As if the recent intense media coverage surrounding Concordia hasn’t been enough, a new public watchdog is starting to keep an eye on the school.
The Philadelphia-based Web site Campus Watch, (www.campus-watch.org), takes a hard line with those who exhibit and promote anti-Semitism on North American campuses.
Even though Middle East expert Daniel Pipes only recently founded the site, it already mentions Concordia more than 20 times. Most of the articles on Concordia concern the Sept. 9 riots, where pro-Palestinian protesters forced former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a scheduled speech.
Tension on campuses about the Middle East conflict is “a problem going on everywhere throughout the U.S. and Canada,” said Chris Mota, a university public relations officer. “We’ve seen it [the Web site] – there’s a bias, that’s clear, but we’re certainly not going to intervene or do anything to that effect,” she added.
The Web site’s mission statement says that “Campus Watch mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics and the abuse of power over students.” The site claims teachings in departments of Middle Eastern studies should be monitored because “American scholars often propagate a view of Middle Eastern affairs that sees Zionism as a racist offshoot of imperialism and blames Israel alone for the origin and persistence of the Palestinian problem.”
It posts newspaper, magazine and online articles about university events that denounce the U.S. and Israel and hosts a discussion forum.
Campus Watch used to list certain faculty members at North American universities it says are biased in their teachings about Palestinian issues and Islam. The list was yanked, with the explanation being that the controversy surrounding the professor’s dossiers detracted from the site’s purpose. However, material printed in other publications that has been linked to the site often singles out certain individuals for criticism.
Concordia Hillel Co-President Noah Joseph has nothing but praise for campus watch: “They seem to see clearly through the fog surrounding the current situation and call it as it is,” he said. “There have been violent [anti-Semitic] incidents including strangling and punching, and of course the paramount eruption on that fateful Monday [Sept. 9].”
Samer Elatrash, a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, is much more skeptical. “Campus Watch is run by Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, and their stated intent behind the Web site is to promote U.S. interests. They are under the impression that academics like [Noam] Chomsky are among the greatest threats to those interests.
“Most of the articles [on Campus Watch] are published by media owned by CanWest Global, which is headed by Izzy Asper, the guy who invited Netanyahu here in the first place.”
However, Elatrash said he was proud that Concordia and SPHR were featured on Campus Watch. “It is quite flattering to be targeted alongside Chomsky,” he added.
Other articles mentioned last year’s CSU agenda, which caused an uproar with its anti-Zionist and anti-Capitalist content, while another was about a student association’s Web site, hosted on a Concordia server, that had links to Holocaust denial sites, as well as ones that condone suicide bombings.
After an article was printed in the National Post about the Students Association for Muslim Awareness’ (SAMA) site, it was shut down in August. The group issued an apology at a meeting of the CSU council of representatives on Aug. 28.
SAMA executives, adamant that the group does not tolerate racism or hatred in any form, said the site had been inherited from a previous administration and that they were not aware of the existence of links to offensive material on it.