A Spy in the Ivory Tower
Is your college professor an anti-Semite, a supporter of Islamic terrorists and an enemy of America? Now, you can find out with just a few clicks of the mouse, thanks to a project launched this week, called "Campus Watch."
Campus Watch, at www.campus-watch.org, is the brainchild of Daniel Pipes, a newspaper columnist and author who heads the Middle East Forum, a hard-line, pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia.
Pipes announced his project, whose aim is to monitor and document what he claims is an overwhelming pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli bias among U.S. college professors, during a rally on the Colorado College campus last week, attended by hundreds of people who were protesting a speaking appearance by Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi.
Pipes said he is trying to expose how the field of Middle East studies is dominated by academics who apologize for militant Islam and openly propagandize for the Palestinian cause.
On most campuses, "What one finds is an overt engagement in politics; one finds an impatience with alternate points of view, one finds a reading list that is skewed to one side," Pipes said.
This, Pipes said, needs to be made known "to the public, to the alumni, to the state legislators, to the federal government officials who are funding the universities."
"The hope," he said, "is that by waking up these different constituencies to the rot that exists in Middle East studies, there can be improvement."
Rigid Ideological Views
Critics are calling Pipes' project "anti-intellectual," saying it promotes rigid ideological views over free academic discourse.
"McCarthyism does come to mind," commented Amy Newhall, director of the national Middle East Studies Association. "He is calling into question some of the basic tenets of academic freedom."
Professors also challenged Pipes' assertion of bias. David Weddle, a professor of religion who teaches a course on Islam at CC, said most academics avoid taking rigid ideological positions on complex issues such as the Middle East conflict.
"What Daniel Pipes should ask himself is this: Why is it that most scholars who have dedicated themselves to studying this area have ended up with a more balanced view than he has?" said Weddle.
Still, there are signs that Pipes and his supporters might find the current political climate to favor their efforts.
Campus Watch appears to have grown out of a newly strengthened movement to challenge academics perceived as "unpatriotic."
Ashrawi, a former member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's cabinet, had been invited by Colorado College to give the opening keynote address at a three-day political science symposium that came on the heels of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, but was intended as a forum to discuss broader global issues.
The invitation drew vocal protests from critics who labeled Ashrawi an "apologist for terrorism," saying she has justified Palestinian suicide bombings.
While they failed to pressure the college into canceling Ashrawi's speech, the protesters nonetheless proclaimed victory. Their campaign received massive media publicity and was legitimized by several prominent figures who joined the call to cancel Ashrawi's speech ranging from Gov. Bill Owens to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In the Motorcade
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council sought to pressure Colorado College into inviting Pipes to speak as a "counterbalance" to Ashrawi.
Pipes says he eventually received a formal invitation from college President Richard Celeste to speak -- not as part of the symposium, but at the rally outside.
The college, however, emphatically denies his assertion.
"The college did not extend an official invitation to Daniel Pipes," said Lisa Ellis, a college spokeswoman.
The Rabbinical Council did, however, succeed in enlisting the support of Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, a Democrat and a member of the college Board of Trustees. Not only did Salazar acquiesce to demands that he help bring Pipes to campus -- in fact, he gave Pipes a ride to the rally in his personal motorcade, along with a state taxpayer-funded police escort.
Salazar, who also introduced Pipes, said he agreed to help bring the columnist to campus because he could "provide a different point of view."
Asked if this meant that he endorsed Pipes' views, Salazar answered, "No."
In fact, he added, "I don't know that much about his points of view."
A New Era
Pipes called the rally a turning point in what he has labeled "the war on campus" over Middle East issues.
"A point has been made that has not been made before," Pipes told protesters. "You are to be congratulated."
Ashrawi's appearance has already earned the college a "dossier" on Campus Watch's fledgling Web site.
The site contains a section titled "dossiers on professors," documenting the supposedly anti-Israeli statements of individual academics across the country, as well as a section titled "dossiers on institutions."
Another section lets users report anti-Israeli activities on local campuses. According to the site, Campus Watch hopes to receive information from a "network of concerned students and faculty members interested in promoting American interests on campus."
While academics characterized Campus Watch as nonconstructive, they said they were not overly concerned about the project.
Pipes has no power to restrict anyone's statements, noted Weddle. If the project is merely about documenting and critiquing scholars' views, Weddle said he has no major problem with it.
"Viewpoints that I have on the Middle East are publicly available," Weddle said. "I am more than happy to make them public."