Khalil Shikaki, a senior fellow at the University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies, has been accused of having ties to a Palestinian terrorist organization.
The New York Sun reported last week that government wiretaps used in the December trial of Sami Al-Arian, an Arab scholar at the University of South Florida who was acquitted of charges that he funded terrorism, contained a 1995 conversation with Shikaki about transferring money to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Though Shikaki did not respond to the Justice by press time, The New York Sun reported that Shikaki has consistently denied any connection to the terrorist group.
"He's been at the forefront of discussion with Israelis and Palestinians on trying to resolve the conflict," Shai Feldman, the director of the Crown Center said. "He has talked to U.S. law enforcement, they found nothing in the story, reflected in the fact that no one's ever charged him with anything."
But Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, said he is urging donors to reconsider their support for Brandeis unless University President Jehuda Reinharz conducts a serious investigation into Shikaki's background.
"I don't think Jewish money should be spent funding Khalil Shikaki types to be doing research," he said. "It's really shocking that they would have such a person there being funded by Brandeis funds."
Islamic Jihad is responsible for, among other attacks, a suicide bombing in 1995 that claimed the life of Alisa Flatow '92.
In a University press release Thursday, Reinharz said there is no "real evidence" against Shikaki and the University will not act unless official charges are raised against him.
"Action on [the Zionist Organization of America's] part is misdirected based on misinformation," John Hose, Reinharz's executive assistant said. "I haven't heard anything, the president hasn't heard anything that constitutes any evidence or anything substantive and every indication would seem to point in the opposite direction."
Hose also said Flatow's father Stephen opposes the boycott.
Feldman described Shikaki as one of the most prominent scholars on Palestinian affairs and an esteemed lecturer at American colleges and Washington think tanks. He said Shikaki spoke at a 2004 conference for the American Israel Political Action Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying organization.
Still, the University has recently received questions from the press and alumni regarding the allegations, Hose said, including a letter by an alumnus which read: "Justice [Louis] Brandeis would be horrified were he alive today." However, Hose does not think the efforts by Klein's organization are having much of an impact.
Klein, who said he has tried to contact Reinharz and Shikaki, told the Justice he has not heard back from either of them. Hose said the University has not received any letters, e-mails or phone calls from Klein.
Feldman said he is not concerned about Klein's accusations. "I don't deal with Mort Kleins and I don't deal with the Zionist Organization of America," he said.
In an interview with The Jewish Week earlier this month, Feldman said he had not known about the accusations against Shikaki when he first hired him to work at the Crown Center, which opened last spring.
However, he told the Justice this week, "This story has been known for a long time."
Feldman could not be reached to comment on the discrepancy Monday.
Myles Weisenberg '78, Brandies' vice president of development, said he thinks people will continue to support Brandeis despite Klein's accusation. "We haven't received calls from any Brandeis donors saying they're not giving to Brandeis because of this," Weisenberg said. "I guess it's a non-issue, really."
Sara Aharon '08, president of Zionists for Historical Veracity, said her group wants Brandeis to take the allegations against Shikaki more seriously.
Aharon said she was shocked when she read the Zionist Organization of America's statement. Should the allegations prove to be true, she "would be absolutely appalled that a university that champions academic integrity, freedom and morality would hire somebody with ties to a terrorist organization."
Samuel Siegel '06, who studies under Shikaki, said he has great respect for the professor and the work he has done to bring an end to the conflict in Israel.
"I would really hope that as a university that espouses social justice and has a history of being a liberal center, that we can bring alternate viewpoints into our perceptions here," Siegel said.
Shikaki, who is director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah in the West Bank, is also the brother of the founder of Islamic Jihad. Shikaki served as director of the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), at the University of South Florida from 1991 to 1992. Al-Arian, the founder of WISE, was acquitted last month of eight lesser charges in a 17-count indictment for supporting terrorist organizations.
During Al-Arian's trial, several conversations between Shikaki and others associated with WISE were introduced as evidence, which Klein said proves Shikaki's connection to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In the conversations, Shikaki agreed to transfer money to the "orphans," which Klein said is code for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, in a second conversation, soon after former President Bill Clinton labeled the group a terrorist organization, Shikaki said he was no longer able to deliver the funds.