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Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans Probe Rutgers University Center that Promotes Terrorist Sympathizers and Anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON – Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Ranking Member U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), are investigating the financial support underpinning the Rutgers University Center for Security, Race and Rights, which sponsors events featuring anti-Semitic speakers, individuals who justify violence against the State of Israel, terrorist sympathizers, and advocates of domestic radicalism. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans wrote:

“The work of the Center, its promotion of terrorist sympathizers, and its platforming of radical ideologues is troubling to us as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee has a long history of working on legislation meant to root out support for terrorism, and to compensate its victims. For example, in 2016 Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)… As the Committee explores the efficacy of this legislation, particularly in the context of recent world events, it is appropriate to evaluate the financial backing of groups that seek to legitimize violence and provide platforms for terrorist sympathizers.”

In one letter, Judiciary Committee Republicans sought information from the President of Rutgers University and the Chair of its Board of Governors regarding the University’s support of the Center.  In particular, the Senators are probing whether U.S. taxpayer dollars fund the Center, and what role foreign governments play in supporting the Center’s activities. This Center has received public, bipartisan condemnation, including from Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer who described one of their events as “a platform to those affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

In a second letter, the Senators sought information from New York City law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP which committee records indicate donated at least $13,000 to the Rutgers Center’s Law Fellows Program over the past three years, with donations increasing each year from $2,000 in 2021 to $6,000 in 2023. A cornerstone of the Law Fellows Program is a “one-on-one mentorship” with the Center’s Director, Professor Sahar Aziz, who regularly and publicly espouses “vile anti-Semitic propaganda.” As part of the congressional oversight process, Judiciary Committee staff requested an informal, non-public discussion with Patterson Belknap on this topic, but the firm declined.

Full text of the letter to Rutgers University is HERE and the letter to Patterson Belknap is HERE.

Background on some of the Center’s events and affiliates:

  • On the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Center co-sponsored an event titled “Whose Narrative? 20 Years since September 11, 2001.” The event blamed “U.S. imperialism” for the 9/11 terrorist attack, and featured a speaker, Sami Al-Arian, who was convicted on federal charges and later deported from the United States for conspiring to provide material support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Palestinian Islamic Jihad is the second-largest armed group in Gaza and has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
  • The Center’s Director, Professor Sahar Aziz, signed an open letter on May 29, 2021 that read, “we are in awe of the Palestinian struggle to resist violent occupation, removal, erasure, and the expansion of Israeli settler colonialism.” She has also reposted propaganda on X, including the following: “Turns out there no rapes or ‘beheaded babies’! Israel & its MSM accomplices are making up so many outrageous lies to distract from its carnage in Gaza!”
  • Only three days after the brutal October 7th massacre, the Center hosted an event titled “Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practicing Resistance in Palestine.”  Center faculty affiliate Dr. Lara Sheehi opened the talk saying “Zionist settler colonialism is a structure that is the provocation.”
  • On December 4, 2023, the Center hosted an event titled “The West, Israel and Settler Colonization of Palestine” with Professor Joseph Massad, who lauded the October 7th massacre in “jubilant” terms in an article on October 8th. He wrote, “no less awesome were the scenes witnessed by millions of jubilant Arabs who spent the day watching the news…” and “no less striking was the capture of some of Israel’s colonial soldiers and officers in their underwear while sleeping.”