So says Campus Watch, (www.campuswatch.org) a new watchdog Web site that reports on anti-Israeli biases in American academia: "There may be a war on terrorism underway, but the [Middle Eastern studies] scholars downplay the dangers posed by militant Islam, seeing it as a benign and even democratizing force."
Campus Watch has been in the news recently, when a New York Times article ("Web Site Fuels Debate on Campus Anti-Semitism," Sept. 27) publicized accusations of McCarthyism against the site.
Campus Watch is run by a Philadelphia-based Middle East forum. Daniel Pipes, its director, is a staunch advocate of greater American awareness of the dangers posed by militant Islam. Campus Watch's central tenet is that "American scholars of the Middle East, to varying degrees, reject the views of most Americans and the enduring policies of the U.S. government about the Middle East." Sunlight being the best disinfectant, Pipes and his associates have compiled information on Middle Eastern studies professors who display what the site characterizes as anti-American biases in their published writings and teachings. In the words of Campus Watch, these are the academics that "fan the flames of disinformation, incitement, and ignorance."
Professors whom Campus Watch has listed as biased teach at universities like Northwestern, Columbia and Georgetown. They are the academics who published a deluge of articles stating that American aggression was at fault for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and other articles excusing militant Islam.
The professors accused of bias have reacted angrily. In the Times article, Professor Hamid Dashabi, one of the professors listed on Campus Watch, said, "This is about McCarthyism [and] freedom of expression." Over 100 other professors, in a show of solidarity with those named on Campus Watch, have requested that they be placed on the list as well. Echoing the cries of McCarthyism, one professor from Queens College said, "It's that whole mode of terror by association, with the Cold War language of dossiers, and we're watching you."
The ruckus these academics are raising over McCarthyism, persecution and suppression of freedom is utter nonsense. Having your name placed on a privately-owned Web site does not constitute government persecution, and having people disagree with you vocally does not abridge your freedom of expression. Campus Watch is not the House Un-American Activities Committee, and these professors have not been blacklisted. In fact, their popularity among their peers skyrocketed after these allegations of McCarthyism began, as the "show of solidarity" demonstrated. Campus Watch does not oppress anyone. It simply participates enthusiastically in the ongoing debate over U.S. relations with the Middle East.
These are intelligent people: They all have postgraduate degrees, and are probably aware of the obvious difference between Campus Watch's faculty dossiers and McCarthy's list of suspected communists. So what is with the cries of persecution?
Some left-wing academics seem to like being perceived as persecuted. To them, persecution is equated with greatness: They see themselves as a Galileo or a Charles Darwin. Moreover, these academics use accusations of McCarthyism as an easy way to dismiss their naysayers. I once heard this bizarre obsession with persecution and McCarthyism called "Masocarthyism," which fits perfectly.
These professors' Masocarthyism will inevitably sour the debate over Bush's foreign policy, the war on terrorism and everything about our relations with the Middle East. It is ridiculous that academics who are supposed to be engaged in open debate are allowed to brush aside people who disagree with them by calling them McCarthyist. Rather than resorting to name-calling, these academics need to respond to their critics honestly and forcefully on the merits of their positions.