I was just reading Cinnamon Stillwell at the Campus Watch blog...
The proliferation of dubious conferences on "academic freedom" continues unabated. And, in each case, biased and politicized Middle East studies academics are a major component.
In October, 2007, the University of Chicago hosted, "In Defense of Academic Freedom," an event whose unifying theme was "the notion that Jewish groups have degraded the quality and breadth of discussion in the media and in Washington." Hardly the stuff of self-described progressives, but such is the state of discourse in the corridors of academia today.
Then there was the "DePaul Academic Freedom Conference" earlier this month. It featured the usual suspects, all alleging "academic freedom violations" against DePaul University because "professors Mehrene Larudee and Norman Finkelstein were denied tenure." Apparently, the granting of tenure is now a God-given right and any infringements thereupon are considered grounds for martyrdom.
Next up on February 23, the College of Arts and Science (CAS) Student Council of New York University will host the "First National Teach-In on Freedoms at Risk in America." This time around, the gathering of the persecuted will include, as described at the CAS website, "our nation's foremost academics and intellectuals, and students and faculty from both within and outside of the NYU campus."
She goes on to name the "supposedly stellar cast of characters" - Norman Finkelstein, the convict Lynne Stewart, NYU Middle Eastern studies and history professor Zachary Lockman, etc.
Lockman's name rang a bell. I searched through my inbox, and sure enough, I had never gotten around to deleting these (there are times when being a lousy housekeeper comes in handy):
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2002 19:40:11 -0700 (PDT)
From: Anne Lieberman
Subject: Your position(s) with regard to Palestinian and Islamist violence
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mn4@ny.edu
CC: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
To Assistant Prof. Abboushi, Profs. Zachary Lockman and Mary Nolan,
We understand from the Campus-Watch.org website that you have declared yourselves in "solidarity with apologists for Palestinian and Islamist violence."
As a Jewish family with a son in the 11th grade, we are very interested in knowing what's happening on campuses, and deeply appreciate Daniel Pipes' efforts to give the public access to information about schools and faculty. With antisemitic rhetoric and activities increasing on US college campuses, accompanied by threatening situations and intimidation for Jewish and Zionist students, we are of course gravely concerned. We are not only concerned for the security and continued existence of the state of Israel and the multiple threats of violence toward non-Muslims that issue from the Muslim Arab world, we are also justly concerned for the safety of all Jewish and Zionist students at public institutions in this country.
NYU has come up in our conversations as a possible school for our son. We were grateful to see that John Sexton signed the American Jewish Committee petition of those college presidents committed to sustaining "an intimidation-free campus." However, three faculty members at NYU, even if only remotely supportive of Islamist violence, constitute sufficient cause for us to reconsider NYU.
We would appreciate an explication of your views, whereby you came to list yourselves in solidarity with apologists for Palestinian and or other Arab terrorism, before we allow our son to apply for admission.
We will appreciate your timely and thoughtful responses.
Thorney and Anne Lieberman,
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 13:23:27 -0400
To: Anne Lieberman
From: Zachary Lockman
Subject: Re: Fwd: Your position(s) with regard to Palestinian and Islamist violence
CC: email@example.com, Mn4@ny.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lieberman,
Thank you for your message. I regret to have to tell you that I believe that you are misinformed about Campus Watch and the circumstances that led it to list my name on its website, along with the names of other scholars who teach at NYU and other universities.
A few weeks ago I (along with many other scholars at institutions of higher education across the country) wrote to the Campus Watch website to protest the effort of its proprietors -- Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer -- to silence vigorous public discussion of Israeli and U.S. policies by falsely claiming that a number of our colleagues -- respected scholars of the Middle East and Islam -- were "apologists for Palestinian and Islamist violence." To express our solidarity with fellow scholars who had been viciously and recklessly defamed, as well as our opposition to this transparent attack on the principle of free speech and the norms of academic life, we protested our exclusion from Campus Watch's blacklist.
The full text of my message to Campus Watch appears below; I invite you to read it carefully.
The storm of criticism aroused by the effort of Pipes and Kramer to silence scholars who do not share their views by linking them with terrorism, subversion and "un-Americanism" has apparently led them to remove from their website the "dossiers" on individual scholars they had originally posted -- a rather telling move. However, they now seem to have decided to compound the injury they had initially caused by listing the names of those who wrote to protest (including my own) and falsely claiming that we sought to publicly express our solidarity with "apologists for Palestinian and Islamist violence."
We have of course done no such thing, and this latest episode only provides further evidence of the destructive and dangerous results of this kind of politically motivated campaign to delegitimize the views of those with whom one disagrees. I vehemently reject Campus Watch's unsubstantiated claim that the scholars originally targeted by the Campus Watch website are in any sense "apologists for Palestinian and Islamist violence," and of course I do not believe that I can fairly be characterized in this way either, though you are certainly welcome to scrutinize my scholarly work and public statements and judge for yourself. I am confident the same applies to all those whom Campus Watch has sought to defame because they defended democratic principles and the rights of free speech and open intellectual exchange which we should all value very highly. That the proprietors of Campus Watch have chosen to describe us in this false and disreputable manner is simply further evidence of their real goal, which is to place certain opinions, and those who express them, beyond the pale and thereby achieve by innuendo and intimidation what they cannot hope to achieve by rational debate.
The decision as to whether you will encourage your son to apply to NYU is of course yours to make. My colleagues and I in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at NYU, like our colleagues across this university, are deeply committed to free, open, vigorous and respectful discussion of even the most sensitive and controversial issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I can assure you that no student of ours has ever been, or would ever be, punished or disadvantaged or censured for disagreeing with a faculty member about any issue of current public concern; indeed, it is just this commitment to the values of the free university which led some of us to object so strongly to Campus Watch's effort to suppress debate by distorting the views of certain scholars and branding them as apologists for terrorism. And you may rest assured that we firmly reject, and stand ready to denounce and combat, any manifestation of antisemitism on campus, just as we would any manifestation of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim prejudice, or indeed of any form of racism.
I very much hope that my response has helped you acquire a fuller and more accurate understanding of how I came to be listed on Campus Watch's website, and of the very important issues at stake in this controversy.
Sincerely, --Zachary Lockman
To Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes,
I write both to register my disgust with your newest project, "Campus Watch," and to protest my exclusion from your list of faculty to be monitored and censured for having views you deem unpatriotic.
Though I'd watched you two in action for many years, I never thought you'd stoop quite this low, to such a crude effort to undermine the integrity and norms of academic life and achieve by innuendo, misinformation and implied threat what you could not achieve by reason and free intellectual exchange. I would guess that, after September 11th, you thought that your moment had finally come and that you should exploit it for all it was worth. The distress, intimidation, and harassment -- and perhaps also loss or denial of employment -- that your new campaign may cause, especially to those not protected by tenure, will probably be of little or no concern to you, nor will you be much bothered by the ways in which the campaign you are spearheading may further poison the intellectual atmosphere in this country and render open public discussion of critical issues more difficult. That would, in fact, seem to be your goal.
I have for some twenty-five years spoken out in favor of a U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East that would be consistently based on a commitment to human rights, democracy and justice, without double standards of any kind; at the same time, in the classroom and in public forums, I have encouraged open, honest and respectful debate about these issues -- the very antithesis of your apparent intent in creating this website, which is to sharply narrow the range of permissible opinion. Like a number of others in our politically sensitive field, I was in the past subjected to an organized effort (without the new technology you have at your disposal) to deny me employment in my profession. That threat did not silence me then, nor will this new blacklist you are compiling and purveying stop me or others from speaking out on issues of public concern and expressing views of the kind you now seek to suppress, by distorting them and by labelling them as subversive and dangerous, if not treasonous.
Your failure to include me on your blacklist (though NYU, the institution at which I teach, does appear) suggests to me that perhaps I have not been vocal or active enough, and I will therefore try to speak out more loudly and effectively in the future. If that gets me onto your blacklist, so be it; it will be an honor to be in the company of some distinguished scholars who take their responsibilities as citizens of a democratic society seriously.