Israel today confronts hateful enemies in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but Daniel Pipes and Asaf Romirowsky have committed a grievous error by including Prof. Mustafa Abu Sway in their ranks. ("Fulbright's terrorist tie," Ledger, Oct. 24)
Mustafa is a Palestinian Muslim who does not endorse any nation-state, whether Jewish or Palestinian.
I was pained and outraged when Pipes and Romirowsky, in their polemical zeal, cast vile aspersions on my friend's character.
Actually, I should not have to defend my friend and colleague. It ought to be Pipes and Romirowsky who are on the defensive, given the McCarthy-like string of unproven allegations and insinuations they employ to assault the reputation of a scholar and father of four.
In building their "case" against Abu Sway, they claim that "according to the Israeli government"--without specifying any government spokesperson--Abu Sway "‘is known as an activist' in Hamas..." Note how the inside quote, from the unnamed government source, ends after the word "activist," with Pipes and Romirowsky adding "in Hamas." A few lines later, they write, "The Israeli government informed us of his Hamas ties." Still no substantiation is given for this claim of links to Hamas. It remains an anonymous defamation of character. The American reader is supposed to feel outraged that "an alleged activist in a terrorist organization" received clearance from the State Department and was awarded government funding as a Fulbright Scholar at Florida Atlantic University. That university is also taken to task by Pipes and Romirowsky for hosting him.
In their determination to unmask Islamic jihadists posing as innocent professors, Pipes and Romirowsky violate the basic rules of fair journalism, distorting the truth to serve their polemical ends. The "sordid affair" is not that Abu Sway was granted a Fulbright position; rather, it is that Pipes and Romirowsky can defame the character of someone they do not know, and falsely accuse the State Department and a university of irresponsibility, in the pages of reputable newspapers and on the Internet. Moreover, they broaden their attack from an assault against one scholar to the whole field of Middle Eastern studies, claiming that "connections to Islamist terrorism [are] becoming acceptable and almost routine" in that field. Such a sweeping, indiscriminate smear campaign should alarm anyone who believes in fairness and decency. Harmful misrepresentations must not be tolerated in the name of "free speech," nor should they be accepted as "collateral damage" in the war on terrorism.
Let me cite these words by the distinguished Muslim scholar Abdulaziz Sachedina, a professor at the University of Virginia: "I have known Mustafa Abu Sway for many years. In fact, he is among those Palestinian professors who have promoted dialogue with Israelis. When we were in Jerusalem working with the Elijah School of Religious Wisdom, Mustafa was the only Palestinian professor who participated with Jews and Christians on the issues of conflict resolution through religious dialogue. Daniel Pipes' accusations against him are baseless."
Prof. Yehezkel Landau
Daniel Pipes and Asaf Romirowsky respond:
The following is a copy of a letter we received from Deputy Consul General of Israel Matty Cohen dated Oct. 3, 2003:
"…I checked with the relevant authorities in Israel. I can confirm to you that Dr. Abu Sway is known as an activist in the framework of the Hamas organization."