A pro-Israel group is asking Brandeis University to dismiss a Palestinian scholar in the school's new Middle East studies center, saying that evidence from wiretapping in a terrorism trial had linked the scholar to the Islamic Jihad.
The Zionist Organization of America protested Khalil Shikaki's presence at Brandeis after his name surfaced during the trial of Sami al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida who was acquitted last month on some terrorism charges while the jury deadlocked on others.
Shikaki, a senior research fellow at Brandeis's Crown Center for Middle East Studies, became affiliated with Brandeis in the fall and helped teach a course on the Middle East with an Israeli and an Egyptian.
Among politicians and academics in Israel and in the United States, Shikaki is considered a respected moderate who has rejected violence and who has been critical of Palestinian leadership. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful yesterday.
In a wiretapped conversation in 1995, Shikaki was asked, and agreed, to take money "for orphans in Nablus," according to the New York Sun, which covered the trial. (The Boston Globe could not independently verify the transcripts yesterday.) The government argued that "orphans" was code for Islamic Jihad.
In another conversation a month later, shortly after President Clinton declared Islamic Jihad a blocked terrorist organization, al-Arian's brother-in-law told another associate, "Khalil refused to receive . . . in the past we were depositing it in Khalil's account."
"A university like Brandeis, named after America's most distinguished Zionist [Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis], should be very careful about anyone with any involvement with these groups," said the Zionist Organization of America president, Morton A. Klein.
In a written statement, Brandeis's president Jehuda Reinharz described Shikaki as "a world-renowned expert on Palestinian public opinion."
"The university has complete faith in the United States's law enforcement agencies, and no charges have ever been brought against Professor Shikaki," Reinharz said. "Should something arise in the future, the university will take that into account."
Ilan Troen, a professor affiliated with the Crown Center, said "to paint this man as a terrorist is an intellectual outrage."