In 2009, hundreds of college professors signed a petition filled with lies and slanders against Israel. Economics professor Fred Gottheil of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign wondered how many of the same people would sign a a statement of concern about the oppression of women and homosexuals in the Middle East. Gottheil culled the names of American academics from the anti-Israel petition and sent them a request for signatures to "A Statement of Concern Calling for Support Regarding Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians", detailing some of the oppression that these groups face in conservative areas of the Middle East. How many signed it?
The result of Gottheil's experiment is that twenty-seven academics signed on to his statement out of the six hundred and seventy-five people approached. This is four percent, so few that Gottheil decided not to bother publishing the statement. As he put it to me in email, "the responses were so few, the idea of publicly putting the piece out above signatures made no sense." Notably, academics in Womens' Studies were less likely than the rest to sign this statement against the abuse of women, as only five out of one hundred and sixty-nine, or three percent, signed on.
Why didn't the others sign? The statement itself is inoffensive (Gottheil sent me a copy when I asked to see it). I suppose caution could be a reason, but the target set earlier proved their lack of caution by signing a statement with numerous obvious falsehoods. We might be seeing the result of a trust network in that the subjects do not know who Gottheil is, while the earlier anti-Israel petition may have come to them through trusted channels. That would raise the question of what channels distributed such an erroneous statement and why they are trusted. The subjects might be afraid of being castigated as racist and Islamophobic by their peers for opposing the oppression of minorities that happens to be done by right-wing Muslims at this moment in time, as increasingly happens to liberals who oppose Islamic conservative extremism on liberal grounds. Some of them might actually support the oppression of women and homosexuals. Only they know; I can merely speculate.
Some thanks is due to the few who signed on to Gottheil's statement against actual oppression. I hope that they would study the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict so that they do not again make the error that earned them Gottheil's attention.