Congress Probes Northwestern’s Partnership With Al Jazeera

Partnership could violate anti-terrorism laws

Students gather to show support for the people of Gaza on the campus of Northwestern University on (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
May 21, 2024

House Republicans are looking into potential legal issues surrounding Northwestern University’s partnership with Al Jazeera, which some alumni have argued could violate anti-terrorism laws.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has requested information on Northwestern’s relationship with the Qatar-owned news outlet from the Coalition Against Antisemitism at Northwestern (CAAN), a group of alumni and parents opposed to the anti-Israel demonstrations on campus, a source told the Washington Free Beacon.

The request comes as the House committee prepares to hear testimony from Northwestern president Michael Schill on Thursday and a week after CAAN sent a letter to the school’s board of trustees raising concerns about the Al Jazeera connection.

In CAAN’s letter, the group argued that the school’s partnership with Al Jazeera could violate section 219 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which holds that U.S. entities are prohibited from giving "training, expert advice, or assistance" to a foreign terrorist organization.

"President Michael Schill and the Board of Trustees need to be clear on how or whether Medill [School of Journalism] administrators in Evanston currently or have ever had oversight or an immediate connection to the Medill Qatar campus," said Wendy Khabie, the mother of a Northwestern student and a member of CAAN.

The House education committee has been investigating Northwestern’s "response to anti-Semitism and its failure to protect Jewish students." Anti-Israel activists mounted weeks of demonstrations at the school this spring, during which they occupied parts of campus, celebrated terrorism, and, in one reported incident, told a Jewish student to "go back to Germany and get gassed."

Northwestern’s campus in Qatar—which is funded by the state-controlled Qatar Foundation—has a "partnership with Al Jazeera Media Network" that "enables students to engage regularly with leading media industry professionals." Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism also has a studies program at the Doha campus, and gives its U.S. students an option to "spend one of your semesters in Qatar or Journalism Residency in Qatar."

The partnership includes a speaker series for students, which features "high-level executives at Al Jazeera" and "producers who report the news as it breaks."

Al Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar, which has been sheltering Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other architects of the Oct. 7 mass terrorist attacks in Israel. The news outlet—which has ignored orders from the Department of Justice to register as a foreign agent of Qatar since 2020—has a close relationship with Hamas. Senior Hamas leaders have been employed as reporters for Al Jazeera, and the media company has promoted the terror group’s propaganda.

A CAAN member, Northwestern alumnus Scott Shay, drafted a report this month about Al Jazeera’s terror ties and potential legal implications of the Northwestern partnership.

The report cited a study by the Canary Mission, an anti-Semitism watchdog group, that found over two-thirds of Al Jazeera employees who spoke at Northwestern’s Qatar campus since 2013 "either expressed support for terrorists, demonized Israel, or backed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement."

The report also cited evidence that Al Jazeera reporters in Gaza have simultaneously worked for Hamas. In February, Al Jazeera journalist Muhammed Wishah was discovered to also be serving as a commander in Hamas’s guided missile unit, according to records found on his laptop by Israeli investigators.

Al Jazeera also promotes Hamas and the terror group’s narratives in its journalism, according to the CAAN report.

The news outlet released a documentary, titled October 7, which claimed that "many of the worst stories that came out in the days following the attack were false," including Hamas’s killing of babies and widespread sexual assault and rape. In March, Al Jazeera anchor Elsy Abi Assi also publicized false claims that Israeli soldiers were raping and murdering Palestinians in Al-Shifa Hospital.

The relationship between Northwestern and Al Jazeera raises ethical and potential legal issues, according to CAAN.

"It is possible that our current U.S. administration or a future one could take legal action against NU for this relationship, as could other governmental bodies," CAAN wrote in a letter to Northwestern's board of trustees this month.

"Perhaps the families of the 32 Americans murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7 and the six Americans still held hostage could pursue action against the university under the preponderance of evidence standard," the group added.

Northwestern is re-negotiating the contract for its Doha campus with the Qatar Foundation, and the current agreement is set to expire in 2027. Students at the Northwestern satellite school have complained of poor living conditions and lack of affordable food, the Daily Northwestern reported on Monday.