Recently, Charles Jacobs strongly stated his disapproval that the MEALAC report gave "weight—without any proof—to claims by MEALAC professors that pro-Israel ‘outsiders' invade classrooms to hector them." However, several students and professors have corroborated claims that spy networks, most notoriously Campus Watch, coordinated attacks on "pro-Palestinian" professors. Why does Jacobs, president of The David Project, stomp his feet like a three-year old when the evidence points to a conclusion different from the one he desires? We must not allow people with such transparently political agendas to hijack the discourse on academic freedom.
Although ambiguous in parts, the MEALAC report is unequivocal on the following points: students and at least one faculty member at Columbia have been spying on Massad in an attempt to compile a dossier on him for one of the most disconcerting watchdog Web sites; Massad's lectures have been repeatedly disrupted by student provocateurs; Massad has fostered a respectful environment in his classroom, even when being heckled, and has been vehement in his opposition to anti-Semitism. For those who spearheaded "Columbia Unbecoming," I'm sure these cold facts are difficult to digest. Yet, Columbia must not bow to pressure exerted by people who throw tantrums when the numbers don't add up to support their preconceived and misguided conclusions.
Jacobs revealed his real bone of contention with Columbia when he stated, "The Dirks Committee simply evades the main issue: how to deal with the teaching of lies and propaganda by Arabist professors who so demonize Israel that defenders of the Jewish state find themselves in a hostile environment in their classes." Let's pause to decipher Jacob's highly charged language. Jacobs equates teaching students that the Jews slaughtered Arabs in Jenin to "blood libel, anti-Semitic provocation, deception, and Arabist propaganda." Dozens of human rights groups have documented the Jenin killings. This is simply an outrageous inversion of reality. I would be equally infuriated if some Arab-centric individual equated teaching students that the Germans slaughtered Jews in Auschwitz to anti-German provocation and pro-Jewish propaganda.
Furthermore, Jacobs uses the term "Arabist" opposed to "Arab" without explanation (his term conveniently rhymes with "terrorist") and seems to believe speaking truth to power is synonymous with "demonizing" Israel. Jacobs's charge is no graver than, "The Dirks Committee simply evades the main issue: how to deal with MEALAC professors who are articulate and informed enough to criticize the Israel, which perhaps makes a few Zionist students uncomfortable when they can't coherently defend their often untenable political views."
Jacobs goes on to make the utterly laughable argument that "the teachings of Edward Said function as a gag order." What in the world did Jacobs mean when he stated, "Professors and students influenced by Said are under pressure to speak no criticism of anything done by Arabs or Muslims"? I, for one, have lambasted certain Arab writers' dehumanization of women and certain Arab leaders' romanticization of violence. What gives Jacobs the right to make preposterous, unsubstantiated and sweeping generalizations about Columbia? There is no gag order other than the one Jacobs is trying to implement with insincere verbiage.
At Columbia, I expect my preconceived notions to be rigorously challenged in the honorable spirit of scholarly inquiry. I certainly do not pay over $40,000 a year to hear my established convictions parroted by tiptoeing professors. I expect exposure to new, and even disconcerting, ideas that relentlessly challenge my socialized beliefs and engage my developing mind. Unfortunately, outside groups such as The David Project recently used students as pawns in their master plan to silence professors who reject externally policed standards of ideological decorum. People like Charles Jacobs and his ilk who have no interest in students' rights and are only concerned with monopolizing the Middle East discourse are the real threat. And Columbia must never bow to such intimidation.
The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in human rights and political science and a member of Stop McCarthyism at Columbia.