The Dark Money Behind Anti-Israel Activism on College Campuses

April 3, 2020 | Peter Wood
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A number of years ago, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) began an investigation into the massive funds that foreign countries have been channeling, undisclosed, into American universities. After discovering a vast Chinese network that not only sought to influence scholars, students, and institutions but that also undertook the “surveillance of Chinese students” and the “undisclosed recruitment of American academics for Chinese programs, and espionage,” NAS turned to Saudi and Qatari investments into Middle Eastern studies programs and “the mysteriously funded anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.” Peter Wood, the president of NAS, writes:

In trying to figure out how much money was flowing to the universities through [China’s campus] institutes, we turned to the Department of Education, which we knew was supposed to track such information. We quickly found that it had done nothing of the kind. And that set us on the path to encourage the reinvigoration of [the] enforcement of the law, ideally improving it by requiring [the] disclosure of gifts smaller than the $250,000-per -year threshold specified by Congress. We figured that this threshold could easily be gamed by parties making multiple gifts of smaller amounts, so we proposed a lower one of $50,000. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of money to buy the complicity of the average college administrator.

The question of who funds American colleges and universities ought not to be hidden in darkness when substantial amounts of that funding come from the nation’s rivals and adversaries. At a minimum, Americans should demand transparency from these institutions that are so favored by our laws, and so generously funded by our people.

Georgetown and Harvard, for example, each received gifts of $20 million from Saudi Arabia’s Prince al-Waleed bin Talal in 2005. Why? No one knows for sure. [The journalist] Stanley Kurtz suggested such funding was linked to a widespread Saudi attempt to influence the country’s portrayal in American K-12 education after 9/11.

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