In light of the eleventh-hour negotiations that preceded Daniel Pipes' on-again, off-again lecture last week at York University, the pro-Israel academic prefaced his scheduled campus talk on Barriers to Peace in the Middle East with comments about barriers to free speech.
More Pipes on campus
Pipes, who also spoke at Beth Tikvah Synagogue, delivered his lecture at York's Tait Mackenzie athletic building under what he said was the heaviest security he has ever encountered as a speaker, including the presence of both Toronto police and RCMP officers, as well as surveillance cameras. That level of security was deemed necessary by the university, not by Pipes or the organizers, the latter said at a press conference.
Following protests from the university's Middle Eastern Students Association prior to his visit, Pipes' Tuesday afternoon talk was cancelled by the management of York's independently run Student Centre because of security concerns.
York's Jewish Student Federation and its umbrella organization, Hillel of Greater Toronto (formerly Jewish Campus Services) then turned to Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario region, for assistance, and CJC executive director Bernie Farber contacted York's president Lorna Marsden, who reversed the ban.
After Pipe's talk, pro-Palestinian protesters proceeded to occupy Marsden's office. The protesters particularly object to Pipe's Campus Watch Web site (www.campus-watch.org), which monitors and critiques specific professors and universities on their approach to Mideast studies.
Although Pipes called street-level objections to free speech "barbaric," he said academic barriers are more insidious. "[Such objection] has the air of civility, but it too would shoot down debate through more subtle forms." He cited grading of student work, selective granting of honorary degrees and his own visit to York as examples.
Although his JSF-sponsored talk proceeded uneventfully, with the exception of non-violent protests, his participation in a lunch hosted by York's Centre for International and Security Studies was cancelled by the centre's director, Prof. David Dewitt. While such behaviour is "usually categorized as political correctness," Pipes maintained it is as dangerous as calling for disruption of free speech.
Dewitt has said that Pipes' affiliation with Campus Watch led to the lunch's cancellation. "Campus Watch was seen by many as an effort to silence competing voices. We don't like the idea of intimidation of any kind," Dewitt told the Toronto Star.
After reading the mission statement posted on the home page of his controversial Web site - which states in part that Campus Watch "monitors and critiques Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them" - Pipes said that "the notion that we're engaged in a racist agenda [with] a methodology of intimidation and harassment [as critics claim] is pure, unadulterated calumny."
It's necessary for society to pay attention to what goes on at universities, said the Harvard-educated academic. "There is a tendency to let the university go in its own direction... It is time to take these institutions back."
He noted during his press conference that North American universities have become intolerant to alternative points of view. "One doesn't find this kind of debate foreclosed in the media or in government-sponsored activities."
Turning his attention to the Middle East, Pipes said he prefers to be known as a foreign policy analyst rather than a pro-Israel academic, but affirmed his sympathy for Israel in the context of a wider sympathy for democracy.
Both Arabs and Israelis have misread each other in the past, said Pipes, who is director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank.
Because Israelis made concessions and offered little in return in the Oslo accords, they "unwittingly sent the message that they were weak and demoralized," Pipes said. "The force of the violence now stems from the fact that Palestinians saw what Israel was doing and misread it."
Pipes does not agree that Palestinian violence represents an attempt to get a better [land-for-peace] deal. "The idea that Israel could be destroyed never went away." Even Palestinian crossword puzzles perpetuate the idea, he said, citing the clue "Palestinian city" and the answer "Haifa," which "implies that all of Israel is Palestine."
But the Palestinians' two-year-old "strategy of violence is not working," Pipes said, because Israelis are unified and determined.
The key barrier to peace is ongoing Arab rejection of Israel, Pipes believes. "Only when they come to see Israel as a permanent fact can there be a resolution."
The outside world needs to work for an Arab change of heart, he said. "This is what our foreign policies must address."
Only at that time can negotiations begin, he said, adding that Palestinians are paying a terrible price because of their own violence.
Israel is also paying a price, he noted, but Israel is functioning and Palestinian society is "stopped...When Arab rejection toward Israel dies, then and only then will the conflict die and the Palestinians find a better life."