Campus Watch in the Media
Professors accuse Web site of witch hunt
BERKELEY -- A Web site that purports to monitor the bias of American scholars against U.S. Middle East policy and has collected dossiers on professors at 15 universities is turning into a hot potato for its creators.
The site -- called Campus-Watch.org -- lists dossiers on professors whom the group contends are biased against the United States and Israel.
It also includes Snehal Shingavi, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, who founded Students for Justice in Palestine, and Joel Beinin, one of Stanford University's most respected Middle East scholars .
Late last week scholars across the country -- led by UC Berkeley Rhetoric Professor Judith Butler -- have asked the Web site founders to add them to its suspect file.
Some of them are indeed critical of U.S. policy, but many are not. The protesters include Jews and non-Jews, English professors and Middle East experts.
They bluntly accuse the site founders of trying to launch a McCarthy-type witch hunt, similar to the hysterical search for secret U.S. communists during the early days of the Cold War.
The Campus Watch site by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum hopes eventually to monitor 250 North American academic institutions.
"Our goal is to monitor, critique and improve Middle East studies," said director Daniel Pipes. He has long argued that Americans have not paid enough attention to the dangers of Islam.
Butler, internationally known as a leader in modern feminist theory and sexuality, volunteered her dossier in an e-mail to the site's founders in Philadelphia. "I have recently learned that your organization is compiling dossiers on professors ... 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," she wrote.
"I would be enormously honored to be counted among those," Butler stated.
He did not immediately return calls asking for comment.
At Stanford, Beinin said the Website's dossiers are a gross distortion of what he has said and what he believes.
"I was quoted completely out of context, and they're simply trying to intimidate people by creating a witch-hunt atmosphere," Beinin said. "These are guys on the lunatic fringe.
"I know several of my colleagues at Stanford have joined Judith Butler and asked to be placed on the list," he said.
University of Chicago historian Rashid Khalidi, cited as an example in that section, called the site "slimy" and "McCarthyite" and said it was intended to chill opposition.
"What they're trying to do is exclude from public debate opinions that go against the neoconservative consensus that dominates discussion of policy on Iraq or policy on the Israeli conflict by smearing us and calling us aliens," he said.
The Web site was launched days after Harvard University President Lawrence Summers denounced as anti-Semitic a campaign that began at UC Berkeley to condemn Israel for human-rights abuses and urge universities to divest in companies there.
Only a small percentage of UC Berkeley's faculty has signed the divestment petition.
It also follows recent campus demonstrations such as the one that prevented former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at Montreal's Concordia University.
Netanyahu also abruptly canceled a speech in Berkeley last year.
The Web site is www.campus-watch.org
Wire reports contributed to this report.Note: Postings in "Campus Watch in the Media" do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org