the Las Flores supporters had come up $13,000 short of their goal.

The sheik bestowed the money after hearing of the school’s struggle from the grandmother of one of the students. The woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, had recently traveled through the United Arab Emirates, where she had connections and told government officials of the school’s plight. Word reached the sheik, and the gift arrived this week.

Zayed’s penchant for philanthropy is not without controversy, however. He recently gave $2.5 million to Harvard University’s divinity school to establish a professorship in Islamic studies. The contribution triggered protests by students and faculty there because of the sheik’s ties to an organization, the Zayed Center, that sponsors speeches by some who are labeled anti-Semitics, including those who deny the Holocaust.

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers will decide in the next two weeks, after a background investigation, whether to accept the gift, a Harvard spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The outcome of that investigation will help determine whether Las Flores can accept the sheik’s donation, district Supt. James A. Fleming said Wednesday.

He said he also has asked Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) for help in gathering more information on the sheik’s background before deciding whether the school can keep his money.

“There is always a concern about accepting money that may be somehow tainted,” Fleming said.

If the decision is made to tell Zayed thanks but no thanks, the district will help the parents make up the difference, Fleming said.

Some parents don’t understand the need for such caution.

“The district is putting us in a position where we have to question the affiliations of everyone giving us money,” complained Jennifer Timm, the Las Flores parents’ fund-raising chief. “We don’t have time for that.”

Another parent said a little bit of controversy shouldn’t chill philanthropy. “It makes me sick that because of some negative publicity, the district isn’t willing to have a backbone and take the money,” said Kristen Beals, who will have a first-grader and a third-grader at Las Flores. “It’s from the Middle East, so they should have known there would be a little controversy attached to it.”

Beals said she was not bothered by the sheik’s connection to the Zayed Center because, she concluded, its emphasis was on promoting free speech even if its opinions were unpopular.

“Just because you’re from the Middle East doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy,” Beals said. “I just think it’s very sad that since our politicians won’t do anything [in addressing the schools’ budget crises], somebody thousands of miles away would be paying for my daughter’s reduced-size classroom.”

Officials at the United Arab Emirates’ embassy in Washington, D.C., declined to comment.



Wiesenthal Center commends UAE decision to close Arab league-backed anti-Semitic think tank
Los Angeles
August 18, 2003

The Simon Wiesenthal Center(SWC) hailed the decision of the United Arab Emirates to close the controversial Zayed Center (as first reported in Al Sharq Al Awsat), which SWC earlier condemned for Holocaust denial and for validating the medieval blood libel as well as the infamous conspiratorial anti-Semitic canard, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“The Wiesenthal Center was among the first to protest the anti-Semitism of The Zayed Center, a well-known institution affiliated with the Arab League which counts among its contributors, Nobel Peace Laureate, Jimmy Carter. We protested when this think tank embraced and validated the denial of the Nazi Holocaust, the blood libel and lurid conspiracy theories that blamed America for September 11th and alleged a Jewish plot to control the world,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Human Rights group. “We therefore want to be among the first to commend the UAE for having the courage to do the right thing and close the doors of the Zayed Center. We can only hope that this move will inspire other Arab and Moslem governments, media and intellectuals to stop the incessant campaign to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” Cooper added.

In recent years, The Zayed Center, the Arab League’s prime think tank, was hailed for its commitment to the environment and awarded cash prizes to renowned international figures, including former US president Carter. However, the Center also hosted Holocaust deniers David Irving and Roger Garuday, published claims that 9/11 was a US plot, hosted a Saudi professor who alleged Jews used human blood to prepare “holiday pastries”; whose executive director said that “The truth is that the Jews are the enemies of all nations” and which released a press statement that declared “The Zionists are the ones who killed the Jews of Europe.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.