At Columbia, the course catalog indicates that this spring the anthropology professor, Nicholas DeGenova, who called for "a million Mogadishus" and said "the only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military," will be teaching a graduate class on "The Metaphisics of Antiterrorism." At least he isn't teaching spelling. At the University of South Florida, our Josh Gerstein reports elsewhere on this page, there's talk of rehiring Sami Al-Arian, whose lawyers conceded during a recent trial that he had "an affiliation" with the people in Palestinian Islamic Jihad. That is a deadly terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Harvard and Georgetown universities announced this week that they had received $10 million each from a Saudi Arabian prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, to fund Islamic studies. Alwaleed, the so-called Saudi Warren Buffett, has also amassed sizable stakes in Citigroup and in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, owner of Fox News Channel and of the New York Post. The prince became notorious when Mayor Giuliani turned down a $10 million gift from him after September 11, 2001, because the gift came with a statement saying that America should tilt its foreign policy more in favor of the Palestinian Arabs.
Not all anti-Israel or anti-American professors receive funding from overseas, and not all professors who receive funding from overseas are anti-American or anti-Israel. That said, it will be illuminating to watch to see whom Harvard selects to fill the new chair that will be known as the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life. Somehow we doubt it'll be a scholar who reckons that Mecca and Medina should be redistributed to the Hashemites and the oil rich Saudi eastern provinces to the Shiites or who criticizes the Saudis for funding the Hamas terrorist group and for distributing audiotapes in the West Bank describing the Jews as "the sons of monkeys and pigs." Somehow we doubt it will be a scholar who criticizes the Saudi kingdom for obstructing the American investigation into the 1996 Dhahran barracks bombing. It will be interesting to see how the scholar stands on the petition calling on Harvard to divest from Israel and from American companies that sell arms to Israel.
Harvard or Georgetown may - or may not - find a way to justify taking the money that Mayor Giuliani made New Yorkers proud by refusing. But it will be a scandal if they use the money to promote a Saudi agenda as opposed to a scholarly agenda or an American agenda. Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, has an acute sense of a great American university's responsibility in wartime. Harvard met that test in World War II, when it turned its laboratories and scientists and even its president, James Conant, over to the war effort. Conant, with Vannevar Bush and Karl Compton of MIT, led the effort to develop the atomic bomb that won the war against Japan. Harvard laboratories were turned over to the war department for developing measures to counter Axis radar.
Today America faces an analogous threat to the one faced in World War II in the form of what President Bush has called Islamofascism. The Saudis play a unique dual role, both as an enemy of al Qaeda and an ally and funder and inspiritor of Islamic terrorism around the world. Not all Saudis are Islamofascists, and Prince Alwaleed hasn't made it clear openly where he stands on the matter of the war.
Yet we try to imagine Conant or Bush or Compton taking money from the Germans or the Japanese to fund German or Japanese studies in the middle of World War II, and we have a hard time doing it. Not that there wasn't a need for knowledge of German or Japanese language and culture at the time. And not that there weren't on our soil good Germans or good Japanese. And not that the money might not have been put to good use. But the leadership of our universities back then had a different sense of what might be called the "metaphysics" of the war than they have today, a fact that doubtless helped speed the allied victory.