When on October 1, 2013, Samantha Bowden crept unannounced into the classroom of University of Central Florida communications professor Jonathan Matusitz, she wasn't hoping to advance her education on the sly. Rather, Bowden, the communication and outreach director for the Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-FL), was doing something of which Campus Watch has been frequently accused, but has never done: spying on a professor in an effort to embarrass him and, with luck, even harm his career.
Since its inception in 2002, Campus Watch (CW)—a project of the Middle East Forum that reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them—has been charged with an array of outrageous calumnies. They include paying students to infiltrate classrooms as "spies" or "informers"; targeting "pro-Palestinian" professors; and tracking "anti-Israel" comments." (Click here for a full collection of examples.)
Writing at his blog in 2005, University of Pennsylvania teaching assistant David Faris claimed to have been dogged by a Campus Watch "spy" for months: "At Penn, one of my semesters as a teaching assistant was deeply marred by an undergraduate Campus Watch spy." Faris flatters himself, as Campus Watch has never heard of him, then or since.
Hatem Bazian, a Near Eastern studies lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, declared in a 2006 interview that "he knew of students in his classroom who attended just so they could write down what he says, essentially spying on him."
Ben-Gurion University political geography professor David Newman, in 2010, fantasized that Campus Watch "turns students into spies in the name of a specific political ideology."
In 2010, Dorit Naaman, a film and media professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, wrote that Campus Watch "asked students to spy on their professors and track their 'anti Israel' record on a public website."
Meanwhile, in a 2012 interview, University of Pennsylvania political science professor Ian Lustick maintained that "he has had students in his classes act as 'spies' for Campus Watch."
While such colorful tales of intrigue make for a gripping story, Campus Watch defies anyone to provide proof that it ever sent paid "spies" into university classrooms. Can one of the accusers make available a paycheck stub or other written evidence to indicate that Campus Watch staff sought to infiltrate a professor's classroom? Have any Campus Watch employees actually been apprehended sneaking into classrooms in the manner of CAIR's Bowden?
Indeed, CAIR has been caught red-handed doing exactly that with which academia and its allies have fallaciously charged Campus Watch and instead of outrage, the incident has been met with silence.
The fact that CAIR—an Islamist outfit posing as a defender of civil rights, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial (among other terrorist ties), and a recipient of illegal foreign funding—has been embraced by the Middle East studies establishment (click here, here, here, here, and here for just a few examples) likely has something to do with it. It turns out the only "spies" Middle East studies specialists are truly concerned about are those that threaten the politically-correct view of the Middle East; when it's one of their own, they turn a blind eye. This the height of hypocrisy, not to mention a textbook example of projection.
Campus Watch challenges these professors to denounce CAIR's harassment with the same fervor they've demonstrated over the years leveling spurious accusations of spying against CW. To do otherwise would be to demonstrate the hollowness of their concerns.
Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.