Middle East studies in the News
Call Columbia a poisoned Ivy
by Douglas Feiden
It's one of America's greatest universities - and it has been the pride of New York City since its founding in 1754.
But Columbia University now is roiled by mounting charges of anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.
A dozen students yesterday described a Hate U-on-the-Hudson in which top professors compare Jews to Nazis and mock or bully students who defend Israel's right to exist. In interviews with the Daily News and in a controversial student documentary, they told how Morningside Heights has become a haven for academic bias and intimidation from professors and fellow students.
How ugly does it get? Posters for an Israeli film festival are defaced with swastikas. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is compared to Hitler. Israeli soldiers are branded rapists.
In the 24-minute film, "Columbia Unbecoming," which has not been publicly released, inflammatory language directed at Jewish students is portrayed as a part of the Columbia experience.
Example No. 1: Joseph Massad, a tenure-track professor of modern Arab politics, who allegedly said Palestinians are the "new Jews," Jews are the "new Nazis" and Israel is a "racist state" with no right to exist as a Jewish state.
Massad, who did not return calls, is described as repeatedly refusing to answer a question from Tomy Schoenfeld, an Israeli student and military veteran. Instead, he demands of his student, "How many Palestinians have you killed?"
"This is outright hate speech and a scar on the reputation of Columbia," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn). "The only way it can be healed is to fire this professor."
Responding to the film, Columbia President Lee Bollinger said in a statement that "because of the disturbing and offensive nature of the incidents described," he had asked Alan Brinkley, the university's provost, to investigate.
Columbia is "committed to the core principle of academic freedom," he said. "But that principle is not unlimited. ... It does not, for example, extend to protecting behavior in the classroom that threatens or intimidates students who express their viewpoints."
The documentary, produced by The David Project, a pro-Israel group in Boston, includes an account by Lindsay Shrier, 24, about a debate she had with George Saliba, a professor of Islamic civilization, outside his classroom.
"You have no claim to the land of Israel. You have no voice in this debate," she said Saliba told her. "You have green eyes. You're not a Semite. I have brown eyes. I'm a Semite."
Shrier, who graduated last year, told The News she was horrified and felt intimidated. "He acted as if having green eyes disconnected me from the land of my ancestors," she said.
"I refuse to comment on a film I have not seen," Saliba said.
The documentary focuses on Columbia's Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures Department, saying its chairman, Hamid Dabashi, advocates "dismantling the Zionist entity." Dabashi did not return a call.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org