Campus Watch

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According to the Campus Watch web site, "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." [1]

The Campus Watch project is the brainchild of Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, and has been described as being "dedicated to revealing the alleged bias of mainstream Middle East studies programs at U.S. colleges and universities." [2] Initially the website published "dossiers" on critical academics, and it urged students to submit reports on political bias. Campus Watch was established in September 2002. [3]

Background

On its website Campus Watch claims that "University-based Middle East specialists have been consistently wrong in their analyses, as Martin Kramer showed in his Ivory Towers on Sand." [1] CW argues that examples of this include

  • "Portraying militant Islam as a benign movement and suggesting that anyone who thought otherwise is either ignorant or prejudiced. John Esposito of Georgetown University stated that Islamist movements "are not necessarily anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-democratic" and called on Americans "to transcend their narrow, ethnocentric conceptualization of democracy" to include militant Islamic forms of governance. (John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat, Myth or Reality? New York, Oxford University Press, 1992, pp.212.)";
  • "Apologetics: Middle East studies tend to evade, ignore, or apologize for topics that do not fit their politicized agenda:
Internal repression in Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Authority support for suicide bombing against Israeli civilians; The long-term goals of Islamist movements; The suffering caused by insurgencies in Algeria and Turkey; The Syrian occupation of Lebanon; The anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic incitement that pervades state-run media through most of the region. As an example of this evasion, out of the Middle East Studies Association's (MESA) four-day conference in November 2002 where more than 550 papers were presented, exactly one dealt with Al-Qaeda and one with "fundamentalism." "Militant Islam" was not the subject of a single paper."
Many scholars are hostile to any discussion of these issues, lest it cast the region in an unfavorable light. Even after 9/11, Khalidi advises Washington to drop its "hysteria about suicide bombers." Joel Beinin, as MESA's president, disparaged the study of terrorism, mocking it as "terrorology," and lauded his colleagues' "great wisdom" in avoiding it. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan said "Asking MESA to hold panels on contemporary terrorism, is rather like asking literary scholars to comment on the resignation of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil."
"Unfortunately, Middle Eastern studies specialists responded to the launching of Campus Watch with a campaign of vilification and distortion. Lest there be any confusion, we wish to make explicit several points in response ...:
The charge of "McCarthyism" has come up so often that we address this in a separate study which demonstrates why the charge is ignorant, intolerant, and ultimately self-serving. We challenge scholars of Middle Eastern studies to abandon the crude resort to insults and engage Campus Watch on the substance of our analysis." [1]

Joel Beinin, the Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University and the then President of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America, wrote a pointed critique of Campus Watch's advocacy. "Campus Watch seeks to 'monitor and gather information on professors who fan the flames of disinformation, incitement, and ignorance.' Campus Watch does not care to ask whether scholars who study the Middle East might actually know something that would lead them to think that the world is not simply divided between the forces of good (us) and the forces of evil (them). Instead, it has compiled dossiers on professors and universities that do not meet its standard of uncritical support for the policies of George Bush and Ariel Sharon." [4]

"Campus Watch alleges that Middle East scholars 'seem generally to dislike their own country and think even less of American allies abroad. They portray U.S. policy in an unfriendly light and disparage allies.' Apparently Campus Watch is able to penetrate the psyches of scholars whose opinions it does not sanction. Some Americans - Thomas Jefferson, for example - naively believed that dissent and debate are an integral part of the democratic process and essential to the formation of educated citizens. Campus watch apparently believes this tedious process allows too much room for unapproved thinking to emerge," he wrote. [4]

"Campus Watch," he wrote, "notes that 'Middle East studies in the United States has become the preserve of Middle Eastern Arabs, who have brought their views with them. Membership in the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the main scholarly association, is now 50 percent of Middle Eastern origin.' Some Americans have foolishly believed that all U.S. citizens have equal rights regardless of their country of origin and that pointing to peoples' country of origin to discredit them is a form of racism. This too, is outmoded thinking according to Campus Watch. But imagine the uproar that would be created by the suggestion that because Daniel Pipes is Jewish he may be more loyal to Israel than to the United States."[4]

Push to Tie Federal Funding to "Standards"

Daniel Pipes and CW favor the U.S. Congress passing legislation mandating university Middle East departments to adhere to "standards" when receiving Federal funding. The unfortunate consequence of the legislation is to censor academics and to prohibit a stance critical of the U.S. and Israel.

Personnel

Contact details

Email: campus-watch AT meforum.org
Web: http://www.campus-watch.org

Articles and Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ""About Campus Watch", Campus Watch, accessed September 2007.
  2. Michael Dobbs, "Middle East Studies Under Scrutiny in U.S.", Washington Post, January 13, 2004 page A01.
  3. Campus Watch: Keeping an Eye on Professors Who Teach About the Middle East", History News Network, September 23, 2002.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Joel Beinin, "Who's Watching the Watchers?", History News Network, September 30, 2002.

Related Organizations

Comment: Prof. Beinin finds that these organizations work for the same aims, and some of the principals overlap in several of these organizations.

External links

Abstract: September 11 ushered in a sustained campaign by the American Right and the Bush administration to deligitimise critical thought abut the Middle East, Islam and the Arab world. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has borne much of the brunt of this campaign, some of it conducted by think-tanks with close links to Israel’s ruling circles. Such attacks on MESA date back to 1967 and the Arab-Israeli war. The role of organisations such as ADL, AIPAC, AVOT and ACTA is examined, as is Campus-Watch and the attempt to introduce legislation in 2003 to place university-level Middle East studies under much closer government control (via HR 3077).