I feel compelled to respond to the article titled "Silencing debate" by James Zogby published in The Chronicle Feb. 27. Zogby is an Arab-American who is concerned that HR3077 as well as Daniel Pipes' "Campus Watch" stifles free expression and debate about the Middle East. Zogby cites the fear of professors of being "watched," and complains of an "artificial balance" achieved when a campus balances a course about Arab studies, representing "300 million Arabs," with an offering in Judaica.
While I welcome Zogby's multiple contributions to The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle as part of an effort to achieve dialogue between Jews and Arabs, Zogby apparently has no idea of what has happened on campuses that inspired the establishment of Campus Watch in the first place. Clearly the Jewish perspective needs also to be published in a Jewish community newspaper.
For example, at my alma mater, Stanford University, coverage of Middle East studies has changed dramatically since my graduation in 1982. The University has added a Jewish studies program and a history professor, Joel Beinin, who has a special interest in the Middle East.
However, all is not well at Stanford. Professor Beinin, who is Jewish and is one of a handful of faculty in the Jewish studies program there, makes no secret of his utter hatred for Israel. In an interview in a magazine entitled "Muslim Wakeup: Prayer is Better than Sleep" in an article called 'Hug A Jew (March 10, 2003)," Beinin stated, "I lived in Israel in the early 1970s (and) experienced the cruelty and insanity of Israeli society...I have been a scholar and activist since without drawing a sharp distinction between the two." Nor does Beinin restrict his critique to Israeli occupation of lands in the 1967 war. "Israel was built upon the ruins of Palestinian society... Americans are generally shocked to discover that there are fundamental problems with the entire Zionist project, and not just the occupation of 1967." Beinin, as president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) a few years ago, led a spirited defense of Sami Al-Arian, the professor at the University of South Florida who, the government has charged, in his spare time served as head of the Islamic Jihad in the United States.
Moreover, Beinin attacked those academics who expressed concern about a rising level of anti-Semitism in the world. Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, was dismissed as a "neoconservative true believer with links to the Israeli right." Daniel Pipes was attacked as a "failed academic." A year ago, Beinin and other academics signed a letter to The Stanford Daily and other campus papers, alleging that Israel was plotting "ethnic cleansing" and "crimes against humanity" and he stated that American aid to Israel should be stopped. What was this charge based on? Who knows?!
Nor does Beinin include accounts of Arab anti-Semitism in his scholarship.
I could go on. The point, however, is not to discuss Beinin's politics, nor those of the Edward Said Professor at Columbia University, Rashid Khalidi, nor the huge donations that have been made to support Islamic studies at universities throughout the United States, including at Stanford. Nor is the point to silence a tenured professor who holds beliefs that are diametrically opposite to those of most Chronicle readers, but which are in sync with many university departments.
Rather, the point is to speak out clearly and articulately so that those who do not understand the extremist politics are not sucked in and devoured by these radical viewpoints. At some universities, Beinin and like-minded colleagues express the prevailing or only point of view. For a Jewish student who might wish to study Judaica at Stanford, the choices all are appalling.
We Jews, whether liberal or conservative, have an obligation to fight back, not just for Israel but for the sake of the truth. We can do so by writing letters to the editor of campus or community newspapers, by exposing animus on Web sites like campus-watch.org, or by fighting media bias by supporting sites such as honestreporting.org.
Dr. Daniel H. Jacobs