Scholars respond to witch-hunt website
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Fri Sep 27 06:54:13 MDT 2002
NY Times, Sept. 27, 2002
Web Site Fuels Debate on Campus Anti-Semitism
By TAMAR LEWIN
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 anti-Semitism.
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 list.
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
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
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
Those named on the site said they were heartened by the support.
"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
He and others named on the site have been deluged with negative e-mails.
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