As one of Stanford University's most respected Middle East scholars, professor Joel Beinin knows what terrorism looks like.
So it was a shock when he saw his own face on the cover of a new book titled "Campus Support for Terrorism," linking him to radical Islam.
He's suing the book's publishers in what is the first counteroffensive by a professor against a growing campaign by conservative groups targeting left-leaning college educators.
Conservative groups acknowledge they are watching scholars like Beinin in an effort to combat what they believe are inaccuracies perpetuated by liberal faculties on college campuses. But while many of the monitored faculty have stayed silent -- saying they lack the tenure or campus support necessary to protect their careers from outside critics -- Beinin hired an attorney.
"They have used my picture as part of their war on free expression," Beinin said. "I have never, in any way, supported terrorism. I've spoken out against it. They're trying to intimidate people into silence."
David Horowitz, publisher of the book that is the subject of Beinin's complaint, says he is simply exercising his right to free speech and considers the suit harassment.
"I didn't say he was a terrorist. I said he supported terrorism," said Horowitz, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture. "It is my view. If he doesn't like it, he can respond anytime he wants, instead of playing legal games."
Horowitz and other leading conservatives seek to combat what they believe is the "radicalization" of Mideast studies by liberal-dominated faculties at the nation's universities.
Stanford is among 18 campuses targeted as having "anti-Israel bias" by the watchdog organization "Campus Watch." "Stanford students are getting a very poor interpretation of the Middle East, an extremist viewpoint that doesn't tolerate other viewpoints," wrote Campus Watch founder Daniel Pipes.
Beinin, a 58-year-old Jewish professor who supports Palestinian rights, knows he has enemies. Secure in his tenured position at an elite university, he routinely criticizes U.S. leaders for failing to understand why Americans are hated in the Arab world. He decries the humanitarian costs of the Palestinian occupation.
The Ivy League-educated Beinin, former president of the prestigious Middle East Studies Association, favors peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis, and seeks a solution to the conflict based on the principles of human rights and international law. His work has triggered death threats; one caller said, "You know what happened to Daniel Pearl. . . . The people who are sympathetic are the first ones to go."
Organizations such as the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture say Beinin and others bear some of the responsibility for Sept. 11 because they soft-peddled the dangers of radical Islam.
In addition to its provocative books, the center is advocating legislation called "an academic bill of rights," introduced in at least 15 states last year, that exhorts professors to present a wider political spectrum in the classroom. A related group, running the Web site Campus-Watch.org, is collecting dossiers on professors it says are biased against the United States and Israel.
A nationally known writer and Republican firebrand, center president Horowitz is said to have the ear of Bush adviser Karl Rove and others in the White House.
"You can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story," said Horowitz, who is pushing for "intellectual diversity," saying universities must redress the preponderance of liberal thinking on college faculties.
"I consider Beinin to be a supporter of terrorism," Horowitz said. "I know that he supports the Palestinian Liberation Organization. I am going to guess that he supports the Palestinian Authority, which is Hamas."
Beinin responded: "As usual, Horowitz is either flat out wrong or makes arguments from innuendo. I have never said that I support the PLO or any of its constituent organizations. I have argued that the U.S. and Israel ought to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, not because I support it but because it is the pragmatic way to make progress toward peace. I definitely do not support Hamas."
Professors worry about the effort to assert political control over their teaching, research and public programs. They accuse the groups of conducting McCarthy-type witch hunts, the hysterical search for secret U.S. communists during the early days of the Cold War.
Ellen Schrecker, a professor of history at Yeshiva University and a scholar of McCarthyism, calls it "an assault on academia."
Beinin acknowledges that his lawsuit doesn't tackle the more profound issues of libel, free speech or academic debate -- rather, it focuses very narrowly on an unapproved use of a photograph.
"My photo is not out there for anyone to use as they see fit -- and certainly not to make money off it, by accusing me of doing bad things," he said.
Horowitz responds that he doesn't expect anyone to buy the book simply because Beinin's photo is on the cover.
"If I had George Clooney on the cover, OK, he'd have a case. But Joel Beinin? That's idiotic," Horowitz said.