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"Academic Accountability: Who Finances Israel's Delegitimization on Campus"

The following is the summary of the Roundtable held at Tel Aviv University on May 8, 2015

 
Professor Ofira Seliktar (Gratz College) provided an overview of the complex process through which academic delegitimization occurs on Western campuses. She emphasized that the BDS movement is nourished by a large academic literature that has come to view the Zionist movement as a colonial creation in the Middle East that dispossessed the native Palestinian population.  Subsequently, Israel has been described as an apartheid state deserving of the type of boycott and sanctions that forced South Africa to end its apartheid regime.
The funding for the scholarship that delegitimizes Israel comes from sources that support Middle East centers at major universities, think tanks,  and even Islamic studies programs.  
Among the major donors in this category are: 
Qatar: The Qatar Foundation set up by the  Ibn Kahlifa Al Thani ruling family .
Saudi Arabia: The Prince Waleed Al Talal Foundation stands out in the size of its donations in the United States, notably Middle East Centers in elite universities such as Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and Berkeley, among others. Critics have pointed out that Prince Waleed Al Talal Foundation made generous grants to the Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University directed by John Esposito, whom many consider to be an apologist for Islam and a prominent critic of Israel; The Sultan bin Abdul Aziz ibn Saud Foundation donated large sums of money to the Middle East Center at Berkeley and other universities; Sultan of Oman Foundation- endowed chair at Harvard University Center for Middle East Studies; Khalid Bin Abdullah, Bin Abdul Rahman al Saud Foundation, endowed chair at Harvard University Middle East Center; Sheik Mohammed bin Issa bin Jaber Foundation; 
Iran: Alavi Foundation - grants to more than 30 universities in  North America to promote the Shiite version of Islam and Iranian foreign policy. The Alavi Foundation is run by the Mustazafeen Foundation, the largest parastatal conglomerate in Iran created by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. 
Funding for faculty activism comes from dues to associations, such as American Studies Association or Middle East Studies Association (MESA).  Students who support BDS drives receive funding from a variety of sources such as Muslim Students Association that has branches on many campuses and funds allocated by student governance dedicated for inviting speakers and special events.

Dr. Clemens Heni, the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA) spoke about anti-Israel faculty in Germany.  He noted that the proliferation of Islamic studies programs and Middle East programs in Germany has created a cadre of academics that use their scholarship to produce negative narratives about Israel, not infrequently bordering on the anti-Semitic.  Heni emphasized that some of these narratives find their way into publications, including respectable journals and presses.   

Dr. Dana Barnett, King's College London and Israel Academia Monitor, offered a case study of five Israeli academics that have profited from opportunities created by foreign donations to Middle East scholarship and activism, such as Neve Gordon, Adi Ophir, Moshe Zuckermann, Yehouda Shenhav, and Shlomo Sand.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, former Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, gave a review of the history of academic BDS.  He noted that those fighting the academic boycott have mixed results; while some actions were successful, others went unopposed. 
Dr. Gerstenfeld contended that it is beyond individual academics such as himself to challenge BDS on campus.  He blamed the Israeli academic community for failing to respond in an organized manner.  Most of his criticism, however, was directed toward the government. Gerstenfeld stated that the government needed to create a special unit to follow the funding and operations of the anti-Israeli activities on campus.  





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