The Middle East:

Commentary and Analysis

The New Blacklist

Professors Want Own Names Put on Mideast Blacklist
They hope to make it powerless
Published on Saturday, September 28, 2002 in the San Francisco Chronicle

by Tanya Schevitz

In an effort to counter what they label as a McCarthyesque hunt by a pro-Israel think tank, about 100 professors from across the country have asked to be added to a "Campus Watch" Web site that singled out eight professors because of their views on Palestine and Islam.

The Web site lists "dossiers" for the eight university professors and teachers, including a graduate student instructor from UC Berkeley, and portrays them as preaching dangerous rhetoric to students. The site also calls them "hostile" to America.

Run by the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia think tank, the site, www., also asks for people to snitch on Middle East lectures, classes and demonstrations.

"We are all ill-served by the mistakes, intolerance, the extremism, the duplicity, that one finds in Middle Eastern studies," said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. "Middle Eastern studies is in an Enron- type crisis. . . . We are putting a spotlight on what we consider to be a problem."

But Judith Butler, a UC Berkeley professor of rhetoric and comparative literature, said it is an intimidation tactic.

The professors listed on the site have been spammed with tens of thousands of racist, obscene and threatening e-mails.

"If a group establishes a Web site and says, 'We are watching you,' that has a very chilling impact on academic freedom," said Butler, who was one of the first to ask to be added to the list. "The more people who actively volunteer themselves for such a list, the less that power of intimidation works."

This is among recent tensions on university campuses regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Last week, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers expressed his concern that a call by students for divestment of university endowment funds from Israel is an example of anti-Semitic actions.

But Butler, who is Jewish, said there is "a very fundamental mistake in assuming that any position critical of contemporary Israeli policy is anti- Semitic. One can be pro-Israel and be extremely critical of (Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon and the occupation."

Pipes said he started the site to monitor anti-Israel sentiment because he saw Middle Eastern studies as a monotheistic field where alternative viewpoints are not heard.

"The ivory tower has this privileged notion that no one can complain," Pipes said.

The Campus Watch Web site had received about 20,000 hits since it went up last week, he said.

The professors who have asked to be included on the Web site may be put on a new list under a label of people who associate themselves with "suicide bombings and militants," Pipes said.

Professor Hamid Dabashi, chairman of the department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University, said in an e-mail Friday that he is "honored" that so many of his colleagues across the country have chosen to speak out against the site by offering their names for the list.

"I have received more moral support and endorsement of my career as a teacher and a scholar over the last couple of weeks than ever before," he said.

". . . I have a stake in being party to voices of civilized dissent against this horrific environment of fear, violence and intimidation that the likes of Daniel Pipes want to perpetuate so that only their views are heard."

The list includes Stanford University, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University among 15 institutions to watch. For UC Berkeley, the site gives information about graduate student Snehal Shingavi, whose dossier is listed with the targeted professors, because of a controversy over a course on Palestinian poetry that he is teaching. The site says one class at the University of Chicago is an "extended rant against Israel" and that professors referred to modern Israel as Palestine.

Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Middle Eastern history and director for the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago, who is listed on the site, said it is filled with "vicious lies" about the institutions and individuals.

He is especially offended that the site says Middle East studies has become the preserve of Middle Eastern Arabs who have brought their views with them and that the academics generally seem to dislike the United States.

"This imputation of un-Americanism, which is a theme in the writings of these people, is very damaging to our democracy and debate," Khalidi said. "It is a kind of gutter name-calling."

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