Collectively they have published more than a hundred books and countless articles. Four are tenured professors at elite American universities. Internet searches reveal them to be widely cited experts on international affairs and American foreign policy.
In short, it's difficult to imagine a collection of academics more secure in their posts or more prominent.
But there they were -- Noam Chomsky, John Mearsheimer, Tony Judt and fellow travelers -- at a conference last week hosted by the University of Chicago warning that pressure from American Jewish groups is having a chilling effect on unpopular scholarship and free-wheeling debate on university campuses.
"Universities are the one place in the United States where Israel tends to get treated like a normal country," said Mearsheimer, the University of Chicago professor and co-author of "The Israel Lobby," which asserts that the pro-Israel community stifles debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East.
"Some find this situation intolerable," he told a nearly packed 1,500-seat auditorium, "which causes them to work hard to stifle criticism of Israel and to instead promote a positive image of Israel on campuses."
Barely a month into the academic year, university campuses are beset by controversies related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the related issue of American policy in the Middle East.
Last week, anti-Muslim posters were found at George Washington University in an apparent promotion for Islamo-Fascism Week, a week of events across the country that organizers are billing as the largest conservative campus protest ever. (MORE)