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January 11, 2003

Rebel Without A Listing

Piece by Martin Kramer belittles former Israeli academic for his rants about "blacklisting" at Campus Watch.
Life Imitates Art at UCLA. Back in October, I put together a little parody: a letter from an indignant professor to Campus Watch. In it, the prof rails against the "McCarthyite" website, but winds up begging to be listed on it, so as to boost his tenure prospects.

Now there's a real-life case of this, with only minor deviations. It takes the form of a memo from Gabriel Piterberg, a professor of Middle Eastern history, to his colleagues in the UCLA history department. After a perfunctionary opening, Piterberg warns of the "intensifying activity of Campus Watch at UCLA and other major campuses."
Campus Watch is a web site directed by Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, Middle East scholars and activists for the cause of the pro-Israeli lobby in America....The web site itself is a black list of professors whose views are unpalatable to the pro-Israeli lobby and to the current administration. The academic community is advised to be wary of these professors, and students are encouraged to spy and report on what they—and other potential suspects—do in class and publish. As a major academic center with an illustrious tradition in Middle East studies, UCLA is one of the main targets of Campus Watch. [UCLA history professor] Jim Gelvin and I are on its black list.
End of memo. (Incidentally, Piterberg is an Argentine-born Israeli who left the country some years back.)

Now I am not a director of Campus Watch (ten points off right there), and it's not my place to defend it. I happen not to think the website is a blacklist. Nor do I think the classroom is a clandestine cell or a security agency, whose members are bound by an oath of secrecy. (Professors who treat the classroom as a place of indoctrination and initiation might think differently.) And the notion that there is something wrong when students report what their professors publish—well, it's been rumored that if you publish something, anyone can read it. Perhaps it's to keep those "spies" from "reporting" his ideas that Professor Piterberg has been careful to keep his own list of publications short.

But the really comic part comes at the end. Piterberg claims to be on the "blacklist" of Campus Watch. Now for the life of me, I haven't been able to find his name anywhere on the site. He wasn't the subject of one of the "dossiers" of the original "egregious eight." He doesn't appear on the list of persons who sent in their own names, in "solidarity" with the eight. In fact, Campus Watch hasn't put out anything about him at all. Same thing with James Gelvin. (I myself have written about Gelvin—not a "listing" but 1,000 reasoned words— and I wrote them not for Campus Watch, but for the journal I edit.)

Finally, as far as UCLA being one of the "major targets" of Campus Watch: until the website posted Piterberg's memo, it didn't even have an entry for UCLA under its "Survey of Institutions."