Does anyone else find this disturbing? An organization called Campus Watch audits the courses of professors who teach in the area of Middle Eastern studies to ensure that they align with their pro-Israeli perspective. On their website they claim that their organization “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.” A review of their activities show that they are only perpetuating the “problems” they profess to be fighting against. While they do have the right to free speech their efforts to harass professors with views that are different from their own goes beyond their right to criticize those they disagree with. It is a very dangerous trend that I believe does not actually serve their real purpose (promote Israel as innocent of all wrong doing). James Gelvin, professor of history at ACLU, is their latest victim. One of Campus Watch’s representatives, Cinnamon Stillwell, attacked Gelvin in an article entitled “UCLA Prof Assigns Pro-Israel Book in Order to Trash It.” In one of his courses, Gelvin had required his students to read Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel in order to critique it. Stillwell claims that this critique was not extended to other assigned material. But Gelvin pointed out that he also assigned a book with the opposite perspective and that “the assignment explicitly states that significant errors from both books must be cited, critiqued, and corrected.” For the full debate go to:
History News Network | Conservatives go after UCLA’s historian James Gelvin.
The goals and practices of Campus Watch go beyond the right to free speech, it amounts to harassment with the goal of stamping out all view points on campuses across America that do not conform to their ideological viewpoint. I believe that this trend is dangerous to not only to academic freedom but also to the prospects of peace in the Middle East. It serves only to perpetuate hatred and undermines any real attempts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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