Georgetown University Accepts $1 Million Endowment from Kuwait for Its Arab Studies Center
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Georgetown University Accepts $1 Million Endowment from Kuwait for Its Arab Studies Center

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Georgetown University has accepted an endowment of $1 million from the government of Kuwait for its Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, which also is being financed this year by 24 American corporations.

Wesley Christenson, Georgetown’s director of public relations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Kuwait endowment has raised the total contributed to the center by eight Arab governments to $3,305,000 since its founding in 1975.

“More than half the money” for the center this year comes from American corporations while the Arab governments contribute “less than half,” Christenson said. The center, he said, has a faculty of 22 members and its student body consists of only 38 undergraduate students.


Kuwait’s contribution is the largest yet given to the center. Libya and the United Arab Emirates each have given $750,000, the next highest gifts. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman are the other Arab states that have contributed. Christenson said that corporations that have contributed include Allis Chalmers, Texaco, Bechtel, Exxon, General Motors, Ford, Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank.

At a ceremony last week at the Kuwait Embassy, Georgetown University President Timothy Healy said the new gift is “a generous act of philanthropy” and that it “will significantly strengthen our teaching in the field of Arab studies and contribute to the expansion of intercultural education at the university.”

A university statement said that the Kuwait gift was to establish an endowed professorship at the Center for Contemporary Arab Affairs and Public Policy. University officials said Kuwait attached no conditions to the gift and would not participate in selection of the professor under the endowment. Christenson said “some American Jews and some Israelis” are among the center’s students.

Besides the Arab center, the university conducts a Middle East studies program in which, Christenson said, a visiting Israeli professorship is a part. Regular conferences on Israeli economic and political affairs have been held since 1967. and more than 2,000 students have taken courses there, he said. It now has six undergraduate courses on Judaic studies, some of its students also go to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he added.

Much of the support for the Israeli and Jewish studies, Christenson said, comes from the Herman Goldman Foundation in New York and the Hyman Goldman family and the Goldmans’ son, Aaron Goldman, of Washington, D.C.

While Christenson said the Arab center is “very objective and as balanced as any studies program, “Ira Silverman, director of special programs for the American Jewish Committee, said the center has “a clearly marked pro-Arab, anti-Israel bias in its selection of curriculum material, its faculty appointment, and speakers.”

In accepting so much money from “political sponsors of one point of view,” Silverman said, Georgetown “may be selling something very precious to Americans-the integrity of its universities. He said I recognize efforts by Georgetown to enhance its Jewish studies programs and while I applaud these efforts they in no way mitigate the political bias of the Arab studies center.”

The American Jewish Committee has previously criticized Georgetown for accepting Arab gifts. Eyebrows also were raised by friends of Israel in the spring of 1979 when the Arab center conducted a seminar on how to win favor from the American media for Arab perceptions. The center is directed by Michael Hudson, who frequently defends Arab contentions regarding Israel. He told JTA at the time of the seminar that the obtained the idea for it from a seminar in Libya he had attended.

American media representatives and others, mostly supporters of Arab perceptions in the Arab-Israeli situation, attended the Libyan program Some who were in Libya participated in the Georgetown center’s program which was attended by an audience that appeared predominantly sympathetic to the Palestine Liberation Organization and against Israel.

Georgetown is America’s oldest Jesuit institution of higher learning. Christenson said that of its approximately 12,000 students about 15 percent are Jewish.

Kuwait, with a large number of Palestinian Arabs in key positions in its government and oil industry, is among the most vociferous enemies of Israel and is fully supportive of the PLO. It is adamantly opposed to the Camp David accords. Libya is officially described by the State Department as a “terrorist” country.

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