[Harvard Divinity] Student discovers tainted gift
Anti-Semitism linked to Arab leader who gave Harvard $2.5 million
Harvard graduate student Rachel Fish doesn't have the answer to the $2.5 million question: Should she participate in next month's Divinity School graduation while the dean considers whether to reject a gift of that amount from an Arab leader connected with anti-Semitism?
Fish, 23, doesn't know whether the school's dean, William A. Graham, will decide to return the endowment gift to United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan after she discovered anti-Semitic writings from a think tank, Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, affiliated with the president.
"I've worked really hard to earn my degree, but I am feeling very ambivalent about actually receiving my degree (in the graduation ceremony)," said the Johnson City, Tenn., native, who earned her master's degree in contemporary thought in Judaism and Islam. "I hold (this institution) to high standards, and I think they should be held to high standards. I really want the issue to be resolved, and I want the money to be given back. I want to be proud of my administration, my faculty and the school I have worked so hard to become a part of."
Fish first learned of the endowment during a panel discussion she organized on global anti-Semitism in December. One of the panelists, Charles Jacobs of Boston-based The David Project, mentioned in his closing statement that the Harvard Divinity School had received a gift from the United Arab Emerits president and that the Zayed Center published anti-Semitic writings.
"I've been consumed with this ever since I first heard about it," she said. "It has been like another class, basically."
She presented her findings to Graham on March 19 after spending three months researching the UAE president's connection to the Zayed Center. With help from the Anti-Defamation League of New England, she learned that the think tank's web site promoted the writings of Holocaust deniers and Thierry Meyssan, author of "The Role of Jews in Distorting Arab Images in the Western Culture."
"It seems to me if an individual helped create an institution like a think tank, their name is on the line," she said. "If they didn't agree with what the think tank was producing, they would say something because they wouldn't want to tarnish their name. No statement like that has been produced." She feels uncovering the truth was important for her both as a Jew and a Divinity School student.
"Throughout the history of the Jewish people," she explained, "there has always been a Haman or an individual who tries to either oppress or annihilate (the Jews).
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