Academia's Anti-Israel Amen Corner · 19 June 2006

By Malcolm A. Kline--Accuracy in Academia--06/19/06


A widely-publicized attack on supporters of Israel by two leading academics commits a fair number of inaccuracies not the least of which is their characterization of controversies surrounding the Israel Lobby as they manifest themselves on American campuses.

"In September 2002, for example, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neoconservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report comments or behavior that might be considered hostile to Israel," John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote in a recent report which also appeared in abbreviated form in the London Review of Books. "This transparent attempt to blacklist and intimidate scholars prompted a harsh reaction and Pipes and Kramer later removed the dossiers, but the website still invites students to report alleged anti-Israel behavior at U. S. colleges."

"Groups in the Lobby also direct their fire at particular professors and the universities that hire them," Mearsheimer and Walt write.

Dr. Mearsheimer is a political science professor at the University of Chicago. Dr. Walt is a professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Full disclosure: Campus Watch has complimented me by posting two of my pieces.

"Columbia University, which had the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said on its faculty, has been a frequent target of pro-Israel forces," Mearsheimer and Walt aver. Said died in office, tenured, of natural causes.

"When Columbia recruited historian Rashid Khalidi from the University of Chicago, [then-Columbia president Jonathan] Cole says that 'the complaints started flowing in from people who disagreed with the content of his political views,'" Mearsheimer and Walt write. "Princeton faced the same problem a few years later when it considered wooing Khalidi away from Columbia."

Mearsheimer and Walt neglect to mention that:

  • Khalidi is the Edward Said professor of Arab Studies at Columbia.
  • Khalidi has been credibly accused of plagiarism.
  • Khalidi has described Iran as a thriving democracy.

" A classic illustration of the effort to police academia occurred in late 2004, when the David Project produced a propaganda film alleging that faculty in Columbia University's Middle East studies program were anti-Semitic and were intimidating Jewish students who defended Israel," Mearsheimer and Walt report. "Columbia was raked over the coals in pro-Israel circles, but a faculty committee assigned to investigate the charges found no evidence of anti-Semitism and the only incident worth noting was the possibility that one professor had 'responded heatedly' to a student's question." Actually, the Committee was made up of Middle East Studies professors who threw out or ignored most of the charges. The ones they admitted to are telling enough;

A professor, in the middle of class, asking a student who had served in the Israeli Defense Forces how many Palestinians he has killed.
Another professor telling a coed that she cannot comment on Middle East controversies because she has green eyes.
" Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this campaign to eliminate criticism of Israel from college campuses is the effort by Jewsh groups to push Congress to establish mechanisms that monitor what professors say about Israel," Mearsheimer and Walt write. "Schools judged to have an anti-Israel bias would be denied Federal funding."

"This effort to get the U. S. government to police campuses have not yet succeeded, but the attempt illustrates the importance pro-Israel groups place on controlling debate on these issues." If the authors are talking about the Title VI program, they have their facts upside down.

Introduced by President Eisenhower in 1959, this program was designed, originally, to foster foreign language instruction in exotic tongues, such as Farsi. A perusal of the members of the Middle East Studies Association which receive Title VI funding shows that some do not even teach Middle Eastern languages.

What do get funded are programs such as Columbia's. By the way, not only is Title VI funding not endangered but President Bush has proposed an additional $25 million on the study of languages such as Farsi.

"Finally, a number of Jewish philanthropists have established Israel Studies programs (in addition to the roughly 130 Jewish Studies programs that already exist) so as to increase the number of Israel-friendly scholars on campus," Mearsheimer and Walt report. But they don't mention the countervailing activity that dwarfs this effort, such as the $20 million effort bankrolled by a Saudi prince on Walt's own campus.