by Stephen Schwartz
January 31, 2010
Most Americans, even many of those concerned with the problems of academic Middle East Studies, have probably never heard of the Model Arab League (MAL), an American exercise similar to the better-known Model United Nations. The stated aim of such efforts is to expand awareness of world affairs among high school and college students. Participants compete in regional role-playing sessions as representatives of constituent countries in the corresponding world bodies and receive awards for their performance. They are then sent to contend at “nationals” held in Washington, D.C. and similar to matches sponsored by many other student societies and sports associations.
But the Model Arab League could be described better as a propaganda network for Arab nationalism, including promotion of the Arab states’ hostile postures toward Israel, than as a contributor to excellence in international studies or debate.
The Model Arab League was created in 1983 at Georgetown University by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR), which came into existence that same year, and the website of which prominently features MAL activities. NCUSAR’s president and chief executive officer is an indefatigable Saudi apologist named John Duke Anthony. In May 2009, Anthony was appointed by the Obama administration to the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) since 2006.
Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate who served briefly as Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in 2005-06, joined Anthony at CCAS in fall 2008. Al-Faisal has admitted dealing with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, allegedly in the 1980s during the anti-Soviet resistance war, and in the 1990s with Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban.
The original Arab League, known formally as the League of Arab States, was conceived in 1944 and comprises 22 Arab and African nations, including the Palestinian Authority (P.A.). The following year, the League promulgated a pan-Arab boycott on the purchase of products from “Zionist” enterprises in Palestine. This was followed by a full embargo against commercial relations with Israel after the latter proclaimed its independence in 1948. The League has extended the embargo to a secondary ban on any individual, enterprise, or agency operating in any of the Arab League member countries that does business in Israel. Individuals, companies, or public institutions maintaining relations with Israelis are placed on the League’s boycott blacklist. A tertiary boycott prohibits dealings with companies from America and elsewhere that have been blacklisted.
Yet the anti-Israel embargo is not the only topic on which the Arab League finds itself in conflict with U.S. policies and laws. In late 2009, Secretary-General Moussa held a joint press conference in Cairo with Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at which Moussa announced the League’s support for Iran’s nuclear program.
Back in America, the Model Arab League will hold its college “nationals” at Georgetown in March. High school “regionals” are pending, with local sessions at Marist High School in Atlanta later this month and in Boston, where students will meet at Northeastern University in April. Separate high school “nationals” will take place at Georgetown on April 16-17.
College-level MALs are held at 10 campuses around the U.S. These include, aside from Georgetown: Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina; Texas A&M, Miami University of Ohio; the University of San Francisco; the University of Montana-Missoula; and several others.
Students and faculty at Montana-Missoula got a taste of who and what the NCUSAR, the MAL, and John Duke Anthony represent when the latter keynoted a seminar on “New Avenues for U.S. Middle East Policy” on March 4, 2009 at the University of Montana’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center’s Defense Critical Language/Culture Program. Anthony called on the Obama administration to begin a dialogue immediately with the Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas and otherwise spent his time on the Montana campus, according to student sources, assailing Israel as the sole perpetrator of problems in the Middle East.
While U.S. policy condemns the Arab League embargo against Israel and questions the goals of Iranian nuclear development, the Model Arab League indoctrinates American high school and college students into a radical Arab-Muslim paradigm. This is unsurprising in that the MAL is a creation of Anthony, one of Washington’s veteran servants of the Saudis, and has its focus at Georgetown, already well-known for its Saudi endowments, including the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, financed by a $20-million donation from the Saudi prince after whom it is named.
Anyone who doubts the orientation of the Model Arab League events need only examine the agenda for debate at its “nationals.” “Simulated” bodies include:
- A “Joint Defense Council” discussing “protection of civilians in occupied territories” and “scrutinizing the role of foreign military assistance or presence in meeting regional security concerns, as both protection to territorial integrity and threat to national security.” The latter obviously denotes the presumptive security of the Arab League members, not the U.S.
- A “Council on Palestinian Affairs” that would take up improvement of relations between the PA and Hamas as its first point, to wit:
1. Fostering dialogue and reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian factions with the goal of strengthening the Palestinian state and legitimizing domestic political processes;
2. Developing an Arab League response mechanism to incursions into Palestinian territory, violations of Palestinian human rights, and destruction of Palestinian lives and property;
3. Assuring the flow to and from the West Bank and Gaza of capital goods, financial investment, and export products to foster economic development, protect territorial integrity, and establish Palestinian economic independence[.]
- A “Council of Arab Economic Affairs Ministers” that would assess “the role of Islamic Finance,” a highly controversial concept developed by Islamist radicals and repudiated by moderates. Presumably, in preparation for both high school and college events, American students are instructed in “Islamic finance.”
- Three “Councils of Ministers” dedicated to “Arab social affairs,” “political affairs,” and “Arab environmental affairs,” plus a “Special Committee on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons,” and a fascinating “Arab Court of Justice” simulation for which no topics are listed. Would this be a model Shariah court involving U.S. high school and college students? Will students get a full dose of Saudi Wahhabi doctrines in Islamic finance and Shariah law, both of which are among the most retrograde interpretations in the Muslim world?
The Model Arab League is offered to the educational establishment — including high schools — as a teaching device for the betterment of young Americans’ knowledge of essential contemporary issues. In reality, its origins and content reveal it to be an intrusion of Saudi-financed ideology into American academic life, the appropriateness of which should be questioned, notwithstanding the limitation of its presence to fairly obscure institutions. In addition, the appointment of John Duke Anthony to an advisory economic position in the State Department, given his advocacy for Saudi interests (which do not coincide with U.S. economic needs) should be subject to public scrutiny.