A pro-Israel think tank plans to start an Internet site,” according to a September 18 article in The Wall Street Journal, “to monitor the attitudes of American professors and universities toward Islamic fundamentalism and the Arab-Israeli conflict.” (“Pro-Israel Web Site To Monitor Views Of US Academia”)
“To be launched by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum,” the article continued, “www.campus-watch.org will maintain what it calls “dossiers” on professors and academic institutions and collect information from students regarding their teachers’ political opinions.”
No strangers, no surprises
The director of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes, and Martin Kramer, editor of the forum’s Middle East Quarterly are no strangers to those following the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
While openly declaring its support for Israel and United States “interests” in the Middle East, the organization’s website declares that the Middle East Forum “sees the region, with its profusion of dictatorships, radical ideologies, existential conflicts, border disagreements, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction as a major source of problems for the United States. Accordingly, it urges active measures to protect Americans and their allies.”
Pipes and Kramer — marketed on the talk show circuit as authors and “experts” on Arabs, Islam, and the Middle East — frequently make blanket statements enouraging suspicion and sometimes outright hostility towards Arabs and Muslims in the US and the Arab world. Pipes casts the leaders of “most of the Muslim institutions in the United States” as un-American and alien elements with a secret plan to “make the United States a Muslim country” (It Matters What Kind of Islam Prevails, by Daniel Pipes, Los Angeles Times, 22 July 1999.)
In October 2001, speaking at the convention of the American Jewish Congress, Daniel Pipes stated that “the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims…will present true dangers to American Jews.”
Palestinian intellectual and academic Edward Said, whose works include “Covering Islam” and “Orientalism,” noted in The Nation on 12 August 1996 that Pipes was one of several anti-Muslim pundits who seeks to “make sure that the ‘[Islamic] threat’ is kept before our eyes, the better to excoriate Islam for terror, despotism and violence, while assuring themselves profitable consultancies, frequent TV appearances and book contracts.”
Although Pipes has been rehabilitated in some sectors of the media since 11 September 2001, many journalists recall his dubious track record which includes loud claims that the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma was “just the beginning” of a wider Islamic fundamentalist attack on the US (Village Voice, 2 May 1995).
Pipes has effectively called for entire Muslim populations to be treated as “barbarians,” and as “potential killers.” In a 22 October 2001 column in National Review Online, Pipes declared that “fully one quarter of the populations in Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority,” as well as the Saudi royal family, among many millions of other Muslims, fit his definition of “fundamentalists.” As a consequence, Pipes states:
“To me, every fundamentalist Muslim, no matter how peaceable in his own behavior, is part of a murderous movement and is thus, in some fashion, a foot soldier in the war that bin Laden has launched against civilization….For this reason, I have written about the fundamentalists, “Many of them are peaceable in appearance, but they all must be considered potential killers.” By way of comparison, I would say precisely the same about Nazis and Leninists; however non-violently they might conduct their own lives, the fact that they back a barbaric force means they too are barbarians and must be treated as such.”
[Source: Bin Laden is a fundamentalist, National Review Online, 22 October 2001.]
Pipes and Kramer have long been hostile towards Middle East Studies programmes on campus.
Kramer has projected his own obsession with Middle East politics on campus on to the entirety of American academia. Revealing something that will come as a considerable surprise to any one who has spent any length of time at an American university, Kramer wrote:
“The problem, of course, is that American academe is obsessed with Palestine, to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Many professors are tenured homing pigeons. Set their minds aloft anywhere from the High Atlas to the Hindu Kush. They will wind up flying to Jerusalem and congregating on the esplanade of the Dome of the Rock. Every issue must somehow be processed and reduced to an aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And the underlying theory is this: Israel is responsible for everything that goes badly in the Middle East, and if the linkage is not apparent, it is the scholar’s duty to claim otherwise — by bald assertions.”
[Source: Jihad 101, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2002.]
Earlier this year, writing in a June 25th article in the New York Post, Pipes characterised Middle East professors as extremists engaged in “indoctrination”, “extremism and intimidation”.
It is no surprise that a site like Campus Watch has been launched by Pipes and his associates.
“The scope of the site
The website’s introduction, About Campus Watch, rediscovers the demagogic McCarthyite charge that “academics seem generally to dislike their own country and think even less of American allies abroad.” For Campus Watch, the only good academic is one who loyally supports whatever the US government does abroad.
Campus Watch openly complains that “Middle East studies in the United States has become the preserve of Middle Eastern Arabs, who have brought their views with them. Membership in the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the main scholarly association, is now 50 percent of Middle Eastern origin.”
The introduction even complains that, “Though American citizens, many of these scholars actively disassociate themselves from the United States, sometimes even in public,” on the mere grounds that some of them have mentioned that they have other identities (particularly Palestinian) in addition to being American.
For Campus Watch, the fact that Arabs or people of Arab descent should be allowed to study themselves, rather than be studied primarily by people who view them as “a major source of problems for the United States,” “barbarians” and even “potential killers” is a shocking outrage.
It is unlikely that any organization seeking respectability would deploy such shameless race-baiting against any other group.
The introduction concludes with this determined text:
Campus Watch will henceforth monitor and gather information on professors who fan the flames of disinformation, incitement and ignorance. Campus Watch will critique these specialists, and make available its findings on the internet and in the media. Our main goals are to:
Identify key faculty who teach and write about contemporary affairs at university Middle East Studies departments in order to analyze and critique the work of these specialists for errors or biases. Develop a network of concerned students and faculty members interested in promoting American interests on campus. Keep the public apprised of course syllabi, memos, debates over appointments and funding, etc. Keep the public informed of relevant university events. Continuously post the results of our project on www.campus-watch.org, including articles, reports from campus and other relevant information.
The professors under scrutiny
The list of professors on whom Campus Watch has already opened dossiers, include widely published and well respected American academics:
Other professors are cited as negative examples in the introduction, including Edward Said, Sarah Roy, Hisham Sharabi, Stephen Zunes, and Joel Beinin.
There is nothing inherently wrong with criticizing anything an American academic says about any issue and placing this criticism on the web. In fact, such criticism is a requirement of a genuinely free academic discourse. But Kramer and Pipes’ new site may serve a different purpose with its language of “dossiers” so redolent of police states the world over. Students too, rather than being encouraged to challenge their professors in the classroom, are instead called to inform on them to an outside organization with a clear, hostile political agenda.
While Campus Watch declares that its goal is to “identify key faculty who teach and write about contemporary affairs at university Middle East Studies departments,” so far it has only gathered “dossiers” on professors who have written critically about Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights. Those who support Israel are exempt from Campus Watch’s vigilance for “errors or biases.”
Campus Watch appears to be a clear attempt to take legitimate academic discourse and cast it as “incitement” to be dealt with by public pressure on funding and appointments, rather than through academic exchange. By attempting to “develop a network of concerned students and faculty members interested in promoting American interests on campus,” it is declaring that university campuses should not be places of free enquiry, but ones where loyalty to government interests and policies is paramount.
Georgetown University professor John Esposito was unsurprised, and told EI:
This project by Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, “reflects the extent to which, as their writings and presentations demonstrate, they have ceased to be scholars and become ideologue/political activists with a right wing Zionist agenda. Indeed, the Wall St. Journal (9/18/02) identifies Middle East Forum as a ‘pro-Israel think tank.’”
“In a manner reminiscent of the McCarthy era, they seek to intimidate and silence free speech, academic freedom and public debate which are at the heart of our democratic and pluralistic society.”
Another targeted academic, Prof. Hisham Sharabi, suggested “a collective [response] to include: action on campus, legal action, media involvement, coordinating with other targeted universities.”
Over the next few days, EI will publish interviews with some of these professors, exploring how they feel about weathering the current chilly climate on US campuses.
Editor’s note: On 29 September 2002, EI noticed that the “dossiers” appear to have been removed from the Campus Watch website, although the basic content and aims of the site remain unchanged.