The United Arab Emirates, an oilrich federation of sheikdoms near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, has given $750,000 to Georgetown University to establish a chair -- an endowed professionship -- in Arab studies, the university has announced.
A university official said the gift was made "completely without strings." The gift raises to $1 million the amount the Emirates have given to Georgetown's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, established in 1975. t
During the past five years seven other Arab governments have contributed about $1.4 million to the center including a $750,000 gift from Libya in 1977. The Libyan gift stirred sharp controversy after it was described as "blood money" by columnist Art Buchwald, who said the university should not have accepted a donation from a government that harbored terrorists.
In 1978 Georgetown's president, the Rev. Timothy S. Healy, returned a $50,000 gift to the center from the government of Iraq.
In a statement, Healy welcomed the new gift from the United Arab Emirates. He said it would "help to continue the slow growth of understanding and the work of peace about which all of us at Georgetown care." u
Ira Silverman, director of special programs for the American Jewish Committee, which has criticized Georgetown for accepting Arab gifts in the past, said his organization "intends to monitor [the new grant] carefully."
Silverman said the Arab studies center "has a clear pro-Arab, anti-Israel bias." The United Arab Emirates, which was formed in 1971 after the British terminated their Arabian protectorates, "has not played a constructive role on oil pricing or the Arab-Israel conflict," Silverman said.
He said his organization wanted to make sure there were "no political or curricular strings [to the donation] or any discriminatory strings [limiting] the full rights of Jews, blacks, and women to travel back and forth to the donor country."
Peter F. Krogh, dean of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, of which the arab studies center is a part, said the Emirates gift was made without restrictions.
"The checks are conveyed, the name of the chair [professorship] is identified, and we go about out business," Krogh said. "The most intervention with any money we receive at Georgetown is from the United States government. The least intervention is from foreign governments, and you can quote me."
Krogh said the new Emirates chair would be named after the late Seif Ghobash, the country's deputy foreign minister. Ghobash was shot to death in October 1977 by a Palestinian apparently attempting to assassinate a Syrian official whom Ghobash was seeing off to a plane.
Krogh described Ghobash as a "very gentle, very highly cultivated individual" who had served on the advisory council to the Arab studies center. i
He said he expected the new chair to be filled by next fall, probably by an Arab studies specialist who already is on the Georgetown faculty.
The center's only other endowed chair, established with the grant from Libya, is held by historian Hisham Sharabai, a native Palestinian who is a friend of Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
During the past few years gifts and agreements between American universities and Arab countries have been a frequent source of controversy. Last year the University of Southern California dropped plans for a $22 million Middle East Studies Center and returned $1 million that had already been raised for it after critics said that the center would not be under firm university control.
Three colleges in the Philadelphia area -- Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore -- cancelled plans for a joint Arab studies center after it became known that the project would receive $590,000 from Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian arms dealer.
Besides the money from Arab governments, the Georgetown Center has received about $275,000 in gifts and pledges from American corporations doing business in the Middle East, according to the center's latest annual report.