Campus Watch Research
Tenured Extremism [on Joseph Massad]
by Jonathan Calt Harris
"The Jews are not a nation.…The Jewish state is a racist state that does not have a right to exist." One might expect these comments to have been uttered by a neo-Nazi or a militant Islamic leader.
Sadly, these words were uttered by an instructor of Middle East studies at one of America's most prestigious universities in the course of delivering a lecture at Oxford University.
In title, Joseph A. Massad is an assistant professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. In practice, he is one of the most vitriolic voices in academia.
A self-described "Palestinian Jordanian," Mr. Massad teaches courses on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islam, and modern intellectual thought. As assistant editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, he writes frequently on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism, and Palestinian nationalism. But since his appointment to Columbia in 1999,Mr. Massad has swiftly established himself as one of the university's most controversial faculty members.
The Columbia Conservative Alumni Association, for example, lists him among "Columbia's Worst Faculty." He finds the West to blame for virtually every ill he perceives in the Arab/Muslim world.
Poverty? It results from "the racist and barbaric policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank." An absence of democracy in the Arab/Muslim world? It's the fault of America. In fact, in a review of Bassam Tibi's "Political Islam and the New World Disorder," Mr. Massad attacks Mr. Tibi's assertion that the Islamists are even in part responsible for the democracy deficit: "Tibi blames the Islamists, rather than the ruling autocratic elites and their patron, the United States, for the lack of democracy in the Arab and Muslim countries."
The 1991 Gulf War? Mr. Massad's view of it is limited to "the fact that US forces strafed the retreating Iraqi soldiers on the Basra-Kuwait highway after their withdrawal from Kuwait,savagelymurdering in the process thousands of Iraqis."
Nowhere does he mention that American forces were responding to Iraq's unprovoked invasion of Kuwait, saving Kuwaitis from Iraqi oppression, or that Iraqi troops were well treated after they surrendered.
And what does Mr. Massad think of militant Islam? When not deriding the existence of the "so-called Islamic ‘threat,'" Mr. Massad faults the American government for its creation.Thus, he reduces the October 24, 1983 suicide bombing in Beirut, in which 241 American Marines were killed, to the consequences of "US imperialist aggression."
Mr. Massad goes yet further to apologize for militant Islam. He challenges the argument that Islamists oppose democratic reform, but without providing examples.
In response to a study which found that the vast majority of terrorist attacks against Jews and Israelis in the 1940s and 1950s was the work of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Massad contests without supporting evidence: "Many other groups held views of Jews similar to those of the Muslim Brothers and could very well have been the perpetrators of these attacks."
To him, the Holocaust is not a searing event of world history but rather something that is put in quotes or with a small "h." Indeed, he sees "the holocaust" as a self-serving rewrite of history invented for propagandistic reasons. "Israeli demands that Palestinians recognize the holocaust are not about the holocaust at all, but rather about the other part of the package, namely recognizing and submitting to Israel's ‘right to exist' as a colonial-settler racist state," said Mr. Massad."The Palestinian people should continue to resist this Zionist package deal."
Mr. Massad declared this Holocaust refusal of the Palestinians, "the only remaining obstacle to a complete Zionist victory, one that seeks to be sealed by Zionism's rewriting of both Palestinian and Jewish history."
Mr. Massad indiscriminately cites statistics from anti-Israel organizations like the "Unified National Leadership of the Uprising" that "thousands of women have miscarried as result of [the Israeli Defense Force's use of] poison gas and tear gas grenades." Instead of offering corroborating evidence, Mr. Massad seizes on this anti-Israel political organization's spurious claims to establish his thesis that Israel is a ruthless totalitarian regime.
According to Mr. Massad, Jews seek world domination — or at least domination of America. "From the infamous czarist Protocols of the Elders of Zion to genocidal Nazi propaganda, Jews as a ‘power-hungry' people was a notion that was part and parcel of the anti-Semitic lexicon of hate. Today's Israeli Jewish supremacists seem to agree with the anti-Semites asserting that if Jews do not control the entire world, at least they control America," he said.
As evidence for a Jewish conspiracy, Mr. Massad quotes an American rabbi who expresses gratitude that American Jews have now become "full partners in the decision-making at all levels" of government, and who explains his surprise that a receptionist at the State Department speaks "perfect Israeli Hebrew."
Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism, according to Mr. Massad. He blames anti-Semitism on what he calls, "complicity between Zionism and anti-Semitism."
Terrorism against Israel is desirable, Mr. Massad says. "It is only by making the costs of Jewish supremacy too high that Israeli Jews will give it up." Mr. Massad makes clear that the "resistance of Palestinians" should not be restricted to military targets but should also include "civil institutions." In keeping with this analysis, he hails terrorists who target Israeli civilians within Israel's 1967 borders as "anti-colonial resistors."
All Jews are evil, according to Mr. Massad. He defines "Jewish supremacists" as those Jews "not confined to Mr. Sharon and the Israeli Jewish rightwing which is anyway a majority in Jewish Israel, but also to liberal and leftist Jews." Regardless of political views, then, every Jew is what Mr. Massad calls a "supremacist."
Israel is racist, in Mr. Massad's view. This is Mr. Massad's conclusion from its not supporting an unqualified "right of return" of Palestinians to Israel. Mr. Massad rejects out of hand Israel's fears of being overrun demographically by an unfettered Palestinian right to immigrate, portraying this as another extension of "Jewish supremacy."
In sum, Mr. Massad's views — his denial of the existence of the Jewish people, his belittling of the Holocaust, his charges of "Jewish supremacy " and racism, his conspiracy theories about Jewish dominance, and his calls for terrorist strikes against Israeli civilians — all smell of rank anti-Semitism.
In April 2002, Mr. Massad delivered a public lecture at a Columbia sit-in. During the lecture, he denigrated Israel as "a Jewish supremacist and racist state" and declared, "Every racist state should be destroyed."
He gave a similar talk at Oxford University in March 2002, where he proclaimed, "the Jews are not a nation" and a "Jewish state is a racist state that does not have the right to exist."
Mr. Massad claims that his students' evaluations of his classes are "full of support" for him, but a review of those comments reveals something quite different — clear condemnation for his relentless bias against America, Israel, and Jews.
Columbia University student evaluations of Mr. Massad, available at "Culpa" (http://culpa.info) ,raise serious questions about his method of presentation. They suggest that as the instructor of even survey courses, he actively sought to corral his students into adopting his own vitriolic views of Israel. "This course should have been called, ‘Why Palestinians Hate Israel,'" wrote one student. "There was a massive and frustrating bias to the material presented in class," said another. Yet another student asked, "Can you imagine if a psychology professor declared that he was only going to teach the ‘Nurture' theory and assume that he was correct and therefore the ‘Nature' side of the argument would be disregarded? Massad should be embarrassed about how he teaches (not to mention Columbia)."
Whatever the purported subject matter of his courses — from comparative literature to ancient Greek philosophy — Mr. Massad takes the opportunity to launch into anti-American harangues. "You'll spend most classes wondering how an apoplectic rant about US foreign policy that relates only vaguely to Plato or Aristotle is supposed to represent the ‘core' of your Columbia education," a 2002 student said.
Mr. Massad has labeled the critics of his work the "thought police," but if his own students are to be believed, it is he who acts as the "thought police" in the classroom.
Mr. Massad is soon up for tenure review. Should this once distinguished university stoop to provide a permanent forum for his views, it would signify a truly stunning oversight. Regardless of format, audience, or purported subject matter, Mr. Massad consistently and almost single-mindedly advances a stridently anti-Western and anti-Jewish diatribe.
He knows no distinction between a classroom lecture and advocacy at a public demonstration. Thus, as Martin Kramer noted, "There is no difference between what Joseph Massad teaches and what he preaches."
Indeed, for Mr. Massad, a fair presentation is neither offered nor sought. His opinion constitutes the whole of instruction, and methodology is merely an advocate's hammer. Whether bending evidence to support a theory or cudgeling dissent, Mr. Massad's record discloses a belief that the end justifies the means, and the end is pure ideology.
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