It’s beginning to look a lot like the 1940s. This time it’s not liberalism but neo-liberalism, and instead of communists, Islamic terrorists are our new public enemy number one.
McCarthy isn’t rounding up reds, but the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) just arrested and detained hundreds of foreign born men from a list of over twenty countries (mostly from North Africa and the Middle East) on the United States’ ‘axis of evil’ list; many only for minor infractions such as overstays on visitor and student visas.
Starting with the election of President Bush, but catapulted by 9/11 and subsequent legislation (most importantly the PATRIOT ACT), the American government has begun to rewrite the rule books, cracking down on our civil liberties and in turn opening the door for a surge in neo-conservatism across the country.
Here on college campuses we have already felt the effects of this shift to the neo-right. Last September conservative Philadelphia based think tank named the Middle East Forum launched a new website called Campus Watch, with what they termed their intent to ‘monitor’ and ‘critique’ US Middle East university programs ‘with an aim to improving them.’
The site posted dossiers on eight university professors who they claimed had expressed anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments, setting off a backlash in the academic community. Those listed, along with over 100 professors and graduate students who sent their names into the site in solidarity, immediately labelled the site as a McCarthy-type witch-hunt, and a repression of free speech.
The site’s director is Daniel Pipes, who was dubbed an ‘anti-Arab propagandist’ by The Nation magazine writer Kristine McNeil in her article ‘The War on Academic Freedom.’ Daniel has consistently contributed to racist and xenophobic publications, such as GAMLA’s website (an organization created by Jewish settlers and former Israeli military personnel), which according to Kristine advocates for ‘the ethnic cleansing of every Palestinian as the “only possible solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict.’ University of California at Santa Cruz Professor of Sociology Paul Lubeck, one of the professors who sent his name in to the list, calls Daniel an ‘Islamophobe.’
While the Middle Eastern Forum website focuses on the broader topic of the Middle East, it is apparent that the site is primarily interested in issues surrounding Israel.
Capitalising on the upsurge in post 9/11 patriotism, Daniel tries to insert Israel into his jingoistic defence of America and its foreign policy in the Middle East. He claims that support for Israel as a democratic ally is important to counteract a new wave of both anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. As a consequence of these efforts to link American and Israeli interests, Daniel has also succeeded in linking anti-Semitism with anti-Americanism, making it un-American to criticize anything that could be labelled ‘anti-Semitic’ – which to Daniel Pipes sometimes means something as indirect as defence of Palestinian statehood.
As an indication of how post-Dubya/post September 11 policies have affected America, Campus Watch should also raise fear about where we are headed. If George Bush gets his way, and we attack Iraq, America can expect to see even more cutbacks on our civil liberties, more INS roundups, and a continuation of our move to the right. As that happens, people like Daniel Pipes will have more room to manoeuvre.
Concerning Campus Watch, we can be assured that with Ariel’s re-election in Israel there will be no end to the current conflict, and no end to strong Israeli-American ties. Daniel might get his way and the consequences of a project that targets academics might be more extreme, and reach beyond posting professors’ names on a website.
Jacob Schiller is editor of City on a Hill Press at the University of California, Santa Cruz