Setting The Record Straight
Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.
Campus Watch, SPME vs. Alterman
by Winfield Myers, Judith S. Jacobson, Eric Alterman
May 14, 2008
False allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
False allegations of being a Zionist organization
The May 14 issue of the Nation published a slightly edited version of my letter to the editor concerning Eric Alterman's attack on Campus Watch in the May 5 issue. The May 14 issue also contains a reply from Alterman that fails utterly to address my complaints.
In his May 5 article, Alterman implied that CW acted in cahoots with Paula Stern to sink the tenure bid of Nadia Abu El-Haj of Barnard College, which we did not do. He also charged that CW actively campaigned against granting tenure to Abu El-Haj, a charge that is also false.
Rather than attempt a refutation of my complaints, Alterman commits the logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem by launching an attack on Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes.
Alterman quotes from an error-ridden, jejune attack on Pipes written by one Matthew Duss on the controversy surrounding Debbie Almontaser, former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. This lame tactic neither defends his original article nor refutes the points I made in my letter. The reasons for his failure are simple: his article made false charges against CW, and my letter refuted them.
Here is my letter as it appears in the Nation:
Eric Alterman mischaracterizes Campus Watch in his May 5 "The Liberal Media" column, implying that we worked with Paula Stern to deny tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj. He is wrong on two counts: first, Campus Watch never coordinated our work with Stern. We operate independently of any external party, be it Stern or David Horowitz. Second, we do not take positions on tenure questions. We insist on our right to critique professors at any stage of their careers, but we did not call for the denial of tenure to Abu El-Haj.
Alterman also charges that Campus Watch "offers its kosher seal of approval for ideologically kosher academics while attacking all others." In fact, Campus Watch has no litmus test for professors. We critique for analytical failures, politicized scholarship, intolerance of alternate views and abuse of power over students.
WINFIELD MYERS, director, Campus Watch
And here is Alterman's response:
I stand by every word in my column. First let's note that neither letter writer points to a single error of fact. The problems they point out are either "implied" or not stated at all. However, with regard to Daniel Pipes's Campus Watch, I think readers would benefit from knowing more about Pipes and the kind of work in which he and his organization engage. According to my colleague Matthew Duss at the Center for American Progress:
"Pipes spearheaded a campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy in New York, a public school focused on Arab culture and language. The campaign eventually caused the resignation of the school's principal, Debbie Almontaser. Pipes based his hostility to the school on what he called 'the basic problems implicit in an Arabic-language school: the tendency to Islamist and Arabist content and proselytizing.' Needless to say, Pipes offered no evidence for that claim. In keeping with his stated belief that Arab- and Muslim-Americans deserve to be subjected to 'special scrutiny,' Pipes apparently thinks the question of whether Barack Obama practiced Islam as a child is so important to the future of the Republic that since December he has penned three articles on the subject, always making sure to apply a thin veneer of 'scholarly rigor' over what is in fact an attempt to smear by insinuation and innuendo" (see thinkprogress.org/wonkroom/2008/05/05/daniel-pipes-crank/).
Given their involvement in so many campaigns of this nature, it would have been irresponsible of me not to include Pipes and Campus Watch in my discussion of the tenure question.
With regard to SPME, I appreciate Judith Jacobson's efforts to clarify the work of her organization. It certainly does not deserve to be lumped with Campus Watch, which is why I avoided doing so. Universities have long-established processes designed to insulate the tenure process from the political passions of the day. Any interference in that process is contrary to the principle of academic freedom.