United Arab Emirates is among the donors to Columbia University's Edward Said chair, a multimillion-dollar endowment that the school used to recruit historian Rashid Khalidi, one of the most outspoken critics of Israel in academia.
Columbia has released a list of donors to the $2.1 million Edward Said chair, named after the late pro-Palestinian intellectual, publishing the list in the Columbia University Record, the official newspaper. For months, Columbia had refused to disclose donors to the chair, angering pro-Israeli conservative groups that claimed the school had a responsibility to reveal sources of funding to a Middle Eastern studies chair, especially if money came from foreign government or from individuals with hostile views of America and Israel.
United Arab Emirates is the sole country on the list, which also includes 16 individuals and a foundation. Last year, Harvard University came under fire after the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed Al Nahyan, gave a $2.5 million donation to the Divinity School.
After a student discovered that an Arab think tank bearing the name of the president was promoting anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial propaganda, Harvard put the money on hold.The UAE has since shut down the center. Another major source of funding for the Edward Said chair comes from Arab businessmen connected with the Welfare Association, a Geneva-based foundation that, according to its Web site,"draws on Palestinians in the Diaspora and other Arabs to contribute their intellectual and financial resources toward the reconstruction and development process in Palestine."
Columbia was not obligated by law to disclose the identities of the donor list. Federal law mandates U.S. universities disclose the countries from which it receives foreign gifts of $250,000 or more.
The New York Sun reported in February that Columbia had failed to report dozens of gifts over the last decade. Though the endowment is officially called the Edward Said Professorship of Modern Arab Studies and Literature, Mr. Khalidi, unlike Said, is not a professor of literature.
Mr. Khalidi, who joined the faculty last year from the University of Chicago, is a professor of history and near eastern languages and civilizations and the director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia.The Web site of the Middle East Institute lists Mr. Khalidi as the Edward Said Chair of Arab studies.
In July, the Sun reported it had independently confirmed three members of the donor list, including New York philanthropist Rita Hauser, New York investor Gordon Gray Jr., and the Olayan Charitable Trust, a charity associated with the Saudi-based Olayan Group.
The other donors are Abu Khadra,Abdel Muhsen Al-Qattan, Ramzi Dalloul, Richard and Barbara Debs, Richard Fisher, Daoud Hanania, Walid Kattan, Said Khoury, Munib Masri, Morgan Capital & Energy Company, Hasib Sabbagh, Kamal Shair, Abdul Aziz Shakashir, Abdul Majeed Shoman, and Jean Stein.
"It's a chair that was largely bought by Palestinian donors," said Martin Kramer, editor of the Middle East Quarterly and author of "Ivory Towers on Sand," who had called on Columbia to disclose the donor list.
Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, Lisa Anderson, told the Columbia Spectator, a student newspaper, that donors of the endowment have no influence over Rashid Khalidi or any other person who occupies the chair in the future.
"The United Arab Emirates, or Rita Hauser, or any other donor have equal influence over who occupies the chair, which is none," she said.