“There is a new blacklist across the country which is having a chilling effect on campuses everywhere,” exclaimed Monique Dols, a student of Columbia University professor Joseph Massad at a April 13 â€œpublic service” session at New York City’s Cooper Union. Sponsored by the appropriately named group â€˜Censoring Thoughtâ€™ the event was a perfect example of how simply paying attention to the abuses of academia has been turned upside down into “censorship.”
Flanked by Massad and radical pundit Tariq Ali, Campus Anti-War Network â€œactivist” Dols offered living proof of indoctrination at Columbia. Launching a tirade against the racist â€œnew McCarthyism today,” orchestrated by â€œWashington and Tel Aviv” and directed against Middle Eastern professors, according to Dols, these two omnipotent governments are â€œafraid” of â€œa real debate that allows people to make up their own mind when confronted with occupation and dispossession. And today they want to reach in to regulate the terms of the debate in the university.” Dols is also a willing participant in Massad’s dark fantasies of conspiracy and persecution: Massad is the target of a â€œsystematic attack at Columbia university,” she declares, in which â€œspy rings” infiltrate his classroomâ€”the same spies who hope to decommission Middle East studies everywhere.
When he speaks, Massad unveils more details of the sinister conspiracy. According to him, â€œright-wing forces” with Zionist â€œideological positions” have hijacked â€œpolitical power and political discourse in this country.” Meanwhile, true â€œscholarship is de-legitimized as ideology” by these â€œwitch hunters.” Massad rues that “students with political agendas” began “bringing unannounced, unregistered guests with them to class”; worse, one student soon began circulating a petition to get him fired â€œon the recommendation of people from outside the university.” These upstart students were joined by “two major traditional propagandists, Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, who after failing in U.S. academia, excelled as thought policemen.” This comment produced much knowing laughter from the appreciative audience.
According to Massad, Columbia’s Middle East studies classes are threatened by a vast right-wing campaign cleverly â€œengineered to cancel out” freedom of thought. Moreover, at the center of recent attacks on those who disagree with U.S. and Israeli foreign policies lies not a concern for truth or classroom decorum and balance, but academic freedomâ€”â€œand specifically scholarship on Palestine.” These witch hunters, Massad says, want us to â€œlive the life of servitude to the state power, as technocrats and as ideologues.”
Academic freedom for Massad is being able to freedom to teach without challenge that â€œEstablished scholarship enumerates all [Israel’s] racist flaws and institutional racist practices” which he says render the Jewish state â€œa racist state by law.” But any disagreement, Massad says, can be safely discarded as Zionist ideology, part of the conspiracy â€œpropped up by the likes of Campus-Watch, the David Project, and the ADL [Anti-Defamation League],” who â€œmake it…their business to attack scholarly criticisms of Israeli policy.” Failing to discard studies by â€œIsrael’s apologists” amounts to â€œshutting down the educational process in favor of religious theories of creationism.” Evidently America can learn from Palestinian societyâ€™s principled anti-racism and passion for historical truth.
Tariq Ali then spoke and took the conspiracy mania fully over the edge. He sees â€œwhat is taking place on the campuses as part of the larger and wider project which was initiated by the Sharon government, soon before they went into Jenin [in March 2002] in the big attempt to crush the intifada.” The decision to persecute the poor academics â€œwas made in Israel,” then â€œcirculated” to Israeli embassies, which somehow made it happen worldwide. The Elders of Zion must be working overtime.
Dols, Massad and Ali object to Zionism, and want no criticism of their position voiced anywhere, especially not in college classrooms. They reject the very idea of balance and actual debate, and claim they are within their rights to deny it, since â€œscholarship” proves their case. A right-wing conspiracy, Ali argues, wants â€œto impose the same balance so called on campuses as they have imposed on the media.”
In short, according to Dols-Massad-Ali, there is free speech for some but not others, and criticism is censorship.
Alyssa Lappen wrote this piece for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, which is designed to critique and improve Middle East Studies at North American colleges and universities.
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