Providing new evidence of the academic Left's hardened anti-Americanism and sympathy for jihad terror, Khalil Shikaki has been appointed a senior fellow at Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies.
Shikaki's involvement with Middle Eastern politics and culture has long been more hands-on than that of most academics. On February 24, 1998, terrorism expert Steven Emerson gave this testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "Professor Khalil Shikaki seemed to possess such an impassioned voice for moderate political solutions to the Middle Eastern problems that it prompted the USF [the University of South Florida] to finalize its cooperative relationship with WISE [the World & Islam Studies Enterprise, of which Shikaki was the first director]. Yet documents seized by federal officials uncovered a wealth of information, including incriminating letters, proving Khalil Shikaki using Shallah as a courier to ferry information, messages and even operational materials to his brother Fathi in Damascus, head of Islamic Jihad. When publicly asked however, Khalil always maintained he had no contact with his brother."
On May 23, 2000, Emerson gave additional and quite specific information about Khalil Shikaki when testifying about the World & Islam Studies Enterprise before the House Judiciary Committee: "Documents seized by federal agents at the WISE office in November 1995 show that Khalil Shikaki, after his departure from WISE in 1992, contacted his brother Fathi Shikaki through Ramadan Abdullah. Evidence released in the federal investigation against WISE and ICP included a letter and a fax between Abdullah and Khalil Shikaki showing that Abdullah served as a go-between for the brothers. These communications contained references to various matters including support for a project headed by ‘Abu Omar,' a nom de guerre of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook…. In comments made by Khalil Shikaki on December 24, 1989 at the ICP Annual Conference, he proclaimed support for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a unifying element of the Islamic resistance in Palestine."
Some evidence for Shikaki's connection to Palestinian Islamic Jihad came to light at the recent trial of Sami Al-Arian. "The pattern of evidence from the wiretaps introduced at the trial," said Emerson, "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."
One of the wiretaps has Shikaki hesitant but replying in the affirmative when asked to supply money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On another, after PIJ was declared a terrorist group, Al-Arian's brother-in-law complains that Shikaki would no longer allow the organization's money to pass through his bank account.
Morton A. Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, was aghast. "The ZOA," he declared, "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?" ZOA called for donors to end their support of Brandeis if Shikaki's appointment goes through.
The Crown Center's Shai Feldman defended the appointment: "None of what I know about Khalil Shikaki is consistent in any way, shape or form with what is alleged. We have to trust U.S. law enforcement, and Khalil has never been charged." But all the evidence to which Emerson referred stops in January 1995, not long after President Bill Clinton designated Palestinian Islamic Jihad a terrorist organization. It isn't likely that Shikaki will be charged for associations with the group dating from the period before that designation.
Thus the more important question is whether Khalil Shikaki approves of the murderous work of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, Brandeis has been content with the distinction that Shikaki's supporters have drawn between PIJ's violent arm and its more peaceful activities. Stephen Bernstein, attorney for Sameeh Hammoudeh, another Al-Arian associate, has said of the wiretaps that establish Shikaki's involvement with Islamic Jihad: "I think that there's lots of evidence that goes to support that the funds shown in the wiretap were for charitable reasons, and there's no evidence to support the suspicions or allegations the government claimed." But if the Ku Klux Klan ran a school, and someone donated money specifically to the school, not for cross-burnings, would that really be exculpatory? Would it not enable the Klan to divert other money to more violent operations, so it would end up being a distinction without a difference?
Some who defended Shikaki sidestepped such questions by denying the allegations about Shikaki altogether. Jehuda Reinharz, the President of Brandeis University, thundered in an email against the ZOA: "I thought that McCarthyism had disappeared long ago, but obviously it can still be found. The ZOA's charges against Professor Shikaki constitute a form of Jewish McCarthyism -- accusing and judging him before any credible evidence has been put forward. Justice Brandeis, who served as the honorary president of the ZOA when it was first established, would be saddened and distressed to see the depths to which the ZOA has fallen." Shikaki, he maintained, was "a world-respected expert on Palestinian politics and public opinion. He is a sought-after speaker at major American think tanks, including the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is also currently an adviser to the State Department."
Jewish McCarthyism? Emerson in his Senate and House testimony referred to documents seized by federal agents. The wiretap evidence was presented at Al-Arian's trial. The fact that Shikaki's involvement with PIJ apparently predates its designation as a terrorist organization may save him from prosecution, but it should not save him from a clear-headed moral evaluation. In a bombing in Israel in April 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad murdered Brandeis alumna Alisa Flatow. Did Shikaki approve of her murder? Does he now? What does Shikaki think of Palestinian Islamic Jihad now? Does he think it is a legitimate group? Or does his distancing himself from his brother indicate that he knows very well what the group stands for, and disapproves? Did anyone at the Crown Center dare ask him such questions during the interview process?
Brandeis should have been ready to answer such questions from a rightly skeptical public. The fact that they were not and are not, and that Jehuda Reinharz has vilified those who still have enough ethical sensibility to protest this appointment, is yet another indication of how much the liberal academic establishment has lost its moorings. Justice Brandeis would indeed likely be saddened and distressed to see the depths to which the university that bears his name has fallen.
Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.