Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Nazism, Zionism, and the Arab World
by Annette Herskovits
Dissident Voice
May 21, 2012

False allegations of suppressing free speech
Falsely alleged connection to David Horowitz
False accusations of being part of a lobby or conspiracy
False allegations of connections to other organizations

Campus Watch Responds:

In an essay titled, "Nazism, Zionism and the Arab World," Annette Herskovits, writing for Dissident Voice, attempts to mount a valiant defense of Gilbert Achcar—professor of development studies and international relations at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, author of the 2010 book, The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, and the subject of a November, 2011 Campus Watch article—but gets more than a few facts wrong in the process.

Herskovits confuses the relationship between Campus Watch and Frontpage Magazine publisher David Horowitz, while engaging in conspiracy mongering. After claiming, with no evidence whatsoever, that the publication of Achcar's book "raised the ire" of David Horowitz, she continues:

Last November, an article in the web FrontPage Magazine, edited and published by Horowitz, launched a smear campaign against Achcar. Focusing on a presentation by Achcar under the auspices of Middle East Studies of the University of California at Berkeley, the article appeared on a host of kindred websites, such as that of Campus Watch, an organization founded by Daniel Pipes, a main purveyor with Horowitz of Islamophobic material and whitewashing of Israel.

In fact, the article—co-written by myself (Campus Watch West Coast Representative Cinnamon Stillwell) and contributor Rima Greene and covering an October, 2011 lecture Achcar gave at the University of California, Berkeley—was commissioned by Campus Watch (CW) and published at Frontpage Magazine. As is our habit, the article was also posted at the CW website. David Horowitz was not personally involved in the process, nor was it part of any nonexistent "smear campaign." By accusing Middle East Forum (of which CW is a project) president Daniel Pipes of being "a main purveyor . . . of Islamophobic material and [the] whitewashing of Israel," Herskovits is engaging in a time-honored leftist tradition of demonizing political opponents by equating valid criticism, analysis, and scholarship with bigotry and apologetics.

Herskovits later claims that the CW article is an example of hasbara (Hebrew for "public relations") when its authors simply presented the facts from Achcar's lecture. She then writes:

The authors of the FrontPageMag article, Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene, seem not to be concerned about historical context. They mix innuendo, distortion and falsehood, quote out of context and misquote, then add in one or another point of dogma. They do not at any point counter Achcar with contrary evidence. Instead, they speak in generalities, e.g., Achcar's book 'masks its outlandish conclusions with scholarly apparatus while confirming the biases of the left-leaning, anti-Israel Middle East studies establishment.'

The point of the CW article was to report on Achcar's lecture, including as many direct quotes as possible, not to argue at great length with its content. To do that would require a much longer format than we typically employ. Moreover, Herskovits provides no solid evidence for her claim that the authors misquoted Achcar or utilized falsehoods. Instead, she goes on to express her disagreement with the authors on various political points. She is of course entitled to her opinions, but not to falsely accusing others of engaging in unethical journalistic tactics.

Herskovits goes on to exhibit the type of paranoid resistance to outside criticism of academia with which CW is accustomed:

Pro-Israel propaganda outlets like Frontpage Magazine carry little weight with scholars of the Middle East, but they are significant actors in sustaining the upside-down view of the Israel-Palestine conflict in America. They use intimidation to inhibit free speech on campuses, and poison the well of public discourse.

They advise students to take notes and report on professors, which especially intimidates junior, untenured faculty. They post on their websites telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of departments and faculties which get harassed by angry phone calls and swamped by hate mail.

Perhaps Herskovits should have consulted Campus Watch's mission statement to find out what it is exactly we do instead of engaging in mischaracterization:

Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. The project mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students. Campus Watch fully respects the freedom of speech of those it debates while insisting on its own freedom to comment on their words and deeds.

If the presence of mere criticism is tantamount to "intimidation," "inhibit[ing] free speech on campuses," and "poison[ing] the well of public discourse," it's little wonder that Herskovits and her ilk are so terrified of the accountability that Campus Watch and other higher education watchdog organizations have brought to the table. As far as encouraging students to report on the substance of classroom and other campus lectures, this is the very essence of free speech. There is nothing top secret about academic lectures and students, their parents, and the taxpayers footing the bill have every right to know what's being taught on college campuses, as well as to send feedback to the appropriate authorities, whose contact information, one might add, is made public for a reason.

Turning reality on its head, Herskovits then states that:

Pipes and Horowitz encourage confrontation and creating disturbances, followed by complaints that their freedom of speech was curtailed.

Herskovits provides no evidence for this outlandish claim and we challenge her to do so. In reality, the only confrontation being encouraged on college campuses is that meant to silence speakers such as Pipes and Horowitz, whose lectures are routinely disrupted--sometimes violently so--and thus require heightened security, all of which impedes their ability to speak. If this isn't a curtailment of freedom of speech, then what is?

Herskovits concludes her piece with more conspiracy mongering:

Campus Watch and Horowitz' Freedom Center are only two pieces in a large network of pro-Israel pressure groups operating on campuses.

In fact, there is no such vast network; just the onset, in recent years, of organizations outside academia that are attempting to counter decades of anti-Israel propaganda—among other dubious pursuits in the field of Middle East studies—masquerading as scholarship. That this has Herskovits and other apologists so worried speaks volumes about their inability to compete in the marketplace of facts and ideas.

(Posted by Cinnamon Stillwell)