Sunday, September 29, 2002

CAMPUS WATCH WATCH: (NB: For my previous posts on Campus Watch, see here and here and here.)

First the good news. The CW website has now eliminated the language of “dossiers” on either persons or institutions, and has ceased to have a separate page listing individual professors by name. This is a clear improvement—though of course CW will now forever be known in academia as having “dossiers,” and I shan’t offer them much sympathy. Other good news: CW now includes extensive links to critical stories about itself.

Now the bad news. In an interview on Hannity and Colmes, Daniel Pipes (the creator of Campus Watch) objected when the website was described as concerned with “anti-Israeli” bias.

This is not about Israel. This is about Middle East studies. There are some of us who are Middle East specialists who believe that our colleagues at the universities are doing a bad job. They're making profound mistakes. They're extremists. They're abusing their power in the classroom. They're intolerant of other views. And we have set up this Web site to watch what they're doing, to monitor what they're saying, to critique what they're saying, and to improve what they're going to be doing and saying, and we're looking not just …

COLMES: Well, you...

PIPES: ... let me just finish … not just at Israel, but also militant Islam, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, a host of issues. It's not about anti-Semitism. I don't know where you got that idea.

[This is Jacob again:] This is a lie.

Let’s look at Campus Watch. Returning first to the University of Chicago page, we find: “Jewish and pro-Israel students at the University of Chicago subject to intimidation and hate,” with a list of “Bias incidents at University of Chicago “ that includes a joke about Auschwitz, a teacher’s attack on Biblical Judaism and the “ancient Israelite’s God,” a student newspaper’s distortion of the Torah, the scheduling of university events so that they conflicted with the Jewish Sabbath, one person shouting “all Jews should go to Hell,” and another shouting “Hitler should have finished the job.” Half of the NYU page is taken up with an article “NYU's President Honors Student who Circulated an Anti-Jewish Diatribe of David Duke.” These aren’t about Middle East Studies, about militant Islam, about Iraq, or about Saudi Arabia. They’re about anti-Semitism. (The coverage of the recent Berkeley controversy over red, white, and blue ribbons on the commemoration of September 11th’s anniversary isn’t even about anti-Semitism, and certainly isn’t about the Middle East; it’s about knee-jerk anti-Americanism or opposition to patriotism; interesting, but irrelevant to Campus Watch’s stated purposes.) If anti-Semitism is worth monitoring and exposing (even when expressed in nonviolent student speech) then Pipes should own up to the mission of doing so. As it is, Pipes is eliding his work with that of his colleague Martin Kramer, who really does emphasize arguing with the practitioners of Middle East Studies for their biases and blind spots. Campus Watch is not simply doing what Kramer does, not doing what Pipes says it’s doing. Either Pipes should stop using Campus Watch to monitor non-violent student expressions of anti-Semitism, or he should stop lying about doing so.

In her review of Pipes’ new book in this Sunday’s NYT book review, Judith Miller writes “Still another essay deplores the extent to which some of the nation’s most prominent—or most vocal—Islamic groups have defended and endorsed violence against Israeli civilians and used American freedoms to promote the Islamist agenda within the United States. But such sentiments are constitutionally protected speech and should not be confused with support for terrorism, a distinction that Pipes sometimes seems to blur.” Just so; Campus Watch blurs such distinctions routinely.

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