Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Letter to President Wong re Professor Rabab Abdulhadi
by Judith Butler, Ahlam Muhtaseb, and Claudio Fogu
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
September 29, 2016

False allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
False allegations of suppressing free speech
False allegations of attacking critics of America's policy in the Middle East
False allegations of being a Zionist organization
Misc. Corrections
False accusations of being part of a lobby or conspiracy

Original text from Letter to President Wong re Professor Rabab Abdulhadi:

September 29, 2016

Dear President Wong,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, is writing to express our deep concern over the news of the relentless attacks on Professor Rabab Abdulhadi. The latest episode is a new smear campaign lead by Campus Watch/Middle East Forum, which are two branches of the pro-Israel lobby that keeps attacking the academic freedom of faculty who teach on or research Palestine. These attacks are orchestrated by a well-financed network of special interest groups such as the AMCHA Initiative, Stand with Us, the Canary Website, Zionist Organization of America, and Campus Watch (see the recent Los Angeles Times article on this network: On other campuses, similar attacks have led to the defamation and physical threatening of students as well as faculty who are engaged in teaching and debating issues regarding Israel-Palestine. It is clearly their intent not only to intimidate, but also to by example threaten others and deter them from their rights to academic freedom and free speech. These groups have a well-organized campaign to end any critical discourse on Israel and are fundamentally anti-intellectual in their aims. It is worth noting that two of the main proponents of these organizations, David Horowitz and Danial Pipes, were named as leading Islamophobes by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Campus Watch is resorting to lies, innuendo and the rehashing of the smear campaign against Professor Abdulhadi by AMCHA in 2014. Not only does the current campaign seek to stir public panic by employing Islamophobia and the stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, but Campus Watch is also specifically targeting her and the AMED Studies program. In the latest attack, Campus Watch and the Middle East Forum crafted a petition on calling on you to end the SFSU collaboration with An-Najah National University in Palestine. This is an outrageous accusation that is meant to tarnish Professor Abdulhadi's reputation, intimidate her and infringe on her academic freedom.

Therefore, we call on you to protect Professor Abdulhadi from this vicious personal attack, provide her with all the support she needs under such an environment of severe intimidation and hostility, and protect any faculty in the future from slander campaigns such as this one. Academic freedom means that professors are entitled to the freedom to conduct and disseminate scholarly research and the freedom to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise. Academic freedom means that what is acceptable or unacceptable for professors as such is determined by the faculty, not by administrators, alumni, or donors. Those who administer institutions of higher learning bear a responsibility for the protection of academic freedom. The purpose of the university is to expand students' critical thinking, not to narrow it. Scholarly learning at its best often challenges common sense viewpoints. University education therefore may and often should make students uncomfortable. Such questioning of received habits of thought is not done gratuitously, but for specific pedagogical purposes.

We also want to take this chance to express our utmost support of and solidarity with Professor Abdulhadi, recognizing her academic freedom and her commitment to justice-centered knowledge production. We stand with her against this continued Campus Watch attack and its McCarthyist tactics, its racism and its exploitation of Islamophobia.


Contact people:

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature

University of California, Berkeley

Ahlam Muhtaseb

Professor, Department of Communication Studies

Interim Director, Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies

California State University, San Bernardino

Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian

University of California Santa Barbara

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

Campus Watch Responds:

The latest smear-job against Campus Watch is from the Orwellian-named California Scholars for Academic Freedom (CSAF), an group of anti-American, anti-Israel ideologues that emboldens bullies and intimidates dissenters to ensure that theirs is the only view on campus.

In a letter to San Francisco State University (SFSU) president Leslie Wong, CSAF demands that he "protect" viscerally anti-Israel SFSU prof. Rabab Abdulhadi from Campus Watch's national campaign to end SFSU's nefarious Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hamas-friendly An-Najah University in the West Bank. (Read about our campaign here and here.)

As Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman, "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the," so CSAF's missive on CW oozes its mendacity line after line. In fact, its misrepresentations are the highest per-word of anything we've read. So, in the order of their appearance, let's refute their errors (you might want to grab a cup of tea, or perhaps a bottle of wine):

CW's campaign amounts to a "smear campaign": It's called "criticism." But academics, unlike professionals of a less delicate sensibility, reply not with fact-based refutations (much less an admission of error), but with ad hominem attacks that leave unchallenged the charges against them, as is the case here.

CW and the organization of which it is a part, the Middle East Forum, are part of the "pro-Israel lobby" that tries to silence anyone whose subject is Palestine: Leave it to those whose claims of sophistication are loudest to wallow in the most primitive forms of crude conspiracy mongering. We challenge CSAF to prove these baseless charges.

CW is part of a "network": No (again), we're part of MEF and utterly independent of everyone else.

"Similar attacks" have led to "the defamation and physical threatening of students ... [and] faculty," and therefore we're trying to "intimidate" and "threaten others and deter them from their rights": Among the oldest techniques of silencing critics: unsupported claims of defamation and threats of physical violence. So prove it, CSAF. When did CW ever provoke this? Who has been threatened as a result of anything CW has ever done? (Note: "threaten" is not a synonym of "criticize.")

CW intends to "end any critical discourse on Israel": Hyperbole or psychosis? You be the judge.

We are "fundamentally anti-intellectual in [our] aims": That a transparently political organization capable of grandly issuing a letter dripping with lies and spouting crude conspiracy theories while studiously avoiding any attempt to refute CW/MEF's campaign claims we're "anti-intellectual" is beyond parody. Then follows this howler:

"It is worth noting that two of the main proponents of these organizations [that CASF attacks], David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes, were named as leading Islamophobes by the Southern Poverty Law Center."

Actually, it's worth noting that the SPLC never made such a statement, as CASF would have known with a modicum of research. The same error was made in a petition condemning Canary Mission that even included a footnote to SPLC's site. If one bothers to follow that link, one finds:

Three other activists, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Frank Gaffney, have interacted with many of the core group [of 10 hardliners] as well and also have offended many Muslims, but they are somewhat more moderate in their views of Muslims than those who are profiled below.

Nowhere in the document cited by CASF is Pipes called an "Islamophobe." Sloppy scholarship is another hallmark of these crude ideologues.

The second paragraph below consists of nothing more than smears and falsehoods.CASF again makes no attempt to refute any of our research and continues to substitute slander for argument. Prove that we lie, spread innuendo, rehash anything (we do our own research and add to the work of others). As for stirring a "public panic" via "Islamophobia" and "stereotyping," this is comical even by contemporary Middle East studies standards. We must have missed the news that our campaign sparked rampaging mobs in the streets of SF. We leave false portrayals to our opponents, as occurred during Abdulhadi's service as faculty advisor for SFSU's General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), which included the display of stencils adorned with the disturbing motto, "My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers." Only in academe are open disagreement and fact-based charges represented as intimidation and infringement on one's freedom. Weak tea indeed.

Although the final paragraphs spout more empty charges of "racism," (prove it) "personal attack" (criticism) and "intimidation" (i.e., telling the truth) without addressing the moral repugnance of aligning with a Hamas-friendly institution, we were particularly gratified that CASF's petulant smear ends with the most hackneyed cliché extant by charging us with "McCarthyist" tactics. What a disappointment it would have been had they omitted this transparently silly charge. As we've gotten used to stating over and over, CW has neither the means nor the desire to mimic the tactics of Tail Gunner Joe, a U.S. Senator empowered to subpoena witnesses, hold hearings, and more. That we have truth on our side is evident to anyone who examines the facts and notes our latest opponent's failure to refute a single plank of our campaign. We've gotten used to stating that, too.

(Posted by Winfield Myers)