Target of a Smear Campaign

by M. SHAHID ALAM

In April 2012, Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), a Zionist organization headed by Charles Jacobs, began a smear campaign against Muslim students, the staff of Spiritual Life Center, and some faculty at Northeastern University.

The APT posted three videos on the internet accusing Muslims students at Northeastern University of advocating ‘Islamic extremism’ and concocting charges of anti-Semitism against several members of the faculty and staff of the Spiritual Life Center at Northeastern University. I was one of the principal targets of these smears. After launching the videos, the AMP has used a variety of tactics to bring pressure on Northeastern University to ‘punish’ the faculty it had targeted in one of its smear videos.

When this campaign persisted I decided to write a letter to the President of Northeastern in November 2012 providing some background to AMP’s smear campaign. At the time I had no intention of circulating this letter more widely. However, since AMP has persisted in its smear campaign against me, I think it proper to publish this letter to set the record straight.  Here is the text of the letter (partly revised) that I sent to President Aoun of Northeastern University.

* * * 

It has come to my notice that Mr. Charles Jacobs – head of Americans for Peace and Tolerance – has been circulating letters among NU faculty and administration that make baseless charges against me. I am concerned about the damage to my reputation and to the reputation of the university from these charges, which is why I am writing to you. In this letter I briefly outline the main charges, and provide you with my key points to refute them.

First, I would like to present some information on the source of the charges, why they are aimed not only at me but at other faculty at NU, and why they are likely to have broader impact beyond just an attack on myself. Mr. Charles Jacobs has been engaging in sustained attacks for several years to silence critics of Israeli human rights violations. He is the co-founder of the David Project, an organization established in 2002 with the specific purpose of silencing critics of Israel. In 2004, the David Project produced Columbia Unbecoming, a documentary that spearheaded a smear campaign against several Arab-American professors, including two very prominent academics at Columbia University.  In 2012, he began a campaign directed against Northeastern University, producing a series of videos smearing faculty, staff and students at NU.

Second, I want to set out a few specifics about the three videos produced by APT to  smear Northeastern University, several of its faculty, its Muslim students and the staff of Spiritual Life Center. One of these videos, Anti-Semitic Education at Northeastern, directs its smears – amongst others – against Professor Denis Sullivan and myself. In addition, following the release of this video, Mr. Jacobs began sending letters to NU faculty, making false statements about me that he claims are caught on video. In one of his letters to NU faculty, Mr. Jacobs makes the claim: “[Alam] Caught on video urging students to be proud anti-Semites.”  In another letter, he claims: “Prof. Alam tells students it’s alright to be called anti-Semitic because it shows they’re on the right side of history.” These charges are simply untrue, and I categorically deny them. They are not supported even by the doctored video clips from a talk I gave at Northeastern University. It is worth noting that my talk was videotaped surreptitiously, without my knowledge or consent.

I would like to set the record straight about the source of the clips on me in the video produced by APT. At the end of a talk I gave last spring at an event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at NU, a student complained that their advocacy of Palestinian rights often invites slurs of anti-Semitism. She asked, “How should the pro-Palestinian activists respond to these smears?” I responded: If someone smears you as anti-Semitic because of your advocacy of Palestinian rights you should ignore your accusers. I urged the student to disregard such attempts at intimidation, stating that if their accusers persist in these smear tactics, at some point in time those who are falsely accused might wear these smears as a mark of distinction; as a mark of distinction – because this would signify that they have been smeared for supporting a just and honorable cause, the human rights of the long-suffering Palestinians. My remarks were cut and distorted for purposes of the slanderous video.

There are other issues likely being raised by the letters Mr. Jacobs is emailing to some faculty at Northeastern, but I am confident that I can refute every one of them, and shall do so if the need arises. Unfortunately, Mr. Jacobs is not working alone on this campaign. Among others, he has help in his smear campaign from several other organizations, including Campus Watch, headed by Daniel Pipes, Center for Islamic Pluralism, headed by Stephen Schwartz, and Freedom Center, headed by David Horowitz.  All of them illustrious organizations headed by men of impeccable reputations as truth-tellers.

Over the 25 years that I have taught at Northeastern I have made a few modest contributions in the fields of economics, politics, history, religious studies, and poetry; launched three new courses on capitalism, the history of the global economy and the economic history of the Middle East; taught four classes every year nearly all of which were filled to capacity; and mentored many students. During this quarter century of teaching courses that critically analyzed many of the assumptions of the social sciences, not one of my students has gone to any of my colleagues or official at Northeastern to complain of bias against any ethnic group or nationality in my classes.

On the contrary, my students can attest that I place the study and critique of biases – whether Orientalist, Eurocentric, racist, nationalist, religious, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, sexist, jingoist or ethnic – at the center of my approach to the study of the social sciences. I begin every one of my courses with readings, videos and lectures that seek to create an awareness of overt and covert biases in the social science texts, in our public discourse as well as our private conversations. I tell my students that recognition of our biases is the first and necessary step towards pushing back against the same in our own thinking.

In order to help my students in these explorations, I tell them stories from the wisdom traditions of Islam, the West, India and China, I recite to them poems – from Rumi, Shakespeare, Whitman, and contemporary American poets. I show them videos on biases in our perceptions, and I read to them from some of the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln. It is therefore ironic that accusations of anti-Semitic bias should be hurled against me. It is doubly ironic that such accusations should come from individuals who have never taken my classes or engaged me in discussions; and this speaks pointedly to the falsity of their accusations.

At the end, I must confess that as I write this letter I cannot avoid feeling diminished by the need to defend my reputation against outrageous smears by people who have made lucrative careers out of hate-mongering and Islamophobia. A scholar’s life is an open book: you can examine his ideas in his books, articles, essays, and speeches. My work too should speak for itself.

I am available to meet with you at your convenience should you wish to discuss the matter further.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University; he is also the faculty advisor to Students for Justice in Palestine on the campus. He is an economist, essayist, translator and poet. His most recent book, Israeli Exceptionalism, was published in 2007 by Palgrave

M. SHAHID ALAM is professor of economics at Northeastern University. This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Macmillan, November 2009). Contact me at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece