The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, September 18, 2002  

Watching the Professorate One Enemy At a Time

Say! There’s a new kid on the block: Campus Watch.

Campus Watch, following in the noble tradition of the groundbreaking but crude Accuracy in Academia and the more learned and refined National Association of Scholars, has taken as its task “Monitoring Middle East Studies on Campus.”

It will come as no surprise that Campus Watch is a project of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, of which Daniel Pipes is the director. The Middle East Forum publishes Middle East Quarterly and Middle East Intelligence Bulletin.

Let’s take a look.

“THE PROBLEM,” as defined by Campus Watch:

“American scholars of the Middle East, to varying degrees, reject the views of most Americans and the enduring policies of the U.S. government about the Middle East over a dozen administrations. Lest this characterization appear exaggerated, consider that, with only one exception, every American president since 1948 has spoken forcefully about the benefits to the United States from strong and deep relations with Israel. In contrast, American scholars often propagate a view of Middle Eastern affairs that, among other things, sees Zionism as a racist offshoot of imperialism, blames Israel alone for the origin and persistence of the Palestinian refugee problem, and holds Israel responsible for such problems as terrorism and fundamentalist Islam.”

“THE CAUSES,” according to Campus Watch:

“This bias results from two main causes. First, academics seem generally to dislike their own country and think even less of American allies abroad. They portray U.S. policy in an unfriendly light and disparage allies. The closer those allies are (first Israel, followed by Turkey, then at some distance Egypt and Saudi Arabia), the more hostile their analysis. In contrast, they apologize for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Syrian Ba’th regime, and other rogue states. . . .

“Second, 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. [Ed.: Does this include or exclude Israelis?] Though American citizens, many of these scholars actively disassociate themselves from the United States, sometimes even in public.”

“WHAT WE DO,” according to Campus Watch:

“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; [d]evelop a network of concerned students and faculty members interested in promoting American interests on campus; [k]eep the public apprised of course syllabi, memos, debates over appointments and funding, etc.; [k]eep the public informed of relevant university events; and [c]ontinuously post the results of our project on, including articles, reports from campus and other relevant information.”

That’s one hell of an agenda. Presumably handsome financial support is on its way from the usual sources? (Mr. Scaife, please call your office.)

We are not unsympathetic to the oft-spoken complaint of conservatives that academia leans left; it is, in fact, a rather well documented phenomenon. One would think the grip of conservatives on “think tanks” and large swathes of the media would more than compensate for the disparity, but that, and the cause of the disparity itself, are topics for another day. We might point out, however, that advocates of divestment from Israel by university endowments have been overwhelmed by opposition from, well, other academicians.

Meanwhile, back at the Campus Watch web site, visitors will find an array of useful tools for countering the purported bias, inaccuracies, and failures of Middle East scholarship in American universities.

In what we can only assume is a list in progress, we find “Dossiers on Professors,” a dramatic appellation for what appears to be something of an enemies list.

Thus far, “Dossiers” have been posted at Campus Watch on the following professors: M. Shahid Alam, Northeastern University; Juan Cole, University of Michigan; Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University; John Esposito, Georgetown University; Rashid Khalidi, University of Chicago; Joseph Massad, Columbia University; Ali A. Mazrui, State University of New York at Binghamton; and Snehal Shingavi, University of California at Berkeley.

Where’s Edward Said? Neutralized already?

There are even “Dossiers on Institutions,” with the list of offenders to this point including Colorado College, Columbia University, Concordia University, Harvard University, New York University, Northeastern University, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, the State University of New York, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina, the University of South Florida, and the University of Toronto.

Go ahead and read them, there are not yet in place “need to know” restrictions on readership.

To counter the nefarious influence of the household names on which Campus Watch has assembled its “Dossiers,” the group provides a list of preferred or approved experts on Islam, Islamism, and the Middle East, including Ziad Abdelnour, Patrick Clawson, Khalid Durán, John Eibner, Joseph Farah [Ed.:!], Gary Gambill, Martin Kramer, William Kristol [Ed.: !], Habib Malik, Judith Miller, Michael Rubin, Robert Satloff, Jonathan Schanzer, Meyrav Wurmser, and the aforementioned Mr. Pipes.

Not Debbie Schlussel? Not Norman Liebman?

The site also includes a section called “Keep Us Informed,” which includes a helpful form for professors, students, and others to report campus misbehavior; “Reports From Campus,” sure to be packed with riveting accounts from the front line; and, of course, the requisite donation box.

One would think that academicians of any persuasion would have ample opportunity, through conferences, seminars, symposia, lectures, journals, and books, to criticize one another’s views without resorting to the establishment of a Watch group. After all, isn’t this -- the search for truth, new knowledge, countering falsehoods, and inaccuracies -- what scholarship is about? Does the professorate not engage in this activity on a daily basis, as a matter of course?

Organizations like Campus Watch are just another variant of the ongoing, indeed incessant, politicization of academia that their members profess to oppose and despise. Aside from on-campus agitation and irritation, their true purpose is to inflame passions among a wider audience, the intelligentsia, opinion makers, politicians, and the media. Sadly, at a time when rising tensions are the last thing needed, Daniel Pipes and Campus Watch have elected to throw gasoline on the fire.

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