GAZA, (IPC) - - A Palestinian professor at a high-profile university in the United States uncovered a new campaign in many American universities led and funded by pro-Israel and Jewish organizations in order to impose their opinions over campuses and marginalize the Middle East expertise.
The Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at the Middle East Institute of Columbia University, Rashid Kahlidi, spoke out to IPC against this campaign and said that several pro-Israel organizations have led a campaign against him and other Arab professors in the university since 2002 in order to increase the Jewish influence in campus and discredit the professors and their efforts.
In an introductory paper for the Journal of Palestine Study, professor Khalidi summarized the ongoing campaign against him by Israeli advocacy groups, pro-Israel lobbying organizations and several pro-Israel newspapers in New York.
"American campuses as diverse as the University of Chicago, San Francisco State, and Columbia University have witnessed a new form of activity over the past two years aimed at delegitimizing and intimidating voices - whether of faculty or students - that do not fall within a narrow range of prescribed speech about Israel and Palestine. In some cases this has amounted to the suggestion that any serious criticism of Israel was tantamount to anti-Semitism," Khalidi wrote.
He also added that the initiators of these campaigns have allegedly accused the members of the Columbia University's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department faculty of intimidating the pro-Israel students based on their views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Professor Khalidi referred to one significant pro-Israel advocacy group, Campus Watch, which was established by Daniel Pipe's Middle East Forum in 2002 to "take back campuses in America". Campus Watch has spearheaded a slanderous campaign against several distinguished MEALAC professors, including Rashid Khalidi, Hamid Dabashi and Joseph Massad.
"Columbia's MEALAC department was also recently the subject of a film that so far has only been screened privately made by the David Project, a Boston-based extreme pro-Israel advocacy group, entitled "Columbia Unbecoming." In the film, Columbia students alleged anti-Israel bias, anti-Semitism, and student intimidation within MEALAC, singling out in particular Professor Massad," Khalidi made clear.
In addition, the professor added that several newspapers in New York have also adopted these pro-Israel groups' accusations without investigating them, including the New York Sun, New York Daily News and New York Post, who also demanded Massad's firing from his position.
The accusations were also adopted by a representative at the US Senate and New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who has repeated the accusations and ignored most faculty and student voices at Columbia.
Professor Khalidi revealed that several large Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in the United States have initiated a plan to spread pro-Israel attitudes among the students and faculty of high-profile universities in the United States, especially those that produce large number of political leaders.
He said, "These campaigns included a variety of initiatives. AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], for example, was reported as "targeting 60 campuses, considered high-profile universities that produce large numbers of political leaders, or ones that are particularly inflammatory."
Khalidi maintained that several unnoticed news pieces talked about these campaigns, including the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
"According to these reports, this campaign, operating under the aegis of the "Israel on Campus Coalition," was organized, financed and managed by a diverse range of organizations and foundations, including the national Hillel organization (formally known as Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life), the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, and the Skirball Foundation."
The Columbia University History professor argued that the campaign focused on the issue that pro-Israel students are "intimidated" by faculty supporting other viewpoints, and that their campaigns was aimed at making American universities "intimidation-free".
"The term 'intimidation-free' was meant to reinforce the insinuation that pro-Israel students were being intimidated. The same accusation has been repeated at Columbia and elsewhere, and is a constant theme, implying that rather than this being a matter of free speech and academic freedom, it is one of abuse of professorial authority and the imposition of the extreme views of professors on students who are their helpless victims," Khalidi pointed out.
Professor Khalidi noted in the end that he will present further evidence on the Journal of Palestine Studies that are "only part of a disturbing attempt to silence those who would dare to dissent from the narrowly bounded imposed 'consensus' of views about the Middle East, whether with regard to Palestine/Israel or to Iraq."