Students and faculty at American universities in Qatar issued strikingly similar condemnations of Israel during last month's Hamas rocket attacks, one result of a longstanding Qatari campaign to shift U.S. public opinion.
Professors at Northwestern University's Qatar campus issued a letter condemning Israel as an "apartheid" state that commits "crimes against humanity." Georgetown University in Qatar followed suit. The Qatari government bankrolls these and other American schools, which are located in the capital city of Doha, through the Qatar Foundation, an arm of the regime aimed at promoting Qatari interests abroad.
Qatar is not alone in its attempt to infiltrate American educational institutions. The China-backed Confucius Institute maintains chapters on American university campuses to promote Chinese interests among students. Though former secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared the Confucius Institute an arm of the Chinese Communist Party in August 2020, the Confucius Institute still maintains chapters on 47 U.S. campuses.
The Qatar Foundation spends $405 million per year to support satellite campuses of American universities in Doha, according to the Clarion Project. A separate group, Qatar Foundation International, operates at schools in the United States. Qatar Foundation International is not officially recognized as a foreign agent.
"Qatar wants to exert itself more and position itself as a power player," Lawfare Project general counsel Gerard Filitti told the Washington Free Beacon. "They want to find a way to influence other countries to predispose them to back agendas. And one way they've done so is through education. It's no secret. The way to influence the next generation of leaders is by educating them."
Qatar has extended the same hospitality to terrorist leaders as it has to American universities in the regime’s capital. The Free Beacon reported in 2015 that Qatar harbored Khaled Meshaal, a top Hamas official, in a hotel just miles from the American campuses. Qatar has for years funded the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and in January pledged another $360 million in aid to the terrorists.
According to Filitti, the Qatar Foundation's ultimate aim is to promote the authoritarian regime's interests.
"The fact is that the Qatar Foundation is part of and partial to the government agenda, and it's part of the agenda to support the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and terrorists there," Filitti said.
It's not clear whether the Qatar Foundation encouraged their partner colleges to release statements on the recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But within a span of five days, Northwestern and Georgetown did.
A majority of professors at Northwestern University's Qatar campus accused Israel of "persecution" and "express[ed] their full support" for Palestinians in a letter sent on May 14 to students and staff based in Doha. None of the professors responded to a Free Beacon inquiry about human rights abuses committed by their host country.
Faculty at Georgetown's Qatar campus issued a letter in which they "recognize[d] that Israel practices apartheid and persecution," considered "crimes against humanity and violations of international law." In addition, Dean of Students Ahmad Dallal held a virtual conference on May 19 to discuss the unrest in which he called Israel an "apartheid" state. Dallal hosted the meeting after students demanded that the university fire Zionist professors, punish a Zionist student, and formally back the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
In addition to Northwestern and Georgetown, Qatar hosts four other American universities in Doha. The other residents of "Education City" are Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Texas A&M, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jonathan Schanzer, a Middle East expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that Qatar's opposition to academic freedom means the professors' statement "will be viewed as carrying water for the regime in Doha."
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), who has three degrees from Georgetown, expressed his disappointment in the school's professors in a statement to the Free Beacon.
"This is out of touch with reality and a blatant attempt to distract from the actual ongoing human rights violation in the region: the fact that Hamas is firing thousands of missiles at Israel while cynically using Palestinian civilians as human shields," Gallagher said.