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NYTimes.com Article: Web Site Fuels Debate on Campus Anti-Semitism
by alvi_saima
29 September 2002 18:01 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by alvi_saima@yahoo.com.

Web Site Fuels Debate on Campus Anti-Semitism

September 27, 2002


A Web site started last week by a pro-Israel research and
policy group, citing eight professors and 14 universities
for their views on Palestinian rights or political Islam,
has opened a new chapter in a growing debate over campus

In a show of solidarity with those named on the Web site,
nearly 100 outraged professors nationwide - Jews and
non-Jews, English professors and Middle East specialists -
have responded to the site by asking to be added to the

The Web site, Campus Watch (www.campus-watch.org), with
"dossiers" on individuals and institutions and requests for
further submissions, is a project of the Philadelphia-based
Middle East Forum, whose director, Daniel Pipes, has long
argued that Americans have not paid sufficient attention to
the dangers of political Islam. 

The professors who were named include two from Columbia,
Hamid Dabashi and Joseph Massad, and one each from
Berkeley, Georgetown, Northeastern, the University of
Michigan, the State University of New York at Binghamton
and the University of Chicago. Those named have differing
interests, and differing academic status: John Esposito of
Georgetown, for example, is interested primarily in
political Islam, and considered a leading scholar in the
field, whereas some others are young professors known
mostly for criticizing Israel. 

The appearance of the Web site, just a day after Harvard's
president, Lawrence H. Summers, made a widely publicized
speech on campus anti-Semitism, is another indication of
the tensions on campuses over the developments in the
Middle East. 

Some of those who asked to be added to the site said they
were showing solidarity in opposing what they see as an
assault on academic freedom. Others were more interested in
showing that mainstream Middle Eastern scholars shared the
views criticized on the Web site. 

Mr. Pipes said the Web site was no threat to free speech.
"We're engaged in a battle over ideas," he said. "To bring
in this notion of academic freedom is nonsense. No one is
interfering with their right to say anything they want." 

The response from Judith Butler, a comparative literature
professor at Berkeley, circulated on the Internet,
providing boilerplate for many other professors: "I have
recently learned that your organization is compiling
dossiers on professors at U.S. academic institutions who
oppose the Israeli occupation and its brutality, actively
support Palestinian rights of self-determination as well as
a more informed and intelligent view of Islam than is
currently represented in the U.S. media. I would be
enormously honored to be counted among those who actively
hold these positions and would like to be included in the
list of those who are struggling for justice." 

Those named on the site said they were heartened by the

"It's a new genre springing up, and I'm especially glad
that it includes Jewish scholars," said Professor Dabashi,
who heads Columbia's department of Middle Eastern and Asian
language and cultures. "This is about McCarthyism, freedom
of expression. It's very important that it not be made into
a Jewish-Muslim kind of thing. I am most concerned for my
Jewish students, that they might feel that they shouldn't
take my class, that the atmosphere would be intimidating,
or that they couldn't express their opinions." 

He and others named on the site have been deluged with
negative e-mails. 

Many academics see Campus Watch as an effort to chill free
speech about the Middle East, and are particularly
perturbed by the "Keep Us Informed" section, inviting the
submission of "reports on Middle East-related scholarship,
lectures, classes, demonstrations and other activities" -
in other words, they say, inviting students to turn in
their professors. 

"It's that whole mode of terror by association, with the
cold war language of dossiers, and we're watching you,"
said Ammiel Alcalay, a Hebrew professor at Queens College.
"It's not so intimidating for people like me, with tenure,
but it makes graduate students and untenured professors
very nervous, and makes it even harder to talk about

Mr. Pipes said he had hoped the Web site would inspire new
dialogue on Middle Eastern policy. 

"We weren't trying to rile people," he said. "For me,
`dossier' was just a French word for file. Maybe that word
could be changed, if it is obscuring our argument, which is
that Middle Eastern studies at most universities present
only one interpretation, a left-leaning one that offers
only groupthink on the subject of terrorism and

He said the site was getting 3,500 hits a day, and had
received hundreds of negative responses, including about 88
from academics asking to be added to the list - a reaction
he took as further evidence that the field of Middle
Eastern studies is monopolized by one viewpoint. 

Many academics say that Campus Watch has added to a sense
that those in the field of Middle East studies are under

"Last year, Martin Kramer wrote a book arguing against
federal funding for Middle Eastern studies in universities,
and that scared people," said Lisa Anderson, dean of
Columbia University's School of International and Public
Affairs, and soon to be head of the Middle East Studies
Association. "Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer are part of
the same group. Meanwhile, there's concern that the
rhetoric around the Arab-Israel conflict is becoming
increasingly associated with anti-Semitic sentiments, and
that's scaring people too." 

The universities on the Campus Watch site include Harvard,
Columbia, Stanford, New York University and Berkeley, and
others less prominent, where Middle Eastern tensions have
erupted, including Concordia College in Montreal, where a
recent fracas forced the cancellation of a speech by former
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. 


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