Longtime Jewish Week reporter Larry Cohler Esses writes in The Nation about recent orchestrated attacks on Nadia Abu El-Haj and Debbie Almontaser and others:
In case after case, a network of right-wing activists has started an online furor based on a mélange of distorted or provably false charges against someone involved in Middle East studies. They supported these charges with quotes yanked out of context or entirely made up and wielded a broad brush of guilt by association. Right-wing media megaphoned the charges, stoking the furor. And mainstream media ultimately noticed and responded, often focusing their stories on the furor rather than the facts.
Under pressure from these assaults, some academic institutions buckle and a professor’s career is derailed; in other cases it is permanently stained. More insidious, even when tenure puts an academic beyond the reach of his or her assailants, more vulnerable junior faculty and grad students take note. “There certainly is a sense among faculty and grad students that they’re being watched, monitored,” said Zachary Lockman, president of the Middle East Studies Association. “People are always looking over their shoulder, feeling that whatever they say–in accurate or, more likely, distorted form–can end up on a website. It definitely has a chilling effect.”
This is the modus operandi of the New McCarthyism. It targets a new enemy for our era: Muslims, Arabs and others in the Middle East field who are identified as stepping over an unstated line in criticizing Israel, as radical Islamists, as just plain radical or as in some way sympathetic to terrorists. Its purveyors include Campus Watch, run by Arab studies scholar Daniel Pipes; the David Project, supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation; and David Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine (in October Horowitz organized an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” on campuses across the nation).
Their efforts often appear to be linked. As first noted by blogger Richard Silverstein, the earliest web attack on El-Haj’s book was posted simultaneously by Campus Watch and FrontPage, in October 2005. Alexander Joffe, identified as a professor at SUNY, Purchase, published a harshly negative review of the book in The Journal of Near Eastern Studies that same month. The prestigious journal did not note–and was not informed–that he was then director of Campus Watch. Soon after, he became research director for the David Project. Less prominent researchers like Stern, the online PipeLine News and writers such as Beila Rabinowitz and William Mayer provide raw material to the more well-known portals, such as Pipes and Horowitz. Pipes’s and Horowitz’s material is, in turn, picked up by key conservative papers like the New York Post and New York Sun.
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