Campus Watch

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Campus Watch is a Philadelphia based blacklisting project, primarily targeting academics and scholars specializing in the Middle-East who do not confirm to the extreme pro-Israel views of its parent body, the Middle East Forum. It describes itself as a project that “reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them.�[1] However, the agenda has little to do with America as professors are singled out for “their views and teachings on Palestinian issues and Islam�(Tanya Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, October 3, 2002), or for their Middle-Eastern origin.


The project is a creation of the Islamophobic, pro-Israel propagandist Daniel Pipes [2] who is notorious, amongst other things, for his suggestion that all American Muslims and Arabs ought to be interned like the Japanese during WWII[4] and Martin Kramer, editor of MEF’s Middle East Quarterly, a former Director of the Moshe Dayan Centre at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, and a member of the right-wing PR firm, Benador Associates.[5] Benador Associates has strong Neo-conservative ties, with many influential members, and unmatched access to the media through which it arranges their TV appearances and speaking engagements, and helps to place their articles in newspapers. [6]


Campus Watch first registered on the radar when it “unleashed an Internet firestorm� in September 2002,� when it posted ‘dossiers’ on eight scholars who have had the audacity to criticize US foreign policy and the Israeli occupation.�

As a gesture of solidarity, more than 100 academics subsequently contacted the Middle East Forum asking to be added to the list. In response, Pipes has since posted 146 new names, all identified as supporters of "apologists for suicide bombings and militant Islam." He also claims "most of the writers are academics from fields other than Middle East studies (and so are not qualified to judge the work of the academics we listed)." By this standard, he is similarly unqualified, as he is not a professor and his PhD was earned in medieval history.[7]

The American Civil Liberties Union has described Campus Watch as “an assault on academic freedom� and declared that it “threatens to suppress discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict�. It argues that “the site encourages ‘citizen informant’ behaviour� akin to the Operation TIPS program, which aimed to turn utility workers and mail carriers with access to private homes into informants for the Justice Department.[8]

The initial dossiers on the targeted professors “supplied the necessary ‘contact’ addresses and numbers for any angry patriot�[9] which predictably led to incessant harassment taking the form of hostile spam, spoofing, and telephone death threats in some instances.[10] A torrent of criticism led Campus Watch to take the dossiers down[11] and instead, the information was transferred to a new section titled “Survey of Institutions�, which has expanded to include 43 institutions at present.

The website actively encourages students and colleagues to inform on professors deemed unfriendly or critical towards the state of Israel, or US policies in the Middle East. To showcase its success in identifying extremism and bias on the campuses, it regularly features a quote from aggrieved informants as evidence. The current one reads:

"[One professor] suggested that I take classes in the political science department to 'open my mind'--in other words, to CHANGE my views… No thanks." -QueensCollege Student. October 2003.[12]

The crude and insidious tactics employed by Campus Watch have even led the national director of the otherwise staunchly pro-Israel organization Anti-Defamation League to distance himself, nothing that “"Such a list could tarnish reputations of good people�.[13]In its current incarnation, however, it is still moderate compared to the openly racist rhetoric that it espoused, when it was first launched. One of its earlier complaints read “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.�[14]

Commentators have pointed out that Campus Watch is an “attempt to take legitimate academic discourse and cast it as ‘incitement’ to be dealt with by public pressure on funding and appointments, rather than through academic exchange.�[15] Campus Watch has actively lobbied to prevent the U.S. government from allocating funds for Middle East Studies.

The idea is to cut off government Title VI funding to Middle East area studies programs--which was increased after September 11--and redirect it to a new Defense Department program. Called the National Flagship Language Initiative, the new program launched this past April to establish learning centers for Arabic, Farsi and Turkish, among other languages, to support Americans willing to make a "good faith effort" to join the Defense Department, the CIA or a number of other government agencies after graduation.[16]

Campus Watch’s efforts bore fruit as the House of Representatives passed a bill, HR 3077 in late 2003.

The bill…mandated that area studies programs that receive federal funding under Title VI of the Higher Education Act must "foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives." HR 3077 sent a chill through many scholars of the Middle East. "This bill represented an unprecedented degree of intrusion by the federal government into what goes on in our classrooms and in our universities," says Zachary Lockman, chair of the department of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New YorkUniversity.[17]

The bill drew a harsh response from the American Civil Liberties Union with Campus Watch and its creators receiving pointed criticism.[18]

Campus Watch also targeted a Women’s Studies conference at the State University of New York and had its university funding withdrawn “due to the participation of several pro-Palestinian speakers�.[19]Campus Watch and its creator’s have succeeded in capitalizing on the fears generated by 9/11 in order to cast doubt on the motives and agenda of academia and scholars, while successfully keeping their own ideological agenda obscure. Kramer has attacked the academic discipline of Middle Eastern studies as it “failed to prepare the country for the possibility of a terrorist assault�.[20]

More recently, Campus Watch launched another assault to stifle criticism of US and Israeli policies by creating an artificial crisis at the Columbia University, a campus known for its tolerant, multi-cultural atmosphere. As an accomplishment of Campus Watch, Pipes cited its success in “pressuring “ColumbiaUniversity to the point that the president has organized a committee [to investigate] political intimidation in the classroom�[21]. Under pressure from publications like the New York Sun and the Village Voice and politicians eager to make political capital off the crisis, the University conducted an investigation, which took into account views of the aggrieved, as well as their targets. Most Jewish students and faculty themselves came to the defence of the accused and denounced the whole process, with one Jewish faculty member asserting “It is a crazy, crazy exaggeration to claim that Jews are under attack at Columbia or that the faculty is anti-Semitic.� While one of the alleged victims added “I definitely feel safer in the MEALAC department as a Jew than I do at a religious Columbia Jewish event�. [22]

The Ah-hoc Grievance Committee’s report shed further light on Campus Watch and the David Project for their role in instigating the “crisis� through a film titled Columbia Unbecoming that purportedly shows the anti-Israel bias of the professors[23].

What's clear is that Columbia Unbecoming is a propaganda film: one that portrays Jewish students as "silenced" by professors who "criticize Israel and...question its legitimacy"; in which vague and anonymous accusations are tossed about by students whose faces are sometimes blurred and whose voices are sometimes masked; which deliberately conflates what instructors say in the classroom with what they publish and do outside the classroom; and which attributes sinister motives to Columbia administrators and faculty, not one of whom is given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.[24]

The David Project itself is a shadowy group that has ties to the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), an organization whose members include AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.[25]It’s President, Charles Jacobs is the cofounder of CAMERA, a pro-Israel media watch-dog group, and a member of the right-wing PR firm Benador Associates.[26] The director of the David Project's New York office is also the regional ICC representative in New York.