One of the most disturbing aspects of the Danish cartoons scandal at Yale University Press is the role played by the school administration.
Martin Kramer writes about the hardball tactics Yale University Press Director John Donatich and others employed to make sure that the cartoons in question were kept out of a forthcoming book about the 2006 controversy over the cartoons: The Cartoons That Shook The World, written by Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University.
When Klausen was summoned by Donatich to learn that the cartoons would not be published in a book about them, the two had company. Also present at the meeting were Marcia Inhorn, director of Yale's Middle East center, and Yale Vice President Linda Lorimer, who also serves as secretary of the The Yale Corporation.
Kramer quotes Klausen as stating that the university effectively forced the hand of the press by collecting the opinion of "experts" who warned that violence would erupt if the cartoon images were republished. "Once the university had decided to collect these alarmist reports about the consequences [of including the pictures], there was very little the [Yale University] press could do," Klausen said.
Kramer contends that this is just the latest example of Saudi efforts to use oil money to influence academic scholarship at American universities.
Yale has been courting Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest people, who has made no secret of his plans to establish centers of Arab and Islamic studies at select American universities. In December 2005, Harvard announced that Alwaleed had given $20 million to establish an Islamic Studies Program and Georgetown University announced he had contributed $20 million for the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding headed by John Esposito.
Kramer reports that Muna Abu Sulayman – Alwaleed's point person for academic programs -- has been named a "Yale World Fellow" for 2009, and she will reside in New Haven from August through December. "Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift?" writes Kramer. "Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleed's charitable foundation? A stroke of genius."
So what happened when someone in Yale's administration learned that Yale University Press was about to publish a book like The Cartoons That Shook The World? "Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops," Kramer writes. "The University can't interfere in editorial matters, so what's to be done? Summon some 'experts,' who will be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million."
Diana West also has been tracking Yale's pursuit of Saudi millions. She cites the blog Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report's disclosure that Abu Sulayman's father is "Muslim Brotherhood kingpin" AbdulHamid Abu Sulayman.
Not everyone is so desperate to win Alwaleed's largesse. In 2001, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani returned his $10 million donation to rebuild the Twin Towers after the prince suggested that U.S. support for Israel led to the September 11 attacks. After Giuliani returned the $10 million, Alwaleed attributed the decision to "Jewish pressure."
After Yale unsuccessfully tried to secure funding from the prince four years ago (losing out to Georgetown and Harvard),an op-ed which ran in the Yale Daily News made the case that the school would be better off without Alwaleed's money. The op-ed noted that he had pledged $27 million to a Saudi government telethon that raised money for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Read more about Alwaleed's background here.