BOSTON - Three months after Harvard Divinity School students first went public with their demand that Harvard return a $2.5 million gift from Sheikh Zayed, ruler of the United Arab Emirates, the Sheikh reportedly closed down a controversial Arab League think-tank established in his name. The Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up was cited by students for its anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda.
"While we don't yet know all the facts about the closing of the Zayed Centre, we definitely made a breakthrough," noted Rachel Fish, the Harvard student who spearheaded the campaign with appearances on CBS, NPR, and MSNBC. "But Sheikh Zayed needs to clearly repudiate his Centre's hate and continue to rectify his abysmal human rights record."
On its website, the Zayed Centre claims to be an Arab League think-tank "as the fulfillment of the vision of Sheikh Zayed" and chaired by Zayed's son. The Los Angeles Times quoted the Centre's director as saying the "Jews are the enemies of all nations." The Centre has published a book claiming that the American government masterminded the September 11 attacks, hosted notorious Holocaust deniers, and featured a lecture by a Saudi professor who claimed that Jews
use gentile blood for holiday pastries.
"The lesson here is that hate funded by Arab leaders can - and must - be countered," Fish remarked. "In only three months, we created an international storm of condemnation. It shouldn't take a group of Divinity School students to
pressure for change in the UAE. American leaders and human rights groups should be on the forefront of this battle."
Many questions remain about the closing of the Centre. Sheikh Zayed has yet to publicly explain why the Centre is being shut down, and the Centre can easily be re-opened by the Arab League - to which the U.A.E. belongs.
Fish pointed out that the students' objections to the Harvard gift go beyond Zayed's Centre. "The Sheikh and one of his five wives donated $50,000 to Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, and Zayed has ruled as a despot for 30 years, denying basic human rights." All labor unions are banned in the U.A.E., and a Christian minister was recently imprisoned simply for passing out literature in public.
"We are going to keep up the pressure," said Fish. "This campaign is not over."