Professor Suing David Horowitz
- PROFESSOR FIGHTS PORTRAYAL AS SUPPORTER OF TERRORISM
Lisa M. Krieger
As one of Stanford University's most respected Middle East scholars,
professor Joel Beinin knows what terrorism looks like.
So it was a shock when he saw his own face on the cover of a new book
titled ``Campus Support for Terrorism,'' linking him to radical Islam.
He's suing the book's publishers in what is the first counteroffensive
by a professor against a growing campaign by conservative groups
targeting left-leaning college educators.
Conservative groups acknowledge they are watching scholars like Beinin
in an effort to combat what they believe are inaccuracies perpetuated
by liberal faculties on college campuses. But while many of the
monitored faculty have stayed silent -- saying they lack the tenure or
campus support necessary to protect their careers from outside critics
-- Beinin hired an attorney.
``They have used my picture as part of their war on free expression,''
Beinin said. ``I have never, in any way, supported terrorism. I've
spoken out against it. They're trying to intimidate people into silence.''
David Horowitz, publisher of the book that is the subject of Beinin's
complaint, says he is simply exercising his right to free speech and
considers the suit harassment.
``I didn't say he was a terrorist. I said he supported terrorism,''
said Horowitz, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study
of Popular Culture. ``It is my view. If he doesn't like it, he can
respond anytime he wants, instead of playing legal games.''
Horowitz and other leading conservatives seek to combat what they
believe is the ``radicalization'' of Mideast studies by
liberal-dominated faculties at the nation's universities.
Stanford is among 18 campuses targeted as having ``anti-Israel bias''
by the watchdog organization ``Campus Watch.'' ``Stanford students are
getting a very poor interpretation of the Middle East, an extremist
viewpoint that doesn't tolerate other viewpoints,'' wrote Campus Watch
founder Daniel Pipes.
Beinin, a 58-year-old Jewish professor who supports Palestinian
rights, knows he has enemies. Secure in his tenured position at an
elite university, he routinely criticizes U.S. leaders for failing to
understand why Americans are hated in the Arab world. He decries the
humanitarian costs of the Palestinian occupation.
The Ivy League-educated Beinin, former president of the prestigious
Middle East Studies Association, favors peaceful coexistence of
Palestinians and Israelis, and seeks a solution to the conflict based
on the principles of human rights and international law. His work has
triggered death threats; one caller said, ``You know what happened to
Daniel Pearl. . . . The people who are sympathetic are the first ones
Organizations such as the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of
Popular Culture say Beinin and others bear some of the responsibility
for Sept. 11 because they soft-peddled the dangers of radical Islam.
In addition to its provocative books, the center is advocating
legislation called ``an academic bill of rights,'' introduced in at
least 15 states last year, that exhorts professors to present a wider
political spectrum in the classroom. A related group, running the Web
site Campus-Watch.org, is collecting dossiers on professors it says
are biased against the United States and Israel.
A nationally known writer and Republican firebrand, center president
Horowitz is said to have the ear of Bush adviser Karl Rove and others
in the White House.
``You can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the
story,'' said Horowitz, who is pushing for ``intellectual diversity,''
saying universities must redress the preponderance of liberal thinking
on college faculties.
``I consider Beinin to be a supporter of terrorism,'' Horowitz said.
``I know that he supports the Palestinian Liberation Organization. I
am going to guess that he supports the Palestinian Authority, which is
Beinin responded: ``As usual, Horowitz is either flat out wrong or
makes arguments from innuendo. I have never said that I support the
PLO or any of its constituent organizations. I have argued that the
U.S. and Israel ought to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, not
because I support it but because it is the pragmatic way to make
progress toward peace. I definitely do not support Hamas.''
Professors worry about the effort to assert political control over
their teaching, research and public programs. They accuse the groups
of conducting McCarthy-type witch hunts, the hysterical search for
secret U.S. communists during the early days of the Cold War.
Ellen Schrecker, a professor of history at Yeshiva University and a
scholar of McCarthyism, calls it ``an assault on academia.''
Beinin acknowledges that his lawsuit doesn't tackle the more profound
issues of libel, free speech or academic debate -- rather, it focuses
very narrowly on an unapproved use of a photograph.
``My photo is not out there for anyone to use as they see fit -- and
certainly not to make money off it, by accusing me of doing bad
things,'' he said.
Horowitz responds that he doesn't expect anyone to buy the book simply
because Beinin's photo is on the cover.
``If I had George Clooney on the cover, OK, he'd have a case. But Joel
Beinin? That's idiotic,'' Horowitz said.
Contact Lisa Krieger at lkrieger @ mercurynews.com. Fax (408) 920-5565.
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