I hope my colleagues will not mind if I speak up, as one of those under surveillance by the Middle East Forum. First of all, I hope everyone will realize that this technique is not a new development. The ADL, which has behind the scenes ties to the MEF, spied on and harassed protesters of Apartheid and of Israeli policies in the occupied territories in San Francisco, and that case was only recently finally settled:
I am also sorry to report that, whether intended or not, the Pipes watch list has resulted in massive repetitive spamming of the email addresses of all the scholars on it, as well as of many others. In one instance one of the academics received repeated telephone death threats. In today's world, singling someone out for opprobrium and monitoring has immediate effects in cyberspace, which a reasonable person could have foreseen. Obviously, denying academics use of their email facilities is a key interference with their research, scholarly communication, and career effectiveness.
What to do for now? I believe that an Amnesty-International-type approach may be the best response to the Middle East Forum watch list.
Those concerned that this move damages academic freedom and who object to the technique of keeping dossiers on and encouraging others to spy on teachers and writers should write letters.
If you hold such concerns, it would be legitimate to write letters of protest to the major news and cable networks protesting that give Daniel Pipes a great deal of air time. As journalists, surely they are concerned that he is heading up a McCarthy-like campaign of watch lists and so fostering un-American values and attitudes. They will want to be sure to know that he is considered by many to be on the far right and to espouse views which ordinary Muslims often feel foster attitudes of hatred toward them; and that they should be sure, if they have him on the air, to balance those appearances with alternative views.
You might mention the scholars he is "watching" by name. Likewise, it would be legitimate to complain that the media draws for talking heads on the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, which lists MEF personnel Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer as research associates.
Further, it would be legitimate to complain to your congressman and senators that State Department and Department of Defense personnel are detailed to the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, where they may come under the influence of anti-democratic views, and that frequently personnel for high US government posts are drawn from WINEP. If WINEP is associated with persons of extreme views who encourage anti-democratic practices, this development is deleterious to all Americans.
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Your congressman and senators are easily found on the World Wide Web. Tell them that you are concerned about academic freedom, and about the US government being entangled with organizations that detract from it. Tell them that you are concerned that the American public is dangerously ignorant of Middle Eastern affairs and that Title VI and other support for university teaching and research on the area needs to be increased.
Please forward this message as widely as possible to progressive email lists.
News programs and politicians use a "multiplier" so that each letter you write actually is counted many times over in their calculations.
Sincerely, Juan Cole
Department of History
University of Michigan