SPME At Five Years Old – A Report to The SPME Network and Contributors

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When Judith Jacobson of Columbia University and I co-founded the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Yahoogroups Listserv in 2002, little did we dream that in just 5 years, we would have over 10,000 network subscribers to our SPME Faculty Forum with chapters from coast to coast, Canada and Europe.

Little did we imagine that SPME within five years we would have held a conference on Postcolonial Theory and the Arab-Israel Conflict conference at the Samuel Rosenthal Center for Judaic Studies at Case Western Reserve University in October 2005 with scholars from around the world producing a book edited by Professors Philip Carl Salzman, McGill University and Donna Robinson Divine, Smith College published by Routledge Press to be published within the next few months in 2007.

Little did we imagine that SPME would be seeking funding for a conference to be convened at the University of Maryland convened by Mark Lichbach, Chair of the Department of Government and Politics to seriously critique the works of Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, Jimmy Carter and others with the production of a volume entitled: Professors and Presidents With Jewish Problems: A Look At Power in America . This project still needs at least $50,000 to move forward and may not proceed if our network does not dig down deep to make it happen. If just 1000, of our 10,000 network subscribers took out a membership (click here to do so ), we’d raise the $50,000 necessary and be publishing another academic volume which will be used in scholarship at the highest levels.

Little did we imagine the emergence of faculty and incredible activity of chapters in the United States, Canada and Europe working with faculty colleagues, departmental university administrators, students, members of the community to bring in world-class scholars and influential figures to share perspectives on the Middle East situation that were not being heard previous in formal academic settings such as in the classroom and in lecture halls and not just on the quad and student center. Scholars of such prominence as Irwin Cotler, Matthias Kuentzel, Phyllis Chesler, Moshe Lazar and Melanie Philips were brought to SPME chapters around the world.

Little did we imagine that SPME would be invited to attend, present and participate in the annual Global Conference on Anti-Semitism convened each year in Jerusalem.

Little did we realize that we would be publishing a separate edition of the SPME Faculty Forum in German for our German-speaking members throughout the world.

Little did we imagine that a cohort of SPME faculty from several system-wide university campuses would meet with central administration and colleagues to begin working from within the university governance structure, towards eliminating anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism from the classroom, curriculum and even the quad.

Little did we imagine that we would be working hand-in-hand as independent faculty working with the United States Commission of Civil Rights Campaign Against Anti-Semitism on Campus with the public announcement of their report and recommendations being unveiled at SPME chapter meetings in New York and California.

Little did we imagine that we would be working hand-in-hand with our British and Israeli colleagues on a daily basis to try to fend off anti-Israel boycott initiatives by a handful of rabidly anti-Israel, but extremist professors, physicians and journalists for the third straight year.

Little did we imagine that we would be prime sponsors in circulating a petition to the Islamic Republic of Iran endorsed by quite a few groups with varying agendas to free our scholarl colleague, Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholarship, who was imprisoned in Teheran after a visit with her 93 year old mother after being accused of being a “Zionist agent.”

Little did we imagine that we would be prime sponsors in circulating a petition endorsed by many groups and intellectuals calling for the Government of Bangladesh to drop capital punishment charges of sedition against Muslim journalist Salah Choudhury for writing positively about Israel and wanting to visit it.

Little did we imagine we would be mobilizing thousands of academics to denounce Iran’s so-called Conference on the Holocaust or issue a letter of condemnation of Mahmoud Amedinejad’s call for the destruction of the state of Israel as a prosecutable war crimes act as incitement to commit genocide with over 400 signatures.

Little did we imagine we would do this and so much more with an annual budget this year of less than $70,000 falling way short of what it takes to realize many of the projects waiting for attention. Little did we imagine that only 9700 or so of our 10,000 network members would not feel that the work that we were doing was worth supporting with a contribution, which has been a tremendous disappointment.

Little did we imagine, when we started, that if each of our 10,000 Network subscribers became members at $50.00 a year, we could be running SPME from a university office with paid professionals to facilitate the development, programs and activities necessary for our scholars to do the necessary scholarship to reverse the continuing world-wide tide of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in academia that has permeated college classrooms.

Little did we imagine how frustrated we would be that we cannot do more because it seems that while people value scholarship, they don’t invest in real rigorous academic scholarship, the kind that appears in classrooms and in the training of future voters, politicians, decision makers and statesmen, the kind that is not sexy and on the best seller list, but the kind that changes the course of the discourse and results in permanent changes and not quick-fix, feel good efforts. We ask each of you to invest in scholarship with an tax-deductable contribution by clicking here so that we can fund the necessary scholarship to deliver impactual and meaningful change on college and university campuses around the world.

Having reported all of this, little did I imagine the incredibly talented people with whom I have had the priviledge to work these past give years. To acknowledge each and every person would be impossible, but I draw your attention to the incredibly talented board members with whom I have worked over the past five years (click here ), the spirited and productive chapter coordinators (click here ). To our donors and contributors over the past five years who we try to acknowledge periodically in the SPME Faculty Forum (click here ), let me say thank you for the confidence and support you have shown over the years. I am reluctant to thank individuals because the the list would never end and grows every day. However each of you knows who you are and of my deep appreciation for your efforts. When my personal and professional circumstances permit, I will thank each one of your publically and profusely. Trust me.

Finally, we thank each and every one of you who has done at least one thing to justify our notion that academics believe in academic integrity and honest debate and have taken action to counter propaganda and polemics serving as scholarship and for taking a stance on academic freedom and academic excellence. Each of you have made a statement or statements by adding your name and your voice to our a project from generated by our SPME mission. Collectively you have become a strong and recognized voice against polemics, propaganda and extremism, where such a voice did not exist five years ago. Thank you.

SPME At Five Years Old – A Report to The SPME Network and Contributors

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Edward S. Beck

Co-Founder and President Emeritus, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

Contributing Faculty Member, Walden University

Read all stories by Edward S. Beck