Stanford, like all American academic institutions, should be a place where differences of opinion are accepted and examined. Unfortunately, a new organization created to target "anti-Israel" bias in universities is threatening freedom of expression at Stanford and other colleges across the United States.
Campus Watch, an organization founded by Daniel Pipes, head of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, recently placed Stanford among 18 American universities labeled for holding "anti-Israel" views. Furthermore, on the Campus Watch Web site, Pipes has posted dossiers on professors who he believes hold "extremist viewpoints" on the Middle East. We not only resent Pipes' McCarthy-style tactics, but we also believe he is dead wrong for targeting Stanford for having an "anti-Israel and anti-American" bias.
To label Stanford in this way is completely inaccurate. Stanford has a number of professors who offer different perspectives on Israel and the Middle East. In addition, Stanford's Taube Center for Jewish Studies is very well-regarded and covers all facets of the Jewish experience, including Jewish history, literature, language, religion and politics. And, in regards to the violence in the Middle East, last year, members of the Stanford community held peaceful demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, which presented both narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Campus Watch is just an attempt by Pipes to quiet voices in American academia that clearly differ from his own. For example, Pipes recently stated, "I want Noam Chomsky to be taught at universities about as much as I want Hitler's writing or Stalin's writing . . . . These are wild and extremist ideas that I believe have no place in a university." While Pipes has the right to disagree with Chomsky or any other professor, universities like Stanford should be open to a variety of perspectives.
Campus Watch monitors professors who "reject the views of most Americans and the enduring policies of the U.S. government about the Middle East," according to Pipes. But what is more un-American: expressing beliefs that scrutinize the U.S. or Israeli government's policies, or trying to regulate professors who hold these beliefs? Dissenting from the views of the U.S. government is as American as apple pie and allows American students to think critically, instead of blindly following policies of their government. American universities should be more frightened by the likes of Pipes, who try to limit freedom of expression, than by any professor who criticizes the U.S. or Israeli government.
What is even more dangerous about Campus Watch is the intolerant effect it has had on the professors it is watching. Professors listed on the site have been spammed with tens of thousands of racist, obscene and threatening e-mails. One has even reportedly received death threats over the phone.
No professor should be treated this way simply for his / her beliefs. Luckily, at Stanford, we respect diversity of opinion.
So, Campus Watch, this is one campus that you definitely don't have to watch.