Carrying out what seems to be a 'witch hunt' for professors and universities it claims are pro-Arab, anti-Israel, the Middle East Forum, a pro-Israel organization, has set up a Web site listing faculty members from a number of universities and allowing students to report on them.
This move by the Philadelphia-based think tank has been decried by academics as campus McCarthyism and attempted intimidation, AP reported Saturday.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council, among others, has regarded the project as "basically a hate Web site" and that posting "dossiers" on faculty members amounts to a blacklist.
The Middle East Forum said it organized the new site named Campus Watch to counter what it called pervasive bias in universities' Middle Eastern studies.
Forum director Daniel Pipes said the think tank, which names schools and specific professors, hopes eventually to monitor 250 North American academic institutions.
"Our goal is to monitor, critique and improve Middle East studies," Pipes claimed. "We're not at universities because our views are not welcome. We're trying to create an alternative voice within the field."
Campus Watch accuses Arab American scholars of generally being biased against the United States and being apologists for so-called 'unfriendly' regimes.
Organizers of Campus Watch said the site targets professors who "actively dissociate themselves from the United States."
For instance, it criticizes Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Near East languages and civilization at the University of Chicago, for dedicating his study of the Palestine Liberation Organization to "those who gave their lives during the summer of 1982 ... in defense of the cause of Palestine and the independence of Lebanon."
Eight professors are now listed on the site. The dossiers include short biographies as well as personal articles, letters to editors and essays written and published by these professors.
Opponents immediately called the site "McCarthy-like" and an attempt to stifle opposition to US policy in the Middle East. Professors listed on the site said they were bombarded with e-mail over the weekend, AP relayed.
Some of the professors who appear on the site derided it as fear-mongering.
Khalidi called the site "slimy" and said the effort "could have a chilling effect if people allow themselves to be intimidated." Campus Watch is part of a "well-financed campaign of black propaganda" that is bound to create opposition, he said.
Another of the listed professors, Hamid Dabashi, chairman of the department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University, said the project seeks to create fear that students will be spying on professors.
Despite the fact that it would not affect him, it could nonetheless be a "horrible development" for junior faculty members, he stresses.
"In the tenure culture, it could be damaging to the healthy relationship that has to govern the classroom," he said.
In a show of support for those listed on the site, other academics have asked to be added to the list.
A gender theorist at Berkeley, Judith Butler, wrote that she would like to be included in the list of US academics "who oppose the Israeli occupation and its brutality, actively support Palestinian rights of self-determination".