In an echo of the Mearsheimer-Walt critique of strong U.S. ties with Israel, Michael Massing has a lengthy article in the New York Review of Books, "The Storm over the Israel Lobby." In it, he devotes three paragraphs to the Middle East Forum, Campus Watch, and myself. I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out a mistake and asked Massing a question. The Review published my letter and Massing's attempt at a rebuttal under the title "Campus Watch" in its issue dated today.
To the Editors:
Michael Massing ["The Storm over the Israel Lobby," NYR, June 8] makes a factual error in his reference to Campus Watch when he writes that Campus Watch
encouraged students to take notes on lectures by professors critical of Israel, with the goal of "exposing" them on the MEF Web site, but this feature was dropped after it was widely condemned as a form of McCarthyism.
Had Massing done even a modicum of research, he would have seen that inviting students to submit information about abusive professors (so as to keep professors honest in the classroom) was never dropped and remains very much in place at the Campus Watch Web site at "Keep Us Informed," www.campus-watch.org/incident.php.
I can't but comment on the odd phrase that Campus Watch "encouraged students to take notes on lectures by professors critical of Israel." Imagine that. If students take notes in class, they might even go on to do the required course reading. Then, where would we be?
I also wish to ask two questions of Massing about the gist of his several paragraphs about me. A representative excerpt reads thus:
Pipes is also an adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute as well as a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, whose editorial page editor, Saul Singer, is a neoconservative and is married to Wendy Singer Senor, who runs AIPAC's Jerusalem office.... Pipes is also a regular contributor to The New York Sun, which is co-owned by Bruce Kovner.
I wonder what he is getting at by drawing such conspiratorial-sounding connections. Is it not universal that those who agree in outlook work together? Similar bonds connect those on the left; when can we expect to read Massing on its networks?
Director, Middle East Forum
Michael Massing replies:
Campus Watch is run by Mr. Pipes's Middle East Forum. In September 2002, Campus Watch posted on its Web site "dossiers" on eight professors detailing their views on Palestinian rights and political Islam. The listing set off a storm of protest, and nearly a hundred professors, in an act of solidarity, asked to be listed along with them. "This is about McCarthyism, freedom of expression," Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi, one of the eight, told The New York Times. As the Times reported, Dabashi and others named on the site had been
deluged with negative e-mails. Many academics see Campus Watch as an effort to chill free speech about the Middle East, and are particularly perturbed by the "Keep Us Informed" section, inviting the submission of "reports on Middle East–related scholarship, lectures, classes, demonstrations, and other activities"—in other words, they say, inviting students to turn in their professors.
Three days after the Times article appeared, the Middle East Forum announced that it had "altered the format" of Campus Watch, eliminating the dossiers and folding the analyses of instructors into its "survey of institutions." While Campus Watch still provides a link by which students can report on activities on their campuses, it no longer uses that information to produce dossiers exposing professors. The site is still strongly criticized by professors across the country who believe its main goals are to intimidate and to inhibit free discussion.
In pointing out the interlocking connections of Daniel Pipes and other like-minded activists and commentators, my article, while specifically rejecting any idea of a "conspiracy," attempted to show the existence of a network of powerful institutions and persons who, committed to shielding Israel from pressure from the United States, have had a very strong impact on US policy in the Middle East. I know of no other network of people and institutions concerned with the Middle East that has comparable cohesion or power. Indeed, one reason that US policy on Israeli–Palestinian issues has been so unbalanced, and that the debate on that policy has been so one-sided, is the absence of any such countervailing network.