New York - Last week, Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz appropriately expressed deep concern about American academics like Tony Judt, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are at the forefront of those denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state (Haaretz , July 10). It is therefore with sorrow and puzzlement that the ZOA wonders why Brandeis's Crown Center for Middle East Studies (CCMES) is employing scholars who have utilized inaccuracies, gross distortions and written analyses strongly biased against Israel; continues to have relations with Al-Quds University, a Palestinian Arab educational institution which purveys on its website falsehoods about Israel and Jewish history; and which in the recent past has honored anti-Zionist figures. This has included bestowing an honorary doctorate upon playwright Tony Kushner, who is on record as regretting that Israel ever came into existence.
In April 2006, the ZOA called upon Brandeis University to rescind plans for bestowing an honorary doctorate upon anti-Zionist playwright Tony Kushner at its May commencement ceremony. Kushner, author of the screenplay "Munich," which was widely condemned by numerous critics for gross inaccuracy, hostility to Israel and sympathetic treatment of Palestinian terrorists, had previously made strong anti-Israel statements, including calling Israel's founding a "mistake ... it would have been better if Israel never happened." Kushner had also condemned Israel for "ethnic cleansing" and "behaving abominably and denounced "the shame of American Jews for failing to denounce Israel." The ZOA renewed its call for Brandeis to rescind its planned honor for Kushner after exposing another previous statement by Kushner attacking Jewish supporters of Israel as being "the most repulsive members of the Jewish community" and also after he recently supported boycotting and divesting from Israel. However, Mr. Reinharz refused all entreaties to rescind Brandeis' decision to honor with an honorary doctorate an opponent of Israel's existence.
This was only one of several decisions at Brandeis that aided anti-Zionist figures and institutions. In January 2006, reports in the media, especially the New York Sun, revealed that Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian academic appointed to the CCMES, had previously distributed funds within the Palestinian Authority (PA) for people associated with the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Pre-eminent c ounter-terrorism expert Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism has written a 13-page analysis of Shikaki's use of Swiss bank accounts to launder funds raised here to help terrorists who were busy killing Israelis and Americans. Emerson concluded that "the pattern of evidence from the wiretaps introduced at the trial [of WISE founder Sami Al-Arian] … 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."
Shikaki had also been former director of the Florida-based World & Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), which was shut down by federal authorities because of its ties to PIJ. Yet Shikaki denied any knowledge of its connection to PIJ terrorist activities or of the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), another PIJ front group. When the ZOA asked Reinharz to investigate this and ask Shikaki to apologize for these activities and to publicly acknowledge his acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, Mr. Reinharz refused to ask Shikaki to do so. When subsequent reports disclosed that Shikaki had been a founding director of WISE, the ZOA called for Mr. Reinharz to conduct a thorough-going review of Shikaki's background, which he again refused to do.
In April 2006, the ZOA drew attention to the formal relationship that Brandeis University has developed with Al-Quds University, a Palestinian educational institution in eastern Jerusalem, whose website denies the Jewish historical connection with Jerusalem and promotes other historical falsehoods. The ZOA also pointed to the fact that Brandeis' International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, which has coordinated Al-Quds visitors programs, includes on its advisory board Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh, someone who is often presented as a Palestinian moderate but, as ZOA revealed already in October 2002, had actually demonized Israelis, praised jihad fighters, justified the killing of so-called Palestinian "collaborators" and been arrested by Israel in January 1991 for collecting security information for Iraqi intelligence. The ZOA urged Mr. Reinharz to review Brandeis' relationship with Al-Quds University, but it has not done so.
There have been a number of papers published by scholars at Brandeis' Crown Center which have been inaccurate and shown a strong bias against Israel to this day. Also, when former President Carter was invited to give a speech at Brandeis, Reinharz refused to publicly criticize Carter's outrageous statements about Israel.