A Web site defending U.S. interests in the Middle East maintains a "dossier" on seven professors and a graduate student who have publicly criticized Israel and U.S. foreign policy.
"The function is to provide constructive criticism to monitor and critique and thereby improve Middle Eastern studies, which is effectively a monologue with all the problems that that entails," said Mid East specialist Daniel Pipes, director of Middle East forum, who runs the Web site. He added that Edward Said's 1978 book, Orientalism, which is highly critical of a history of Western involvement in the Middle East, dominates the field to the exclusion of other perspectives.
The Middle East Forum, a think tank headed by Pipes, is using the Campus Watch Web site to "monitor Middle East Studies on U.S. campuses" and to speak out against those who criticize Israel. Students can submit information about professors who criticize and reject U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Fifteen institutions are listed on the Web site, including Columbia University, Harvard, New York University and the University of California-Berkeley. The University is not listed.
The eight academics listed on the Campus Watch Web site have said they have received thousands of e-mail spams and spoofs - e-mails sent with false identities - in the days after the Web site went public on Sept. 18. John Esposito of Georgetown University and a former president of the Middle East Studies Association, said he had never been spammed before Sept. 18, but has received thousands of e-mails since then.
Amy Newhall, executive director of the Middle East Studies Association and a faculty member at the University of Arizona said she saw the Web site's function as "McCarthyite." In the 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy achieved national notoriety for chairing the a House committee that monitored U.S. citizens with sympathies for the Soviet Union. Newhall is not profiled on the Web site.
Pipes took issue with that characterization of his tactics.
"The professorate is good at calling names, not so good at engaging argument. I'm branding a lot of academics around the United States as close-minded, not everyone of course, but the Middle East studies establishment is monopolistic and does not allow other voices. Universities are islands of oppression in a sea of tolerance," Pipes said.
Thor Halvorssen, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's executive director, said the Web site might provoke debate.
"If it's a private organization and it has no government ties, and it has no government involvement, it is an exercise in free speech," Halvorssen said. "There's a lot of room in this country for honest debate and criticism and putting things out there."
Amy Newhall said the debate is not credible because the names behind Campus Watch's sponsors, the Middle East Forum, and the authorship of the site are not quickly visible.