In an opinion piece masquerading as hard news, Jonathan Cook of The National in Abu Dhabi smears Campus Watch while targeting two independent Israeli academic monitoring groups for their critiques of radical Israeli professors. Eschewing evidence for his argument, his unfounded assertions crescendo in a self-pitying dirge one hears frequently from far-left academics: criticism is censorship.
The first sentence sets the tone:
Right-wing groups in Israel want to create a climate of fear among left-wing scholars at Israeli universities by emulating the "witch-hunt" tactics of the US academic monitoring group Campus Watch, Israeli professors warn.
Note the buzz-words of the left: "right-wing groups," "climate of fear," "'with-hunt"--the latter term printed within quotation marks, one assumes, as a nod to the objectivity expected of news stories but never reached in this unintentional parody.
The charge is unfounded and absurd: CW has never launched a "witch-hunt," however one defines the term. We critique professors who, one would hope, could defend themselves without resorting to a kind of whining that is more embarrassing than edifying.
Cook's next salvo at CW is as lacking in evidence as his first:
Both Israel Academia Monitor, established in 2004, and the later IsraCampus, model themselves on Campus Watch, a US organisation founded by Daniel Pipes, an academic closely identified with the US neoconservative movement.
Campus Watch has been widely accused of intimidating US scholars who have expressed views critical of US and Israeli policies in the Middle East. The organisation's goal, according to critics, is to pressure US universities to avoid hiring left-wing lecturers or awarding them tenure.
Buzzwords again substitute for argument: "neoconservative," "intimidating" critics of Israel, "pressure" brought to bear to thwart hiring or tenuring "left-wing" lecturers. All because CW "has been widely accused."
Accused by whom? Accurately? With or without substance? If Cook has performed any research into CW's mission or record, he's done a masterly job of keeping it hidden.
We offer rigorous critiques of professors of Middle East studies in North America to a wide popular audience. If this is "intimidation," the word has lost all meaning. Our policy on university employment decisions is simple:
Campus Watch does not take positions for or against specific candidates for tenure or employment at educational institutions. It affirms its right to critique teachers, instructors, and professors at any point in their careers based on professors' publications, statements, and teaching, not on their career paths.
Underlying Cook's attack on CW are two conceits of the academic left and the journalists who love them:
- Academic freedom entitles professors to speak and write free from any criticism. Unlike other professionals--businessmen, clergy, attorneys, medical doctors, politicians--academics are not to be critiqued. They are only to be supported;
- Journalists who defend and popularize the work of such professors, which often serves the absurdist goal of undermining those characteristics of civilization that make their livelihoods possible, are exempted from compiling and presenting evidence to support their attacks against academe's critics.
Amidst such attacks, CW will continue to pursue its mission of critiquing Middle East studies with an aim to improving them.