Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Watching the Pro-Israeli Academic Watchers
by Leslie Wagner
Jewish Political Studies Review (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
Fall 2010

Misc. Corrections

Campus Watch Responds:

The Fall 2010 Jewish Political Studies Review—an Institute for Global Jewish Affairs publication—features a report titled "Watching the Pro-Israeli Academic Watchers" by British academic Leslie Wagner. While offering a sympathetic and largely accurate portrayal of Campus Watch, Wagner makes a few errors.

On several occasions, Wagner describes Campus Watch (CW) as focusing solely on "anti-Israel" bias in Middle East studies:

Campus Watch, also U.S.-based, is part of the well-established Middle East Forum and focuses on the anti-Israeli biases of Middle East courses and the academics who teach them.

. . .

Meanwhile the long-established Middle East Forum, in the United States, led by Dr. Daniel Pipes had been giving greater attention to Middle East Studies courses on U.S. campuses, alleging that they were increasingly showing anti-Israeli bias and were increasingly led by academics who were not just critical of some Israeli policies but fundamentally anti-Israeli.

. . .

Its website offers information on anti-Israeli bias at forty-nine different campuses in the United States and Canada.

In fact, CW is not concerned primarily with anti-Israel bias, but with promoting non-politicized scholarship that doesn't substitute tendentious or shoddy work for rigorous work. For instance, CW has produced research on apologetics towards the Iranian and Syrian regimes; academic press self-censorship; U.S. institutions devoted to Islamic studies; the intersection of Middle East studies and women's and gay rights; academics who espouse Islamist principles; and biased, inaccurate religion and history textbooks.

In the following passage—where, again, the "anti-Israel" focus is mistakenly emphasized—Wagner is partially correct in including non-specialists in CW's purview:

Nor is the concern restricted to the curriculum of Middle East Studies programs; it now also extends to anti-Israeli statements or actions by academics, whether or not they specialize in Middle East Studies.

However, even the academics CW examines who aren't trained in Middle East studies must write or teach about the Middle East in some significant manner. We have a category of articles devoted to such academics titled "Moonlighting: Non-Specialists in the News."

Wagner makes the following claim:

Campus Watch continues to focus on the curriculum of Middle East Studies courses and the activities of the academics involved, but it now also looks beyond the United States, and also covers the activities of nonacademics.

CW does not cover the activities of nonacademics, except, occasionally, members of think tanks, but even then an academic background—and preferably current employment—is required. We also concentrate—with rare exceptions—on professors in North America.

About CW's mission, he writes:

After initially threatening to create dossiers on academics whose activities it criticized, it is now more focused on critiques of what is taught, and in particular what it sees as pro- Muslim and anti-Israeli bias.

As noted previously, CW's interest is not in combating "pro-Muslim and anti-Israel bias," but in promoting rigorous, objective scholarship untainted by political, ethnic, or religious agendas.

(Posted by Cinnamon Stillwell)