Summer is usually a fairly sleepy time on the campus of Duke University. The normal hustle and bustle of the school year has not yet arrived, and the college is markedly bereft of students.
Accordingly, Christof Galli, the "Middle East Resources Specialist" for Perkins Library, figured that this would prove a perfect time to eschew his role as a librarian in favor of donning the cap of political proselytizer. In August, Mr. Galli offered a website affixed to Perkins Library's main page, disingenuously advertised as a kind of start-up kit for students interested in the Middle East.
This website, interestingly titled "Palestine Internet Resources," lucidly demonstrated Mr. Galli's desire to misuse his post in order to force-feed his own views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to unsuspecting students. As DCU president Nathan Carleton proved in his September 16 column in The Chronicle, Mr. Galli presented the Duke community with a website chock-a-block with anti-Israeli sentiment that occasionally degenerated into outright anti-Semitism.
Students who visited the page, for example, were greeted with a map of Israel labeled "Palestine." The "News" section of the website listed 14 news sources, of which only one was pro-Israel. The ever-sensitive Mr. Galli also provided a link to a "Palestinian" cartoon website that features, among its other charms, a picture of the Star of David fashioned out of barbed wire. To make matters worse, Mr. Galli listed Hamas, which the US State Department and the European Union deem a terrorist organization, as a "political group."
Justly outraged by Mr. Galli's obvious political cheerleading, two DCU members informed Mr. Galli and David Ferriero, Duke's University Librarian, of this disgrace. They not only demonstrated Mr. Galli's brazen disregard for objectivity, but also his patent incompetence: this "expert" on Middle Eastern affairs offered an introductory paragraph on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict replete with errors, including the ridiculous claim that "millions" of Palestinians had been expelled by Israel in 1948.
Naturally, in his propagandistic opening salvo on the conflict, Mr. Galli made no reference to some 850,000 Jewish refugees of Arab countries who settled in Israel at this time. Naturally, Mr. Galli made no reference to the fact that Israel had been compelled to fight wars for its very survival against hostile Arab forces in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Naturally, Mr. Galli offered no reference to terrorism or suicide bombing. All of these trifles, Mr. Galli must think, are irrelevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Having pointed out the sundry flaws and distortions in Mr. Galli's website, the two DCU members assumed that the library would soon correct its errors. They thought wrong. On the contrary, the library replaced the "Palestine" website with a new "Iraq Internet Resources" page, constructed by the self-same Mr. Galli. This site proved even more tilted than the "Palestine" page: all of its news sources were staunchly against the liberation of Iraq, and Mr. Galli made sure to offer no sites that supported the Bush Administration's policies.
Once again, the DCU members—now acting as unofficial fact-checkers and bias-detectors for the "Middle East Resources Specialist"—objected to the blatant cheerleading detectable on the site. They offered the names of numerous websites that would correct the disgraceful distortion Mr. Galli engineered.
When the sites reappeared, however, very little was done in the way of correction. Both sites remain entirely tilted toward the anti-Israel, anti-Bush side of matters. And no wonder: Mr. Galli is hardly a disinterested observer of the Middle East. Rather, he is a member in good standing of the Muslim Networks Consortium, a group run by two Duke professors, Ebrahim Moosa and miriam [sic] cooke [sic].
For those of you unacquainted with these delightful pedants, allow us to introduce them. Dr. Moosa of the Religion Department is something of a radical Islamist. As reported in the April 23 number of The Chronicle, the charming Dr. Moosa participated in a debate in which he exclaimed, "I think the language of ‘terrorism' is going to go out, and it's going to be replaced with ‘resistance' and ‘liberation' from American power."
Not to be outdone, Dr. cooke (or is that dr. cooke?) signed an open letter urging President Bush not to invade Iraq because Israel was likely to use this as an excuse to engage in "ethnic cleansing" against the Palestinians. (No word on whether Dr. cooke has apologized for this sentiment, which turned out, mirabile dictu, to be entirely wrong.) Dr. cooke, whose Lower-Case Name surely owes more to bell hooks than e.e. cummings, then, is another political radical militantly—and ridiculously—opposed to the State of Israel.
Fine colleagues for the "Middle East Resources Specialist," indeed! And, to think, Mr. Galli ended up offering students propaganda instead of a primer on current affairs. Who would have guessed?
Evidently not David Ferriero. In a ridiculous letter to The Chronicle in response to Nathan Carleton's exposing of Mr. Galli's shameful conduct, Mr. Ferriero opined that the websites are, in fact, paragons of intellectual diversity. His argument is so absurd, it borders on self-parody. Mr. Ferriero believes that the news sources Mr. Galli listed are all "papers of record, offering unbiased coverage."
Never mind the patent lunacy of arguing that any news source presents entirely objective coverage. Instead, let us ponder the sources that the esteemed Mr. Ferriero considers such enlightened beacons of objectivity: al-Ahram, al-Bawaba, al-Jazeera, and al-Sharq al-Aswat. Mr. Ferriero might like to know that these media outlets (with the partial exception of al-Jazeera, which is largely financed by Qatar) are all propaganda machines. Al-Ahram, for example, is the mouthpiece of the current Egyptian government; its writers must adhere to their tyrants' party-line. It is an embarrassment that the head of Duke's library system would deem these dubious sources objective.
Even more embarrassing is Mr. Ferriero's claim, in the same letter to The Chronicle, that the website memri.org (which Mr. Ferriero, displaying his deep-seated knowledge of the Middle East, wrongly calls "memri.com") is inappropriate for a webpage devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because it tracks the anti-Semitic passages found in the Arab news sources Mr. Galli posts on his sites. As Anna Stroman, in a reply to Mr. Ferriero's pathetic letter, pointed out, "In effect, Ferriero argues that the issue of anti-Semitism is entirely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Mr. Galli and Mr. Ferriero should be deeply ashamed of their actions. The former "librarian" misused his post as a bully pulpit to preach to unsuspecting students. The latter is too foolish to realize this. Neither man deserves a position at a serious institution of higher learning. But, in modern academia, these shenanigans are just business as usual.