Most Americans have long since given up on the academic world. It's almost as if we agreed to let these radicals have their cushy, tenured jobs on the condition that we could ignore almost everything they said, wrote, or advocated. That arrangement hasn't worked out too badly. Since the 1960s, the country has consistently moved to the right as the universities moved more radically left.
But after September 11, it became clear that when it comes to Middle Eastern Studies, we should pay more attention, because the rampant radicalism is linked to actual terror.
Luckily the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank, is paying attention and has established www.campuswatch.org, to keep an eye on what's being taught about the war on terror, militant Islam, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and similar subjects.
Campus Watch found that Middle Eastern specialists—the ones who not only teach students but also influence policymakers and pop up on cable news—are in many cases leftist, extremist, intolerant, anti-American apologists for terror and suicide bombers. In fact, several of these Middle Eastern Studies professors have been accused of real terrorism. In February 2003, four men were indicted at a U.5. District Court in Florida as "material supporters of a foreign terrorist organization"—namely the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). They were:
RAMADAN ABDULLAH SHALLAH. Born in the Gaza Strip, he taught Middle Eastern Studies as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida (USF) in 1991. He is currently living in Damascus, where he acts as the PIJ's secretary-general. I'm guessing his students at USF didn't receive an objective education in American foreign policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
BASHIR MUSA MOHAMMED NAFI. An Egyptian with two doctorates deported from this country in 1996 for visa violations. He had been a researcher at an institute associated with USF. He now teaches courses like "Social and Political Issues in Islam" at the University of London. (Hey, I never said we were the only country that has this problem.)
SAMEEH HAMMOUDEH. Started at USF in 1995, where he taught Arabic. At the time of his arrest, he was working on a master's degree in "religious studies."
The biggest fish of all, however, was Sami al-Arian—a former USF professor who enjoys strong support from elite liberals. He was arrested for his alleged role in directing the American operations of the PIJ, criminal racketeering, conspiracy to kill and maim people abroad, extortion, visa fraud, perjury, the list goes on and on. Undeterred by the government's fifty-page, 121-count case against him (which was described by the judge as "substantial and convincing"), student groups at Georgetown University, where al-Arian's daughter Laila is studying, and various academic sympathizers (including philosophy professor Mark Lance and a chaplain from Howard University) held a fundraiser for his legal defense.
In June 2003, the American Association of University Professors condemned USF for firing al-Arian and violating his due process rights and—you got it-his "academic freedom." Sami claims he has no links to terrorism, so I guess that must be good enough for the AAUP.
Despite the official Ivory Tower principle that professors must be "tolerant" of "different viewpoints," Middle Eastern scholars and college activists display a disturbing tendency to sideline or censor views with which they disagree. At the November 2002 four-day conference of the Middle East Studies Association (an academic organization of professors in this field) more than 550 papers were presented. Out of this vast number, just one dealt with al Qaeda and one other with "fundamentalism." No one spoke about militant Islamism. Joel Beinin, the association president, even mocked studying terrorism in his speech, calling it "terrorology." Before September 11, a Sarah Lawrence College prof, Fawaz Gerges, charged "the terror industry" with creating an "irrational fear of terrorism by focusing. . . on far-fetched horrible scenarios." We should have a very rational fear of this kind of idiot teaching in a university.
The anti-American left on campus brooks little outside criticism. Consider what happened to Daniel Pipes, a well-known commentator on Middle Eastern issues (he founded Campus Watch). His lecture at York University in Toronto was initially canceled at the behest of the Middle East Students Association. Fortunately, the university president stepped in and said that Pipes had a right to be heard.
Even so, campus leftists and their professors (whose Faculty Association slanderously accused Pipes of being "committed to a racist agenda and a methodology of intimidation and harassment") did their best to run him out of town. Before the lecture, Pipes—a well-respected and knowledgeable writer—was taken aside by a detective from Toronto's Hate Crime Unit who warned him that he could be jailed if he advocated genocide or promoted hatred. Pipes's speech took place under locked-down circumstances, in a curtained-off section of the school's basketball court. Every attendee was frisked before entering. A hundred police officers, ten on horseback, were on hand to restrain the protesters.
This is what the Academy has become. An ideologically monochromatic place of false accusations and pseudo-intellectual thuggery. You can be sure that if anti-American apologists for terror like Nick De Genova or Edward Said (both of Columbia University) were invited to speak at YorkUniversity, they wouldn't be hounded by the campus Hate Crime Unit.
But it is not enough for the left to try to silence men like Pipes. "Classes" on Middle Eastern affairs are often little more than propaganda rallies. Consider a course offered at Berkeley in 2002, "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance." Here there were more politics than poetics in evidence, judging by the inclusion of three books (count them, three) on the reading list by Said, a Palestinian activist who broke with Arafat because Arafat was too moderate! The course description promised the course would cover "the brutal Israeli military occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has been ongoing since 1948, and has systematically displaced, killed, and maimed millions of Palestinian people."
Now, leaving aside the many factual errors and exaggerations in just that one sentence, it's pretty obvious that those students who opted for the course were not going to be getting a judicious, aesthetically oriented education in the poetics of Palestinian resistance. No, it was to be an exercise in brainwashing by the "teacher," Snehal Shingavi. That's par for the course in the Academy, and no one would have paid much attention, but Snehal's description went on to advise potential students that "Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." That was being a little too frank, and following the resultant uproar, Berkeley conducted an investigation and "acknowledged... that there was a failure of oversight on the part of the English Department in reviewing section descriptions authored by graduate student instructors." Good for Berkeley, but how many more Shingavis are out there?
Part of the anti-American bias of Middle Eastern studies professors can be attributed to sordid self-interest. The Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Foundation Arab and Islamic studies program at Berkeley, for instance, was given a gift of $5 million—courtesy of the Saudi royal family. Much of the money goes to scholarships, professorships, and grants, and very little of it, I'd imagine, goes to professors who are going to challenge the Saudis on any particular issue.
The rot spreads even beyond the cloistered world of Middle Eastern "specialists." Every elite anti-American professor seems to think he can score political points by drawing on his own, nonexistent expertise. Before the Iraq war, these self-appointed geniuses went to town. Daniel Pipes, in a column for the New York Post, helpfully reproduced some of their more inane comments:
- "We all know... what they're aiming at," said MIT professor Noam Chomsky. "Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world." Chomsky, a virulently anti-American nut since the 1960s, teaches linguistics at MIT.
- The war against Iraq "takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle," crowed Columbia history professor Eric Foner, who compared Operation Iraqi Freedom to the Japanese sneak attack against Pearl Harbor. (Columbia again? What's going on there?)
- Tom Nagy, an associate professor of business at George Washington University, traveled (illegally) to Iraq, where he offered "estimates of the number of civilians needed to act as a human shield to protect infrastructure and buildings for Iraqi citizens."
- Mazin Qumsiyeh, an associate professor of genetics at Yale believed that a U.S. war against Iraq would be just a diversion created by "Israeli apologists" and Jewish officials in the Bush administration so that Israel could get away with inflicting "even higher atrocities" against Palestinians.