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War on academic freedom { November 11 2002 }

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>The War on Academic Freedom
>[posted online on November 11, 2002]
>The year since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act has brought an
>ever-growing enemies list from our nation's thought police. First there
>was Senator Joseph Lieberman and Lynne Cheney's American Council of
>Trustees and Alumni report unveiled last November--"Defending
>Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be
>Done About It." The forty-three-page document purports to advocate the
>preservation of academic freedom and dissent while being all about
>suppressing both when the views expressed conflict with blind support for
>US foreign policy.
>In attempting to smear dozens of "unpatriotic" professors, the
>organization laid the foundation for the Middle East Forum's recent
>blacklisting project, Campus Watch--a website that hopes to do for
>students and professors what Project TIPS would have done for mail
>carriers and plumbers.
>Based in Philadelphia and headed by anti-Arab propagandist Daniel Pipes,
>Campus Watch unleashed an Internet firestorm in late September, when it
>posted "dossiers" on eight scholars who have had the audacity to criticize
>US foreign policy and the Israeli occupation. As a gesture of solidarity,
>more than 100 academics subsequently contacted the Middle East Forum
>asking to be added to the list. In response, Pipes has since posted 146
>new names, all identified as supporters of "apologists for suicide
>bombings and militant Islam." He also claims "most of the writers are
>academics from fields other than Middle East studies (and so are not
>qualified to judge the work of the academics we listed)." By this
>standard, he is similarly unqualified, as he is not a professor and his
>PhD was earned in medieval history. Of the Campus Watch eight, seven are
>modernists. Hamid Dabashi of Columbia teaches and writes about both
>medieval and modern Iranian social history.
>Naming the names of academics critical of Israeli policy has a history
>spanning more than two decades. In 1979 the American Israel Public Affairs
>Committee (AIPAC) formed its Political Leadership Development Program,
>which "educates and trains young leaders in pro-Israel political
>advocacy," enlisting hundreds of college students to collect information
>on pro-Palestinian professors and student organizations. By 1983 the
>program had attracted more than 5,000 students on 350 campuses in all
>fifty states. The next year the findings were published as The AIPAC
>College Guide: Exposing the Anti-Israel Campaign on Campus,which surveyed
>100 campuses and instructed students on how best to counter a "steady diet
>of anti-Israel vituperation." Around the same time, the Anti-Defamation
>League covertly distributed a twenty-one-page booklet containing
>"background information on pro-Arab sympathizers active on college
>campuses" who "use their anti-Zionism as merely a guise for their deeply
>felt anti-Semitism."
>As with redbaiting during the 1950s, the leaders of these current attacks
>are exploiting the fear and anxiety the American public feels about
>enemies abroad in order to advance their own political agenda. Now with
>access to the Internet, Pipes and his supporters have been able to expand
>their attacks into a virtually limitless campaign of harassment and
>intimidation. Since the dossiers were first posted, the targeted
>professors have been inundated with hostile spam, rendering their e-mail
>accounts almost useless, and most have been victims of "spoofing," in
>which their identities are stolen and thousands of offensive e-mail
>messages sent out in their names. More than one scholar has received
>telephone death threats. When University of Michigan history professor
>Juan Cole reported that he and his colleagues had been disabled by
>thousands of hate messages a day since their dossiers were posted, Pipes
>claimed to be shocked, shocked! at the response his website has elicited.
>"If Professor Cole has in fact been subject to such harassment, Campus
>Watch joins him in demanding that whoever stands behind this reprehensible
>behavior cease immediately," he told the History News Network, but he has
>yet to post a statement on the site.
>The Campus Watch site is a showcase for the signature distortions on which
>Pipes has built his twenty-five-year career. He twists words, quotes peopl
>out of context and stretches the truth to suit his purpose. John Esposito,
>director of Georgetown's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and an
>expert on militant Islam, is depicted as a Hamas apologist and blamed,
>without evidence, for the State Department's decision to refuse crucial
>Sudanese intelligence on Osama bin Laden before September 11. Joseph
>Massad, an assistant professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual
>history at Columbia, is maligned for signing a letter to the editor of the
>Columbia Spectator in defense of Edward Said in 2000. The letter,
>co-signed by Columbia colleagues Hamid Dabashi (a fellow blacklistee) and
>the late Magda Al-Nowaihi, is presented as self-evident in its taint.
>Stanford history professor and Middle East Studies Association (MESA)
>president Joel Beinin (not on the list but singled out elsewhere on the
>site) is quoted completely out of context and said to blame "US foreign
>policy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, rather than militant Islam."
>Aside from the dossiers, the site's McCarthyite "Keep Us Informed" section
>has provoked the most outrage, as it encourages students to inform on
>their professors, rather than challenge them openly as part of the
>academic process. Pipes contends that "American scholars of the Middle
>East, to varying degrees, reject the views of most Americans and the
>enduring policies of the US government about the Middle East.... Campus
>Watch seeks to reverse the damage already caused by the activist/scholars
>on American campuses. We see this as an ongoing effort, one that should
>continue so long as the problem exists." He describes MESA as a
>"left-leaning" mafia offering only "groupthink." The fact that MESA and
>Middle East studies departments include Arabs and Arab-Americans studying
>their own region is a particular outrage to Pipes: "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. Though American citizens, many of these scholars
>actively disassociate themselves from the United States, sometimes even in
>Pipes is notorious in the academy for calling Muslims "barbarians" and
>"potential killers" in a 2001 National Review article and accusing them of
>scheming to "replace the [US] Constitution with the Koran," in a similar
>piece in Insight on the News. Along these lines, a 1990 National Review
>article insisted that "Western European societies are unprepared for the
>massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and
>maintaining different standards of hygiene.... All immigrants bring exotic
>customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most."
>In addition to running the Middle East Forum, serving on a Defense
>Department antiterrorism task force and writing columns for the Jerusalem
>and New York Post, Pipes is also a regular contributor to the website of
>Gamla, an organization founded by former Israeli military officers and
>settlers that endorses the ethnic cleansing of every Palestinian as "the
>only possible solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
>At the end of September, after a torrent of criticism, Campus Watch took
>down the dossiers and funneled their contents into its "Survey of
>Institutions," which profiles twenty-four North American universities even
>more broadly than was the case prior to the revamping of the site.
>Pipes's intention is not merely to silence a small cadre of scholars.
>Martin Kramer, editor of MEF's Middle East Quarterly, laid out the think
>tank's objectives quite explicitly last year in his book Ivory Towers on
>Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America. The idea is to cut
>off government Title VI funding to Middle East area studies
>programs--which was increased after September 11--and redirect it to a new
>Defense Department program. Called the National Flagship Language
>Initiative, the new program launched this past April to establish learning
>centers for Arabic, Farsi and Turkish, among other languages, to support
>Americans willing to make a "good faith effort" to join the Defense
>Department, the CIA or a number of other government agencies after graduation.
>MESA opposes the program on the grounds that its association with the
>Defense Department and the CIA potentially endangers the safety and
>institutional access of students studying abroad, and favors programs
>administered through the Department of Education.
>Despite his claims of "not seeking to derail anyone's career," as he
>recently assured a university audience, Pipes aims for that and much more.
>Ruining people's careers may be only the tip of the iceberg. If he
>succeeds in smearing scholars by pressuring university administrations,
>students and their parents, and eliminating their sources of funding, some
>in the academy fear that Campus Watch eventually may try to offer
>allegations and support to John Ashcroft's Justice Department with the aim
>of having their targets charged with crimes punishable under the USA
>Patriot Act.
>As Queens College professor Ammiel Alcalay notes, "Once you create a
>climate in which any kind of oppositional thinking is suspect, you can
>push that further and begin to see where people's work has appeared, if
>they've written a check to a charitable organization, done a fundraiser,
>visited a country, written something that has been quoted out of context,
>etc. There are myriad ways."
>History professor Zachary Lockman, of New York University's Middle East
>studies department, believes that Campus Watch's primary goals are to
>stifle debate on Iraq,the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US policy
>toward Islamist movements, and to discredit their opponents in the academy
>by branding them soft on terrorism. In a letter to Pipes and Kramer, he
>wrote, "Though I'd watched you two in action for many years, I never
>thought you'd stoop quite this low, to such a crude effort to undermine
>the integrity and norms of academic life and achieve by innuendo,
>misinformation and implied threat what you could not achieve by reason and
>free intellectual exchange."
>But opposition to Campus Watch's efforts in the academy is growing. On
>October 23 Professor Amy Newhall, MESA's executive director, announced
>that the organization will work with the American Association of
>University Professors' recently formed Committee on Academic Freedom in a
>Time of Crisis, set up to investigate harassment of scholars and
>disruption of academic freedom. And at its upcoming annual conference,
>MESA is expected to pass a resolution condemning Campus Watch, similar to
>the one it unanimously endorsed 18 years ago censuring the efforts of the
>Both Esposito and Lockman are very pleased with the support they and their
>colleagues have been shown since the lists were posted. Many of the
>academics who wrote asking to be added to Pipes's list are untenured,
>potentially placing their jobs at risk, thus underscoring their commitment
>to fight Pipes's distortions. "I think there are a lot of people who have
>a good sense that this is an attack on everyone," Lockman says. "Many of
>us learned from McCarthyism. If it's Middle East studies this year, it
>will be something else the next."

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