Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Free Speech Threat Over Critical Book on Israel
by David Castle
October 11, 2007

False allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
Misc. Corrections

Campus Watch Responds:

[Ed: The following entry was reposted from the Campus Watch blog post, "David Castle of Pluto Press Discredits Himself While Mischaracterizing Campus Watch"]

The mischaracterizations of Campus Watch continue to roll in.

Today's bogus charge comes from David Castle, the continuing editor of London-based Pluto Press. By its own admission a press that "has always had a radical political agenda," Pluto has made news lately because its titles, which are distributed by the University of Michigan Press, include Joel Kovel's Overcoming Zionism. (I wrote about Pluto and Howard Zinn's letter of support for Kovel on Tuesday.)

Castle claims that Campus Watch is partly responsible for the controversy over Overcoming Zionism. To put his unfounded assertion into context, here's the paragraph in which it occurs:

The controversy surrounding Overcoming Zionism is only one example of what happens when an academic crosses the line of acceptable discourse set by the Israeli lobby. Campus Watch, another lobby organisation, is in the business of identifying scholars who are critical of Israel and attempting to discredit them. It is widely accepted that Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, lost his permanent position at De Paul University as a result of pressure from the lobby. There is currently a similar dispute over tenure for Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, who has written a book about how archaeology is deployed to support political ends – specifically, to demonstrate the veracity of Israel's supposed origins in a Biblical past, a claim at the heart of Zionism.

My comments:

  1. Campus Watch is not a "lobby organization." We critique Middle East studies (MES) at North American universities. In practice, that means that we maintain a large on-line archive of articles, keep a web log, and commission articles about MES, which we then post to our site. Castle employs the term "lobby" much as any conspiracist does: with an eye toward discrediting others without bothering to engage in rigorous research and effective rebuttal. I would ask Castle: If CW is part of a lobby, kindly explain precisely by what mechanisms this lobby works. Who issues the orders? How are they conveyed? Who follows them? How can he prove it?
  2. Under no circumstances does Campus Watch identify "scholars who are critical of Israel" in an attempt to "discredit them." In fact, our critiques of scholars are rigorous and accurate. We note ahistorical, tendentious, and politicized scholarship and teaching regardless of the particular subject under examination, so long as it falls within the field of Middle East studies. As for the professors whose work we critique, their own analytical and scholarly failures discredit them. CW analyzes and uncovers such failures, and then publicizes them to a broad audience, but we in no way cause them.
  3. Campus Watch has commissioned no examinations of the work of Norman Finkelstein, as he is not a professor of Middle East studies. (We categorize professors who teach and write about MES, but who were not originally trained in the field, under the rubric Moonlighters, but we do not commission work on them.) Moreover, as Campus Watch does not take positions on questions of tenure, we have argued neither for or against the tenuring of Nadia Abu El-Haj or any other candidate for tenure. Because she works within the field of Middle East studies, we have commissioned work on her, but our critiques are limited to the quality of her academic work.

(Posted by Winfield Myers)