The ZOA has written a letter to the President of Brandeis University, Professor Jehuda Reinharz, criticizing the Crown Center for Middle East Studies for employing a Palestinian academic, Khalil Shikaki, who distributed funds within the Palestinian Authority (PA) for people associated with the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and has urged donors to reconsider their support for Brandeis unless the university responds appropriately. In the letter, signed by ZOA National President Morton A Klein, Chairman of Board of Directors Dr. Michael Goldblatt and Chairman of National Executive Committee, Dr. Alan Mazurek, and Director of ZOA Center for Middle East Policy Dr. Daniel Mandel, the ZOA urged Professor Reinharz to reconsider Shikaki's appointment. "It is distressing that Shikaki, who was known to have been associated with figures implicated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, should have been appointed to a prestigious center of learning which has declared its desire to see Middle East studies be taught with greater balance and rigor by appropriate scholars. We urge you to reconsider this appointment in light of Shikaki's known deeply disturbing activities."
The evidence of Shikaki's conduct emerged from investigations into Sami Al-Arian, a Florida professor accused of operating the American wing of PIJ. Among PIJ's more infamous acts was an April 1995 bombing in Israel that killed a Brandeis student, Alisa Flatow. PIJ has carried out most suicide bombings in Israel during the past year's Palestinian "ceasefire", including the suicide bombing in Netanya in December that killed 5 Israelis and maimed 49 more.
Khalil Shikaki is the founder and director of the polling institute, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and is also the brother of the PIJ founder, Fathi Shikaki. He was former director of the Florida-based World & Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), which was founded by Al-Arian. Shikaki has denied any connection to his brother's terrorist operation and any knowledge of the connections between WISE and the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) – both alleged by the US government to be front groups for PIJ. He has also denied any knowledge that top figures in WISE, including PIJ's current leader, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, and an Al-Arian associate affiliated with WISE, Sameeh Hammoudeh, were at all involved in PIJ. Wiretaps of conversations between Shikaki, Shallah, and Hammoudeh introduced as evidence at the Al-Arian trial, however, suggest that Shikaki distributed money for Al-Arian associates within the PA, who raised the funds in America, and then stopped the money transfers in January 1995, shortly after PIJ was declared a blocked terrorist organization by President Clinton (New York Sun, January 17, 2006).
Excerpt from wiretaps:
- January 15, 1995, Hammoudeh: "If you please, do us a favor. There is an amount of money for orphans in Nablus." [In the case against Mr. Al-Arian, the government argued and introduced evidence indicating that "orphans" was a code for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.] Shikaki replies: "Um ... Eah. [Pause.] [Sighs.] Okay, when you want to give it to them."
- February 15, 1995, Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar: "Do you know what our problem with the Orphan Sponsorship Project is now? … We cannot find someone to receive the money and distribute it … Khalil refused to receive ... In the past we were depositing it in Khalil's account here." [Bank records introduced as evidence at the Al-Arian trial showed Shikaki to have received deposits from Al-Arian associates].
Prominent terrorism expert Steve Emerson, Executive Director of the Investigative Project, has commented, "The pattern of evidence from the wiretaps introduced at the trial ... and other material clearly show that Shikaki was intimately not just aware of, but participated in the operations of Islamic Jihad until January 1995, contrary to all of his public denials … He was a pivotal player in the creation of these institutions – the transfer point between the different parties in the Islamic Jihad, and their transfers of monies." Steven Flatow, father of the murdered Alisa Flatow, said, "How ironic is it that if he is tainted by Islamic Jihad, that he be teaching at a university where one of the students was killed by Islamic Jihad? … You have to wonder what [the Crown Center at Brandeis] were thinking."
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "The ZOA is appalled that an institution like Brandeis University and its Crown Center for Middle East Studies appointed Khalil Shikaki as a scholar last year. The Crown Center had an obligation to look closely into Shikaki's background before appointing him. After all, Shikaki had known associations with Sami Al-Arian, who has been in the news for years with regard to evidence pointing to his connection with PIJ. Shikaki has also a public association with WISE, which has been determined by the US government to be a front for PIJ. How is it possible that it hires someone with Shikaki's record?
"The New York Sun report revealing the connections between Shikaki and PIJ do not indicate that Brandeis is doing, or even considering doing, anything about Shikaki's appointment to the Crown Center. We urge Jewish donors and indeed all supporters of Brandeis to make their deep concern and shock at these revelations linking a Brandeis faculty member with foreign terrorists known to the University authorities and we also urge them to rethink their support for Brandeis if the University fails to address their concerns in a timely and appropriate manner. We particularly urge parents who are considering appropriate colleges for their children's studies to also consider directing them elsewhere if Brandeis does not address this serious issue. These Shikaki revelations and Brandeis' failure to act have reduced the pride I have always felt over the fact that my brother is a 1974 graduate."