Stirring a range of loud opinions and protest across campus, the controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes delivered a lecture Tuesday in front of a packed crowd in Sherman Function Hall.
While many attendees of Pipes' lectures supported his message, others did not.
Around 20 of the approximately 275 audience members wore black to show solidarity against Pipes' presence and views. During the last question, nine protesters walked out through the front of the room, in front of Pipes to protest his message. On his way out, Ammad Bahalim '04, former president of the Brandeis Muslim Student Association (BMSA), threw several papers up in the air in protest.
A columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the New York Post, Pipes has written twelve books on Islam and the Middle East. In April, President Bush nominated him to the U.S. Institute of Peace, a governmental think tank. After the nomination faced opposition in the Congress, Bush appointed Pipes during a congressional recess.
Pipes speaks on Iraq, Islam and Israel
Pipes' speech titled "Middle East Crises: A Review of the Bidding" was hosted by the Middle East Forum at Brandeis, the local chapter of the Middle East Forum, founded and directed by Pipes. In his speech, Pipes addressed three topics: the "War on Terror," the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the current situation in Iraq. Pipes said his lecture was about "the three I's: Islam, Israel and Iraq."
"The war on terror began not on September 11, 2001, but in November 1979," Pipes said. "That's when two episodes took place: the ... U.S. embassy in Tehran was taken over by militant Islamic groups, and two American missions in Pakistan were overrun. Between November 1979 and September 10, about 800 people were killed.
"That assault was responded to as a wave of criminality that had to be dealt with through the judicial system," explained Pipes. 9/11, he said, showed that this approach would not work.
According to Pipes, after 9/11 military and intelligence services became more involved and integrated into the war on terror. Pipes said the Patriot Act allowed different branches of government to work together against terrorism.
Pipes said the next stage of the war against terrorism must be a fight against "the transformation of Islam the faith into militant Islam the ideology."
The United States should have a national debate about the nature of the enemy, Pipes said. "Do we want special attention to be paid to the actions of American Muslims or do we not?"
His speech next turned to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
He pointed out what he believes is a fundamentally incorrect assumption of the conflict and of the negotiations meant to bring it to a close, that "when Arafat sent a letter saying he accepted Israel, there was a sea change - the existential issue had come to an end, and it was a matter of working out issues." In reality, Pipes said, "In political speeches, in mosque sermons, in school textbooks, in the media, in literature ... everything pointed to no acceptance of Israel. The map the Palestinian Authority used showed no Israel, only Palestine."
During the question-and-answer session, Pipes said that many of those who say they want peace really want only to extract concessions from Israel and maintain the goal of destroying Israel eventually.
Pipes said negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had been counterproductive. "Palestinians came to see Israel as a rather more fragile state than they had in the beginning," he said. "Diplomacy should come when the Palestinians realize they cannot defeat Israel."
The final topic of the lecture was the situation in Iraq. Pipes said that although he was originally against the American incursion into Iraq in 1991, he was "quite pleased with the outcome."
He had assumed, he said, that after suffering defeat and facing sanctions, Saddam Hussein's regime would fall, but that this hope had proved misguided. Pipes added that when Hussein survived and began ignoring weapon sanctions in 1998, it became clear that he was a problem.
Pipes said he supported the 2003 war in Iraq because the war applied the 1991 Gulf War settlement and instituted a preemptive policy against Hussein.
"We should not build Iraq as we did Germany and Japan after World War II. We defeated Germany and Japan, but we liberated Iraq," Pipes said. Instead, he said, we should "pull out to the rural areas and let the Iraqis run Iraq, let the Iraqis make decisions about Iraq."
Pipes: Pre-eminent scholar or racist?
Opinions of Pipes are mixed. The Boston Globe has said, "If Pipes' admonitions had been heeded, there might never have been a 9/11." The Wall Street Journal regards him as "an authoritative commentator on the Middle East," while the Washington Post sees him as "a man who seems to harbor a disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims." Pipes' visit prompted diverse reactions on campus.
Members of several student groups, including the Brandeis Muslim Student Association (BMSA), Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (BTvS), Students for a Just Society (SJS) and the Intercultural Center (ICC) opposed Pipes' visit because, according to fliers posted across campus, he is an example of "racism and intolerance."
When MEFAB first announced the event on Nov. 5, the ICC held an emergency meeting to discuss possible responses. Students immediately formed a group and mailing list called Hate Haters. The group has since changed its name to the Coalition for Tolerance.
The Coalition for Tolerance put up the aforementioned fliers, which contain excerpts from Pipes' writings along with reactions to the selections.
The group also organized a pro-tolerance rally, cosponsored by BMSA, BTvS, the ICC and SJS, held the night before Pipes' visit. Between 15 and 20 participants marched from the ICC lounge in East Quad to the Village, walking through dorms and chanting, "Oppose hate, tolerate," "One-two-three-four Brandeis students say no more; five-six-seven-eight start the tolerance, stop the hate."
After the lecture, several students stood outside of Sherman Function Hall holding banners and posters denouncing Pipes as racist and intolerant.
To open the question-and-answer session following Pipes' lecture, Yoni Goodman '05 said to Pipes, "There have been a number of allegations charged against you that you are a racist ... I want to give you a forum to respond to these allegations."
Pipes responded that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is "an apologist for militant Islam," and that the allegations made by CAIR are "repeated by those of you who don't do your own thinking." He went on to say that though most Muslims do not support militant Islam, today "the driving force is militant Islam," and it should therefore be dealt with harshly.
Bariza Umar '04 asked Pipes about a quote from an article he wrote in 1990, which read: "Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene."
According to Pipes, Umar took the quote out of context. Pipes said that in the article, he was trying to portray the problems Europeans saw with Muslim immigration, and that he was, in fact, "pooh-poohing" the European views.
When Umar presented Pipes with a copy of the article, Pipes read from it: "Muslim immigration presents a great number of painful but finite challenges; there is no reason, however, to see this event leading to a cataclysmic battle between two civilizations. If handled properly, the immigrants can even bring much of value, including new energy, to their host societies."
Pipes said his only regret about the passage in question was that he did not put quotation marks around it.
Prof. Qamar ul-Huda (NEJS), adviser to the Brandeis Muslim Students Association (BMSA), described Pipes as a "purveyor of hatred, notorious for his anti-Islamic, Islamophobic, racist dehumanization of Muslims," in an email he sent to the ICC mailing list.
Denise Katz '05, founding President of MEFAB, explained the purpose of the Middle East Forum and MEFAB in particular. "The Middle East Forum is a Philadelphia-based think tank that seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East ... MEFAB fills a niche on campus of looking at the Middle East through the lens of American interests," Katz said.
"Daniel Pipes is among the nation's pre-eminent scholars and leading commentators of the Middle East and Islam," Katz said. "He has devoted his life to study of this field."
Huda, however, said that Pipes is "a phony" who has access to national press institutions. "He has made a career in jingoism and using McCarthyite tactics against Muslims. I don't think Brandeis should spend its resources on him, nor should Brandeis students be duped into thinking he is an authority in the field ... for us, he is like David Duke or Louis Farrakhan," Huda said.
Prof. Dennis Ross (POL), who served as Special Ambassador to the Middle East under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and is the current director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, disagreed. He said that "Daniel Pipes, no matter what anyone says, is a legitimate scholar. Does that mean I agree with everything he says? No. Bu t ...he is not a racist, and is not anti-Islam. He calls attention to militant Islam ... Anyone who tries to discredit him as a scholar has another agenda."
Franck Salameh (GRAD), a Lebanese professor of Arabic on the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS) faculty and a doctoral degree candidate at Brandeis, commented, "Edward Said (late Professor at Columbia University) offends me ... He says the Arabs can't think for themselves ... but that does not give me the right to engage in personal attacks on the person and call him names," Salameh said. "If I'm so secure in my beliefs, I would not try to cast doubt on his academics.
"If someone who was offensive to me was coming, I would go and face him and respond accordingly, then and there. This is what would be expected of me as a student, as an academic, as a member of an academic community."
Salameh, whose studies focus on Lebanon, said, "I know (Pipes') work on Lebanon, and it's pretty respectable."
The question of free speech
Some say they see a broader problem on campus in which free speech is repeatedly limited. Ross said that "there is a political correctness that excludes independent thinkers from speaking ... you have to be confident enough in your beliefs to hear the other side."
Senator-at-large Jonathan Cohen '06 said "I feel stifled by liberals on this campus, and the mere fact that Daniel Pipes is coming to speak at this university gives me confidence that my views will be heard. Many of the messages that he sends represent how I feel."
Bahalim, another former president of BMSA and the other Coalition for Tolerance organizer, countered, saying, "It is important to consider all views, but I personally don't believe Pipes has much more than hatred to offer."
Katz said "there is discrimination against conservative views."
She continued, "The strategy employed by Pipes' opponents is to delegitimize his views in order to convince everyone else to dismiss his views a priori. Daniel Pipes' opponents thereby shut out the possibility of discussion. Legally, I can say what I want. The issue is that there is intimidation going on, and . . . it instills fear in people who might not be espousing a popular view."
Though the Nov. 11 issue of the Justice quoted Albert Cahn '07, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as saying that the ACLU felt Pipes' "views are not a message we need at this time," the ACLU does not oppose Pipes' visit. Melinda Grodsky '06, president of the ACLU at Brandeis, said, "The ACLU supports Pipes' right to speak here, and also supports the right of groups to protest against him." Grodsky and Cahn both said a misunderstanding had led to Cahn's earlier statement.
Mitchel Balsam '05, president of Zionists for Historical Veracity (ZaHaV) and Treasurer of MEFAB, said "People are too afraid to confront what is a legitimate concern of Americans. You don't get to stand behind a wall of accusations and not abide by Brandeis' motto: Truth, even unto its innermost parts."
Students react to Pipes' visit
While some Brandeis students were pleased with Pipes' visit, others were not.
Katz simply described the event as "a success," but Umar said it was an uncomfortable revelation.
"We wanted Pipes to come because we knew that there were people at Brandeis who thought like that, and by asking questions of him, we would be able to address those issues in our own community," Umar said. "However, now instead of thinking that it's a minority of the students who think like that, it feels more like the majority ... I learned that this is not my community."
Ari Stein '05, Israel Coordinator for Brandeis Hillel, said, "I felt that his speech went very well. He did a good job of explaining most of the accusations against him ... I think the way the protesters presented themselves with questions was respectable, but the way they walked out to disrupt the event was reprehensible and did not further their case."
Stein added, "Though I found some of his answers to questions people asked to be obnoxious, I would not call them offensive."
Bahalim explained why protesters walked out of the lecture, and why he threw the papers in the air:
"We could no longer pretend that it was an open forum where inquiry was being pursued. The manner in which our questions were answered was insult enough, being ridiculed by the audience was an added injury. Our dissent had to be demonstrated in a clear and determined manner ... I was upset. Given the circumstances, I feel such a loss of composure wasn't too much."
Bahalim added that Pipes' visit "brought the problem of hate and intolerance out in visible and tangible form."
Elana Lichtenstein '06 said the protesters' methods were misguided.
"Instead of responding to important components of the speech, (attendees against Pipes) used prepared sheets complete with out-of-context quotes to corner him. In that effort, they failed. Had people asked questions relating to his speech, their case would have been far more credible," Lichtenstein said.