Yesterday, the Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel reported that newly Democratic Senator Arlen Specter will speak at a conference entitled “Libel Lawfare: Silencing Criticism of Radical Islam.” Specter is scheduled to deliver the welcome address.
According to the invitation, the “conference is substantially funded by the Middle East Forum, which thanks an anonymous donor for his generosity.” The conference lists no Muslims among its presenters or participants.
Middle East Forum is a think tank run by right wing scholar-activist Daniel Pipes, who is also speaking at the conference. Since 9/11, Pipes has become notorious for trafficking in hoary old Orientalist stereotypes in order to stoke Americans’ prejudice against, and fear of, Islam. Pipes also oversees Campus Watch, a project that keeps tabs on and harasses academic scholars it deems insufficiently supportive of Israel.
In keeping with his stated belief that Arab- and Muslim-Americans deserve to be subjected to “special scrutiny,” during the 2008 presidential campaign Pipes published three different articles questioning whether Barack Obama ever practiced Islam as a child.
Also speaking at the conference is Frank Gaffney, who heads the Center for Security Policy. In February, CSP released a report, The Rise of the Iran Lobby, which claimed that “a complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration’s policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Among those listed as part of the “network” were Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, Ambassador Dennis Ross, Council on Foreign Relations Committee president Richard Haas, and the Center for a New American Security, simply by virtue of the fact that “the foreign policy positions of [CNAS's] affiliates correspond strongly to the preferred policy positions of Tehran’s mullahs.” CNAS has contributed a number of people to the Obama administration, including CNAS co-founder Michele Flournoy, who is now undersecretary of defense for policy.
The question for Sen. Specter is, why would he want to share the stage with, and help legitimize, characters such as Pipes and Gaffney who have leveled such baseless and irresponsible innuendos and accusations against both the president and key members of his administration?