NEWS

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October 29, 2002

University professors labeled anti-Israeli by Campus Watch site

Several University professors have been singled out on a Web site that claims to be an academic "watchdog" against forms of anti-Semitism in academia. The Web site, Campus-Watch.org, which is operated by Daniel Pipes, a former Harper Fellow at the University, has published various reports naming Chicago professors as having harbored anti-Israel or anti-Semitic viewpoints in their classes.

Following its launch this summer, the site began to publish the names of professors at various universities and colleges who Pipes believes have "abused power over studentsÂ… and mixed politics with scholarship." The accusations, which are made in "Surveys of Institutions," are all anonymous, and are not checked by Pipes for truth.

Listed on the Web site is Rashid Khalidi, a Professor of Near Eastern Language and Civilization and of History at the College. Khalidi is the author of several books and hundreds of articles on the subject of Middle Eastern History.

Links from the main Web site go to external sites where Khalidi has been accused of being anti-American and anti-Israeli. The brunt of criticism from the Web site and the text it references comes from a study authored by Khalidi on the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Khalidi dedicated the study to those who fought in the war for Lebanon and the Palestinians.

Since the summer, Khalidi has been the subject of written attacks, mostly stemming from the Web site. "I have received vicious e-mails, spam, and have been the subject of identity theft," Khalidi said.

Khalidi's e-mail accounts have been hacked, and his name has been attached to hateful e-mails that have been sent to thousands of individuals, inciting equally hateful responses. "Though this isn't being done by Campus-Watch.org, it is a direct result of their actions," Khalidi said.

Khalidi is not the only University Professor accused on the Web site. Holly Shissler, an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in the College is listed on the Web site as having "presented a completely propagandized picture of Israel" in her autumn 2001 and spring 2002 course of Introduction to Islamic Civilization. The complaint is in a report of "bias incidents at the University of Chicago," and has an extensive list of incidents stretching for several pages. Professor Shissler was, however, only teaching "Modernization of the Ottoman Empire" in the fall of 2001.

The accusations made on the Web page are anonymous, and Professor Shissler was never contacted by Pipes to confirm the legitimacy of the allegations, or even the existence of the class. "The claims on Campus-Watch.org dealing with me and my class are inaccurate and grossly distorted, both in terms of the tone and content of my course, and in terms of my attitudes, practices, and views more generally," Shissler said.

"I'm pretty sure she acknowledged Israel's existence, and in any talk on Israel-Palestine she didn't ignore Israel," said Hassan Malik, a fourth-year in the College who took Shissler's Modernization of the Ottoman Empire course last fall.

"I really don't think that there was anything from her that was anti-Jewish," Malik added. "We had two Israeli students in our class. They actually seemed pretty close to her outside of the class."

As Campus-Watch.org's allegations continue to mount, some professors are critiquing their methodology and motivation. "Campus-Watch has been sloppy, and is committed to a sloppy methodology that leads to the publishing of rumors, unverified stories, and one-sided claims, and to the conflation of the violent suppression of pro-Israeli speech with the peaceful expression of anti-Israel views in student speech, student newspapers, films, forums, and so on," said Assistant Professor of Political Science Jacob Levy.

"I think that Pipes is lying about what the site is doing - he disavows interest in monitoring anti-Semitism as such, but that's exactly what the Chicago report claims to do," Levy said.

Many professors, including Levy, are also afraid that their critique of the Web site will be construed as an attack on Israel. "What Campus-Watch.org is doing is one of the most reprehensible of American traditionsÂ… of painting dissent in the vein of McCarthy, as a foreign element that is both anti-American and illegitimate. I'm a historian, it's not my job to attack or defend anybody," Khalidi said.

The administration has been particularly sensitive about the issue of anti-Semitism this year. Following a series of meetings between members of the Jewish community and administrators, several new policies were implemented, including meetings between senior members of the undergraduate community and the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to the eradication of anti-Semitism, as well as a diversity workshop in the Chicago Life series for new freshmen.

Members of the Jewish community on campus were surprised by the allegations in the report on the University of Chicago. "I haven't heard anything about [anti-Semitism] within the bounds of the campus," said second-year in the College, Jason Sherwin.

Rabbi David Rosenberg of the Newberger Hillel Center acknowledges the Web site's intentions. "Students who support Israel have, on occasion, felt that university campuses have been abused by people who are antagonistic to Israel and, sometimes, to Jews. Campus-Watch.org shares this concern," Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg, however, feels that the Web site may have gone too far. "The individuals referred to on the list, including members of the faculty, and the University itself, appear as if they are guilty as charged," he said.

"In this way, the Web site damages the reputation of the individuals and of the University without adding a jot to the important conversation about the place of Middle East politics in the classroom and on campus," Rosenberg said.

A new RSO on campus, Tikkun, is attempting to bridge the widening gap between supporters of Israel and Palestine, even among the Jewish community. As part of a larger movement across the country to depolarize the dialogue, Tikkun brings together opponents and attempts to show the legitimacy of both arguments.