Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Who Is To Say When It's Okay To Cry 'Fire'?
The Forward
April 27, 2011

False allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
False allegations of suppressing free speech

Campus Watch Responds:

In an op-ed on the "restoring civility" meme currently en vogue among the chattering classes, J.J. Goldberg, writing for The Forward, mischaracterizes Campus Watch (CW) and a slew of other organizations:

Some people don't want anyone discussing Israel's bad side. In fact, we've got a whole network of organizations these days to monitor public discourse and let us know when somebody says the wrong things about Israel: JCC Watch to monitor the movies, Campus Watch to monitor the professors, Palestinian Media Watch, U.N. Watch, NGO (for non-governmental organization) Monitor and a whole potpourri of Watches and Watchamacallits checking up on newspapers, TV reporters and anybody else who might be saying bad things about Israel, including Israelis in their own country.

While CW does, essentially, "monitor the professors," it has nothing to do with "say[ing] the wrong things about Israel." We analyze and, where warranted, critique the field of Middle East studies in five areas: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students. That such problems often involve the Arab-Israeli conflict has more to do with the tunnel vision afflicting Middle East studies academia than any desire on our part.

Goldberg then concludes that we "monitors" are intimidating "ordinary folks" and silencing free speech. As he puts it:

The monitors say they're merely disclosing the facts so the public can decide, but we all know what happens next: People hear the monitors' reports as a call to arms and promptly hit the phones and e-mail with threats and imprecations. Ordinary folks are intimidated. Which was exactly the plan, frankly. . . . [I]f the monitors are right that it's the critics themselves who endanger Israel's survival, then they have a moral duty to try and silence them.

If the free flow of information leads to--horror of horrors--the public expressing its concerns to the appropriate authorities, where is the harm in that, exactly? Goldberg may not, as he indicates earlier in his op-ed, like receiving "unpleasant" emails from readers--and politeness and civility are of course to be preferred--but that's democracy in action. He should read some of the emails CW receives!

Moreover, how does publicizing already public material--lectures, papers, books, and so on--"silence" anyone? The answer is, it doesn't. Goldberg, like most CW opponents, falls into the trap of equating criticism with censorship. Ironically, it is he who seems to want to "silence" dissenting voices, not us.

(Posted by Cinnamon Stillwell)