Monday, February 28, 2011

The debauching of the LSE

Melanie Phillips
26 February '11

The Times (£) reports that half the board of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, which has received money from Libya among other Arab dictatorships, has called for a boycott of Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.

It figures.

Now, apparently, there are some red faces:

The university has already been urged by its own dons to give up the £300,000 it received from a foundation headed by the son of Colonel Gaddafi. Howard Davies, the LSE director, is said to have told academics this week that he was ashamed of the institution’s links to the dictatorship.

Questions have been emerging about the LSE’s wider reliance on finance from authoritarian regimes. One of its lecture halls has been named in honour of a sheikh reputed to have promoted anti-Semitic material.

An academic source said the university has become nervous about being seen as anti-Israel because of a threat to donations from American alumni.

Fresh concerns are focused on the LSE’s Middle East Centre. The body was designed to promote impartiality, academic freedom and the strengthening of links with universities in the region. But critics point out that two of the four-strong management group are campaigners for an academic boycott of Israel.

Martha Mundy, an anthropologist, is co-convener of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. John Chalcraft, a politics expert, argued for boycotting Israel in a debate at the LSE last month. The motion was defeated. The centre was set up with £9.2 million which came partly from the Emirates Foundation, which is chaired by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the ruling Royal Family. Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister when it was established in 2006, attended the signing of a ‘memorandum of understanding’.

Students objected to the subsequent naming of a lecture theatre in honour of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the late UAE ruler. Their union said: ‘To name [the theatre] after a dead dictator with suspected links to Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism is completely beyond the pale.’

Professor Mundy told The Times that the centre took extreme care to maintain the highest standards of scholarship and non-partisanship. She said she had called for ‘academics to avoid, as individuals, work with Israeli academic institutions, not with individual Israeli academics’.

An appreciation of satire is clearly not one of Prof Mundy’s strongest suits.

Note that there is no question of the LSE being embarrassed because what it has done is totally immoral. No question of it being shame-faced because of the way it has destroyed all claim to dispassionate scholarship and the pursuit of truth. A belated fit of conscience? Hardly. LSE Director Howard Davies appears rather to be embarrassed only because the balloon has finally gone up over Gaddafi’s tyranny. And the LSE is apparently only nervous about being seen as anti-Israel

because of a threat to donations from American alumni.

That so? Wonder to what particular ethnic group that particular gem is supposed to refer? Just in case anyone might run away with the idea that the Arab lobby might have a rather bigger impact, eh?

Thus not just the LSE but swathes of the British academy have debauched the very notion of education, having lent themselves to libelling, delegitimising and demonising the victim of genocidal aggression in the Middle East while pocketing funding from the Arab world from which this poison unremittingly pours. This gross corruption of academic standards, and with it the mindset of the intelligentsia, sits at the very heart of the British derangement over Israel. It is truly a disgusting spectacle.

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