Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, released a report that claims troubling financial and ideological connections between Georgetown’s various Middle East studies faculty and Islamism, anti-Western scholarship, and anti-Semitism dating back to the 1970s.
Critics of Campus Watch, a undeniably controversial organization, say that it is a pro-Israel lobbyist organization involved in harassing, blacklisting, or intimidating scholars critical of Israel. However, some claims made in the Campus Watch report have proven true.
Entitled “Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers: Middle East Studies Faculty at Georgetown,” the report segments the professors at the center of the Campus Watch investigation into two categories, the “old” and “new” guard, and illustrates the questionable ideological and political affiliations of the field’s most prominent staff.
Among these employees is John Esposito, the founding director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU). According to Campus Watch, Esposito began the program’s transition to radicalism. For example, in 2005, Esposito secured a $20 million gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal to support and expand the Center’s mission. Since this donation, ACMCU has been criticized as a “magnet for Arab and Muslim money,” as the Center developed ties to individuals and organizations directly involved in Islamic terrorism. These include convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas Operative Azzam Tamimi and his Institute for Islamic Political Thought, and Hamas Spokesman Ahmad Yusuf.
Esposito has also tweeted links to vicious articles attacking a now-late Holocaust-survivor for being “anti-Palestinian” as well as claiming that Israeli soldiers have used Palestinian children as “soccer balls.” He has praised Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has expressed repeated support for suicide bombing, including against American service members in Iraq.
Fast forward to today and the current director, Jonathan Brown, has not simply cemented Esposito’s poisonous legacy, but extended it. Our readers might remember Jonathan Brown as the professor who defended Islamic slavery and rape in early 2017. Brown is also a signatory to the Religious Studies Scholars Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinians BDS Movement and the 2014 Academic Boycott of Israel letter.
The report argues that this increasingly biased focus contradicts the Center’s mission of creating a free and open dialogue between faiths. In order to remedy this polarization and to combat anti-Semitic tendencies, Campus Watch calls for Georgetown University to adhere to academic integrity with the presentation of rigorously derived, unbiased information to its students; the certainty that funds given to the Middle East studies departments are promoting non-partisan scholarship; and a reining in of anti-Semitic and anti-American ideologies.