HDS Considers Donation Return

The Harvard Divinity School (HDS) may give back a $2.5 million gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to alleged anti-American and anti-Semitic writings on the website of a center he founded.

The Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, named for UAE President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan, says on its website that it promotes the unification of Arab nations through historical and cultural education.

But students at HDS complained to HDS Dean William A. Graham in March about the alleged anti-American and anti-Semitic writings on the center’s website.

Graham said that the school has “no intention of keeping the gift if we find problems with the center.”

Sheikh Zayed donated the money three years ago to create a professorship in Islamic studies, but the chair has not yet been filled.

According to Graham, the divinity school is currently investigating the Zayed Center’s association with anti-American and anti-Semitic writings.


“We don’t have all the facts yet, but we’ve been in touch with many people close to the UAE,” said Graham.

Graham said that he first heard about the problems with the center indirectly in January.

Rachel L. Fish, a student at the divinity school, organized a panel on anti-Semitism in December of 2002. One of the speakers mentioned that HDS had received funding from the Zayed Center.

After weeks of researching old articles and other information published on the center’s website, she said that she found the website promoted anti-Semitic and anti-American speakers and publications.

The website praises the works of French author Thierry Meyssan, whose works include Those who Challenged Israel, The Role of Jews in Distorting Arab Images in the Western Culture and The Appalling Fraud, a book that alleges that the U.S. staged the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The website also contains the writings of Holocaust deniers and others who have been accused of anti-Semitism.

Fish said she was upset by what she found and discussed the issue with other Jewish students at the Divinity School.

“Three of us met with the dean on March 19 and talked to him about our concerns,” she said, “He said he’d have a research team look into it.”

Graham said HDS has sent researchers to investigate the issue.

“We’re still trying to get all the facts,” said Graham. “We do not have answers yet.”