Campus Watch in the Media
Pro-Israel scholar wins bid to speak
by Joseph Brean
TORONTO -- Daniel Pipes, the conservative scholar whose Middle East Forum seeks to shame leftist academics into harsher criticism of Arab politics, walked into a York University gymnasium yesterday to a standing ovation from half the audience and resentful silence from the rest.
His brief speech, in which he argued Middle East peace depends on Arab recognition of Israel, was significant simply because he was allowed to give it. An organized effort by student and faculty groups to ban the Philadelphia-based scholar, who was invited to speak by York's Jewish Students Federation, was stopped dead last week by school president Lorna Marsden.
In his speech, Mr. Pipes said there is a tolerance among the public for criticism of the role of violence in Arab politics, but that most university professors are engaged in "apologetics to the point of distortion." Those who hold dissenting views remain silent out of fear of academic reprisal, he said, referring to universities as "islands of repression in a sea of tolerance."
"The sources of this kind of hostility to freedom of speech are not on the right but the left, not Christian radicals but Islamists," Mr. Pipes said. "These are barbarians who would close down civil discourse."
He said Palestinians need to abandon their "ugly dreams of destroying their neighbour. Until that time, their fate will be dictatorship, poverty and backwardness."
"All supporters of this ideology -- Islamism -- are part of this killing machine," Mr. Pipes said.
Fearing a clash of protesters at the speech, York's administration imposed strict security, including a 24-hour lockdown on the building beforehand, metal detectors for the audience, identification checks, and dozens of police officers standing by to enforce the warning that hecklers would be forcibly removed.
Only one man defied the rule, with a cry of "racist" on his way out.
In the end, the strongest protest occurred after the speech, when about 25 students occupied the lobby outside Ms. Marsden's office. Last night, police were negotiating with the protesters to remove them. Police had also responded to an earlier bomb scare and fire alarm near where Mr. Pipes' entourage had parked, but both turned out to be false.
Mr. Pipes was scheduled to speak at a campus pub, but the location was withdrawn by York's student government, which runs the pub.
Pablo Vivanco, vice-president of external affairs for the York Federation of Students, said the decision was made because of the "underlying racism" of Mr. Pipes's Middle East Forum.
An invitation for Mr. Pipes to lunch at York's Centre for International and Security Studies was also withdrawn and the university's faculty association issued a statement saying Mr. Pipes has a "racist agenda."
The Jewish Students Federation then asked the Canadian Jewish Congress to lobby the school on its behalf, and succeeded in convincing Ms. Marsden to arrange the alternate venue. The speech was restricted to an audience of 200 people, who were given tickets by the federation on a first come, first served basis.
Malcolm Blincow, a professor of anthropology at York University, called Ms. Marsden's decision "grossly irresponsible" because Mr. Pipes runs Campus Watch, a controversial Web page that monitors the work of Middle East scholars in an effort to expose and denounce an underlying pro-Palestinian bias.
Mr. Blincow said Campus Watch is "an attempt to control the political activities of academics," and thus a threat to academic freedom of speech.
Critics at York University and elsewhere say the site, which is four months old, has exposed several academics to death threats and e-mail harassment, and intimidated others into silence.
In his speech, Mr. Pipes levied the same accusation against his detractors who worked to silence him.
"We are providing adult supervision for people who have not been watched. I think that will have constructive results," Mr. Pipes said.
Both sides of the debate yesterday invoked images of the Nazi regime to denounce the other. Mr. Blincow criticized Mr. Pipes' argument that Middle Eastern studies departments are being corrupted by the biases of their mostly Arab professors, saying it was "reminiscent of Nazi Germany."
Mr. Pipes said scholars from the Middle East "bring that point of view with them."
Mr. Pipes said his detractors were "like Nazis" for their criticism of his right to speak freely.
"He has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of defensiveness," said Abigail Bakan, a professor of political studies at Queen's University, noting that internationally respected scholars such as Edward Said have been condemned on Campus Watch, which Mr. Bakan called a "public, high-tech, witch-hunting tool."Note: Postings in "Campus Watch in the Media" do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch.
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