TORONTO (CP) - An American foreign-policy analyst defied protests and allegations of racism Tuesday to deliver a message to students that Arab rejection of Israel's right to exist is the root cause of violence in the Middle East.
But it was not Daniel Pipes' message that sparked the demonstrations and heavy police presence at York University as much as his four-month-old Web site, which he termed "adult supervision" of academics. Universities, particularly their Middle Eastern studies departments, are becoming increasingly hostile to pro-Israeli points of view, he said. "The intolerance that we find on campuses must be fought by greater attention to what is taking place," Pipes told about 180 students amid airport-style security.
"It is time to take these institutions back."
Critics argue the Web site, called Campus Watch, singles out those academics who criticize Israel's treatment of Palestinians or Washington's pro-Israeli policies.
Those academics are then subject to harassment and threats, said Malcolm Blincow, an anthropology professor at York and member of the Coalition for Academic Freedom.
"Huge amounts of spam were sent to the e-mail sites of these people, making it impossible for them not only to function personally but academically. Their academic work was fundamentally undermined," said Blincow.
"There were also death threats."
Pipes, the director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, said he had seen no proof of any death threats and insisted neither he nor the Web site advocate harassment.
However, he was unapologetic.
"I get a lot of this myself. If you're in public life, it's what happens. You don't hear me bellyaching about this, it's just a fact of life."
Outside the campus gym where Pipes spoke, about a dozen Toronto police kept a close eye on about 100 protesters, while another 10 officers on horseback watched from a distance.
Demonstrators, some wearing masking tape over their mouths, chanted slogans against Pipes, the university, or in favour of a Palestinian state.
"They cannot invite people to come on campus who are racists and who are hatemongers and who have absolutely no interest in free speech," said student Ahmed Habib, whose wheelchair sported a Palestinian flag.
Last week, the university barred Pipes, who was invited to speak by the Jewish Federation of Students.
After intervention by Jewish community leaders, the school relented within days, citing York's "strong tradition of providing a venue for the free expression of a broad range of opinions."
In his speech, Pipes railed against what he called "street opposition" to free speech, saying "these are barbarians who would close down civilized discourse."
But intolerant academics are an "insidious" reality that must also be exposed, he said.
He noted that former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to cancel a speech at Montreal's Concordia University amid rioting by pro-Palestinian protesters last fall.
"I could have experienced something, had not precautions been taken, along the same lines."
Pipes denounced "militant Islam" as a "form of fascism" and said Middle East diplomacy when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is pointless because of "Arab rejectionism" of Israel.
The students listened politely, applauding from time to time, although a few of them walked out immediately after the talk, with one shouting, "You're a racist and too stupid to even know it."
Pipes rejected any suggestion he is racist, saying he isn't pro-Israeli as much as a defender of democracy.
After he left, someone called in a bomb threat to the building and some students occupied the president's office to make their displeasure known.