PHILADELPHIA - A pro-Israel organization has set up a Web site to monitor professors and universities for pro-Arab, anti-Israel bias and many academics are calling it campus McCarthyism and attempted intimidation.
The Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum said it had organized the Campus Watch site to counter pervasive bias in universities' Middle East studies. The site names schools and specific professors. Forum director Daniel Pipes said the think tank hopes eventually to monitor 250 North American academic institutions.
"Our goal is to monitor, critique and improve Middle East studies," Pipes said. "We're not at universities because our views are not welcome. We're trying to create an alternative voice within the field."
Scholars whose articles are compiled into dossiers on the Web site include Hamid Dabashi and Joseph Massad of Columbia, John Esposito of Georgetown, Juan Cole of the University of Michigan and Snehal Shingavi of University of California at Berkeley. Dossiers are also listed on those institutions as well as a dozen others, including Stanford, Northeastern, the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina.
Opponents immediately called the project a "McCarthy-like" attempt to gag opposition to American policy in the Middle East. Professors listed on the site said they had been bombarded with emails over the weekend. In a show of support for those named on the site, about 100 other academics have asked to be added to the list. Judith Butler, a gender theorist at Berkeley, wrote that she would like to be included in the list of U.S. academics "who oppose the Israeli occupation and its brutality, actively support Palestinian rights of self-determination" and support an informed view of Islam.
The Campus Watch site accuses American Middle Eastern scholars of generally being biased against the United States and being apologists for unfriendly regimes. University of Chicago historian Rashid Khalidi, who is quoted on the Web site as sympathizing with the Palestinian cause, called the site "slimy" and intended to stifle opposition. "What they're trying to do is exclude from public debate opinions that go against the neo-conservative consensus that dominates discussion of policy on Iraq or policy on the Israeli conflict by smearing us and calling us aliens," he said.
Pipes said he will not remove a "Keep Us Informed" page on the site that opponents say is an attempt to get students to turn in their professors. He said it gives students a place to complain about mistreatment. "What you have in university is exclusion of alternate points of view," Pipes said. "You've got to subscribe to the party line and then you can make your career. If you don't, you're out."