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Examining the Incessant Flow of Qatari Money into American Academia: Unintended Consequences on Campus

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Examining the Incessant Flow of Qatari Money into American Academia: Unintended Consequences on Campus

Edited by: Fern Sidman

Until recently, the issue of foreign donations influencing American academia remained unnoticed. However, a study published in 2022 by the National Association of Academics in the United States sheds light on a significant flow of Qatari money to universities in the country, particularly in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. According to an in depth report that appeared on the Calcalistech.com web site in October 2023,the study reveals that between 2001 and 2021, Qatar donated a staggering $4.7 billion to American universities, making it the largest foreign donor during this period. What initially seemed like harmless financial support has sparked a series of events, raising concerns about the influence on academic institutions.

The study highlights that a considerable portion of the funds received by American universities from Qatar went unreported, violating legal requirements, according to the Calcalisteceh.com report.  This revelation adds a layer of complexity to the already controversial issue. The Qatari financial support, ostensibly meant to foster academic growth, has now come under scrutiny for potential undisclosed motives.

The turning point came after the Hamas attacks on October 7, unleashing an explosion of vehemently anti-Israel propaganda that was regularly broadcast by pro-Hamas student protesters.  The serene atmosphere of academic institutions transformed into a battleground, with vile anti-Semitic sentiments taking center stage.

In October alone, countless campus protests erupted. Calcalistech.com reported that at Amherst University, anti-Israel students staged a riot that led to the arrest of 57 individuals after they took over the administration building. At Tulane University clashes erupted between Jewish students and a pro-Hamas group, escalating when the latter burned the Israeli flag during a demonstration.

At Cooper Union in New York City, Jewish students found themselves locked in the library for safety as pro-Hamas protesters violently confronted them. The report on the Calcalistech.com web site also said that at George Washington University, anti-Semitic messages projected on the library wall intensified concerns, with sentiments like “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” and “Glory to our martyrs.”

In the aftermath of the October 7th Hamas attacks that claimed the lives of 1200 Israelis and others, Jewish and Israeli students across the United States expressed genuine fears for their safety, as was noted in the Calcalistech.com report. The culture of anti-Semitic demonstrations, increasingly marked by violence, has created an environment of hostility on campuses that historically championed free speech and critical thinking.

Elite universities have started acknowledging that these events have transcended the boundaries of progressive concepts on campuses. While universities traditionally uphold free speech, the rapid organization and abundant resources available for these demonstrations raise questions about their origins, according to the information provided in the Calcalistech.com report. The situation mirrors recent concerns in London, where large Palestinian-flag-waving demonstrations hinted at organized efforts beyond expressions of free speech.  Elite universities unwittingly find themselves as potential hotbeds of anti-Semitism, challenging their core principles.

Qatar’s relationship with groups like the Taliban, Hamas, Iran, and other extremists has long been a subject of international concern, according to the report on the CounterExtremism.com website.

The Qatari government contends that its engagement with organizations like Hamas is part of an effort to foster peace and provide sanctuary to top Hamas leaders. However, these relations have raised concerns, especially given allegations of financial support to designated terrorist groups that have sworn the destruction of Israel and have in their charter overtly anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The United States has criticized Qatar for its alleged support of global Islamist terror groups, such as Hamas, offering them a safe haven, diplomatic mediation, financial aid, and, in some cases, weapons. Qatar’s connections to these groups have raised concerns, particularly regarding terrorism-financing operations within its borders. CounterExtremism.com reported that several Qatari nationals have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for their ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda financial networks.

Qatar has found itself in a diplomatic tightrope, maintaining close military ties with the United States while facing accusations of supporting terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Hamas.

Having said this, it should be noted that prominent American universities, including Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon, received substantial funding from Qatar, leading to the establishment of branches in Doha. As was reported in the Calcalistech.com report, Cornell, a member of the Ivy League, opened a medical school with a staggering $1.8 billion donation from Qatar. Georgetown University was also a recipient of Qatar’s largess as they received $750 million for a school of government. Moreover, Northwestern established a journalism school with a $600 million donation from Qatar in 2007.

The significant share of donations comes from the Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organization established by the government in 1995 with the mission to promote education and science in the country, as was indicated in the Calcalistech.com report. While collaborations between nations and educational institutions are not uncommon in the era of globalization, the source and magnitude of Qatari donations raise unique concerns.

American universities operating in Qatar’s “Education City” were compelled to make adjustments, raising questions about academic freedom. Some institutions removed certain liberal books from reading lists, signaling compromises made in the pursuit of financial support. The report on the Calcalistech.com website revealed that cooperation agreements between Northwestern’s journalism school and controversial media outlets like Al Jazeera further highlight the challenges faced in maintaining academic independence.

A 2020 examination by ISGAP (The Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy) revealed a direct correlation between donations from Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries and the presence of pro-Palestinian groups, notably SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), on college campuses, according to the information provided in the Calcalistech.com report. These groups, in some instances, organized demonstrations and days of rage immediately following events in the Middle East, reflecting a concerning alignment with external political agendas.

On January 11th, the New York Post reported that a global map displayed in a New York City public school classroom omits the existence of Israel, instead being replaced by the label “Palestine.”  According to the Post report, the map is part of the Arab Culture Arts program taught by Rita Lahoud, and funded by Qatar Foundation International, the American arm of Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit organization owned by Qatar’s ruling family.



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