Harvard University may not want his money, but the unelected president of the United Arab Emirates has a grateful beneficiary in Columbia University. Columbia told The New York Sun it would not return a $199,985 gift from the office of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to support a professorship in modern Arab studies and literature named after Edward Said.
"Why would we?" a Columbia spokeswoman said. "Our gift differs in both the source and the purpose from the Harvard gift."
The United Arab Emirates was one of about 20 donors and the only country that gave a total of $2 million to finance the Edward Said chair, which is occupied by Arab nationalism scholar Rashid Khalidi. Columbia received the money from Sheik Zayed by a wire transfer from the undersecretary of finance and administration affairs.
In 2000, Sheik Zayed gave $2.5 million to Harvard Divinity School to create the Zayed Professorship of Islamic religious studies. Harvard said the stated purpose of the gift was "to promote a better understanding of Islam among the non-Muslim peoples of the world and to foster dialogue among the world's great religions."
In spring 2003, Harvard said it was strongly considering returning the money after Harvard divinity student Rachel Fish submitted a petition with hundreds of signatures protesting the gift and more than 100 pages of research on a United Arab Emiratesbased research center named after the country's president.
She accused the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up of hosting speakers who deny the Holocaust and who believe Jews were responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.The center's Web site said the organization is "the fulfillment of the vision of Sheik Zayed."
In August 2003, Sheik Zayed closed the center, and Harvard said it would put the money on hold. Harvard was to decide on what to do with the money this summer.A spokeswoman for Columbia said the gift to Columbia was different because the professorship was not named after the president. She also said the IRS and Columbia prohibit donors supporting professorships to choose the scholar.
Ms. Fish, 24, said Columbia was wrong to have accepted Sheik Zayed's gift because the president "has never disassociated himself from" anti-Semitism. She said the president never condemned the 2001 broadcast on the state-run Abu Dhabi television of a satirical series depicting Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, throwing Arab babies into a bonfire.
Ms. Fish is the director of the New York office of the David Project, a pro-Israel research group. Mr. Khalidi, whose latest book is "Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East," is one of the most well-known modern Arab history scholars in America and a forceful opponent of Israel.
In a June 2002 speech before the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Mr. Khalidi compared Arab-Americans' "sense of urgency"about the plight of "our communities in the Middle East" to the way American Jews were concerned about Jews in Europe during the Holocaust, according to a text of the speech provided by the committee.