Persian Gulf Map 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A controversial Israeli academic intends to launch a research center to counter
the distorting influence of “Gulf oil money” on scholarship regarding the Middle
East and Islam.
Mordechai Kedar, a senior research fellow at Bar-Ilan
University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post
that his plan to create the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam at
Bar-Ilan would fill a gaping hole in academic scholarship.
In addition to
his academic work, Kedar – a 25-year Military Intelligence veteran – is chairman
of Israeli Academia Monitor, a non-profit group that, according to its website,
follows “the anti- Israel activities of Israeli academics.”
considered an expert on Arab political discourse, Arabic mass media and the
intersection of Islam and politics. A YouTube clip of Kedar’s 2008 interview in
Arabic with Al Jazeera – he challenged the moderator’s assertion that “You
cannot erase Jerusalem from the Koran” by noting that the Islamic holy book
never mentions the city by name – has accumulated over 300,000
“This is a new center that will be created at Bar-Ilan alongside
BESA,” Kedar said, referring to the Begin- Sadat Center. “BESA operates from a
political science perspective, but we will be coming from an angle of social
science and religious studies.”
He said the center’s concept represents
the coming together of two separate initiatives: Kedar’s, for an Israeli
research center dedicated to the study of Islam, and that of fellow BESA
researcher Ze’ev Maghen, an expert on Iran and Shia Islam, for a center focused
on the Middle East.
Kedar said he and other BESA researchers had received
permission from the university administration and were now trying to interest a
benefactor in providing funding for the center’s establishment. He said the
center currently had no budget other than funds provided by a donor in Canada to
translate its reports from Hebrew to English.
He added that the center
would be open to a broad spectrum of opinion.
“We aren’t above any
criticism,” he said. “We’re open to different opinions and maybe we’re mistaken
– we’re not prophets.”
He warned, however, that the center would “not be
politically correct – it will be bound to reality, without any political
interests in what we publish.”
“Too many research centers in the world
were bought by the Saudis, the Bahrainis, the Qataris and the Libyans, and
others in the Arab and Islamic worlds who would like to present a picture that
is often incorrect, and inverted according to their agenda,” he said.
Middle East Institute in the US received generous funding from the Omani royal
family to found the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, and in 2007 the Brookings
Institution, another leading Washington-based think tank, created the Brookings
Doha Center in Qatar’s capital, with half its money coming from the emirate’s
The other half, however, came from Brookings’ Saban Center
for Middle East Policy, named for the Israeli-American media tycoon Haim Saban,
described in The New York Times as a “tireless cheerleader for Israel.” In their
controversial book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, political scientists
Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer describe both the Saban Center and the
influential, AIPAC-founded Washington Institute for Near East Policy as
Kedar dismissed these organizations as policy
institutes separated from the academic world, and said he would be willing to
abide opinions from anyone anywhere as long as they represented researchers’
true beliefs and not the interest of their benefactors.
“I won’t accept
the influence of either Jewish money or Arab money if it influences researchers
to write things they don’t believe in,” he said.