ADC Denounces New Efforts to Chill Academic Freedom
WASHINGTON, DC – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) expressed deep concerns over emerging efforts designed to chill any criticism of Israel in American colleges and universities by labeling it as “anti-Semitism.” In particular ADC cited a new website for monitoring the political views of professors and a Sept. 17 speech by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
The website has been founded by Daniel Pipes, a promoter of anti-Arab and anti-Islamic prejudice who supports an extreme right-wing version of Zionism. The site proposes to maintain what it calls “dossiers” on professors and academic institutions deemed insufficiently pro-Israel, and collect information from students regarding their professors’ scholarly conclusions and political views.
Pipes’ site already has several American professors and graduate students listed under its “dossiers on professors” section. One of them, Hamid Dabashi, who is chairman of the department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University, told the Chronicle of Higher Education the campaign could be a “horrible development” for junior faculty members, and that “in the tenure culture, it could be damaging to the healthy relationship that has to govern the classroom.” Another target, Prof. Rashid Khalidi of the University of Chicago, told the Electronic Intifada that “This noxious campaign is intended to silence such perfectly legitimate criticism, by tarring it with the brush of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, truly loathsome charges. They reveal the lengths that these people apparently feel impelled to go to in order to silence a true debate on campus.”
The “dossiers on institutions” section leads with numerous condemnations of Colorado College for inviting Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi to speak at a symposium. They preposterously but perniciously describe Dr. Ashrawi as “pro-terror” and an “apologist for terror,” the implication clearly being that she should have been prevented from speaking on campus. Several politicians and other public figures attempted to block the Ashrawi speech.
ADC notes that this organized national campaign to silence academic criticism of Israel is incompatible with the cherished American values of free speech and inquiry. By seeking to intimidate supporters of Palestinian human rights, it threatens to suppress dialogue. Such intellectual intimidation also serves to cut off avenues for the exploring possibilities for peace.