In "Bashing the Academic Left," a rambling rant against critics of left-wing Israeli professors published in today's Jerusalem Post, Ben-Gurion University government professor David Newman strays far afield in his unfounded, and unsupported, attacks on Campus Watch. In his second paragraph he writes:
The last few years have been 'in season' for attacking the academic left, a form of academic McCarthyism that is hard to recollect going back 10 or 20 years. Most pernicious and consistent is the self-styled Campus Watch, created by the neo-con critic of the Israeli left, Daniel Pipes. It uses students and faculty to spy on those teaching courses on Israel and the Middle East. Anyone who so faintly utters a word of criticism is immediately labeled as such, including some of the best critical scholars of Israel today.
Critics who cannot muster empirical arguments often settle for ad hominem attacks and hackneyed clichés, and no cliché is more worn than the charge that off-campus critics of higher education engage in McCarthyism. Campus Watch (CW) has no governmental authority, no powers of subpoena, no ability to force anyone to do anything. Nor do we wish for such powers. In what way has CW prevented Newman from speaking his mind? Does he not make these charges in a major newspaper? But feelings of persecution lend a touch of authenticity to lives of some academics, providing as they do a veneer of viability and importance to those who might otherwise be overlooked and ignored.
Using students and faculty to spy on academics? The aggrandizement of academics knows no bounds. We welcome reports from sources with hard evidence, which we always corroborate. And do students and professors not have a right to judge the behavior of academics? Does speaking up make them spies? By extension, are movie and theater critics, journalists and editorialists, and Consumer Reports employees all spies? Does Newman suggest that critics of professors somehow violate a code of silence--what happens in the classroom stays in the classroom? Is this La Cosa Nostra or Las Vegas?
Moreover, given that Newman couples his attacks on CW with a primary focus on Israeli universities, he seems not to realize that CW critiques only Middle East studies in North American universities. We do not critique Israeli universities, as even the briefest study of our web pages would reveal.
Campus Watch is a disgrace for anyone who believes in the concept of freedom of speech, and so it would appear is the copy organization Israel Academia Monitor, an interview with which appeared in the April 7 Jerusalem Post. It is little wonder that Dana Barnett was unprepared, or more likely unable to give a single name of an academic who has not been hired or promoted at an Israeli university for professing right-wing political views. I sat for three years on the promotions and tenure committee of my own university faculty. Despite the fact that the members of that committee shared a diverse range of political views, not once was the political critique allowed to intervene in what was, and remains, a very tough and demanding, but very fair, system of professional mobility.
A disgrace "for anyone" who believes in free speech? Such a sweeping statement that claims to speak for so many members of the human race (surely hundreds of millions), and yet not a shred of evidence? The academic left has for years claimed that to disagree with it is to silence it. This is a precious affectation, not an informed argument.
Finally, Newman writes:
Even more disturbing is the fact that organizations such as Campus Watch, Israel Academia Monitor and NGO Monitor, to name but a few, will not disclose the names of their donors and supporters, unlike the EU, which is a very transparent organization. While the right-wing organizations pretend to seek transparency among others, they constantly refuse to divulge the same information about their own institutions. Perhaps they would be embarrassed by the fact that many of their donors hold extremist right-wing views deemed totally unacceptable to the vast majority of the Israeli public, and in some cases advocate (from afar) the breaking of Israeli law.
Newman's information is flawed and his analogy fails. Campus Watch is a project of the Middle East Forum (MEF), a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization. As such, it is a private entity. MEF accepts no government funds, and like most other nonprofits, it does not publicize donors unless asked by them to do so. The same may be said of major think tanks of all political persuasions. Since donations are tax deductable, most individual donors certainly list MEF as a recipient of funds on their tax returns, and foundations list organizations to which they donate. The European Union, on the other hand, is a public governmental organization obligated to list recipients of its largesse (although I have European friends who would find the idea that it is "transparent" risible).
More to the point, without naming any donors to CW or the other organizations he mentions, Newman impugns their reputations by raising the specter of "extremist right-wing" donors whose views are "totally unacceptable" to some, and who may even "advocate" breaking the law. Where is his evidence for this absurd, unfounded charge? Who are these extremists? If he knows any, surely he would list their names and thereby embarrass any organization that accepted their donations. Once again lacking empirical evidence to advance a reasoned argument, Newman resorts to hollow insults and baseless charges.