Middle East studies in the News
Columbia's Israel Problem
New York Post
The Post's editorial, ("Columbia's Anti-Semites," Jan. 3) gives much credence to those who accuse Columbia's Professor Joseph Massad and his colleagues in the university's Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures of harassing Jewish students — and little to those who dispute the charges.
Your pointed description of Massad as "a non-tenured professor" leaves little doubt about what The Post wants to see happen.
I am left to wonder why you so readily believe what the accusers say and so quickly dismiss people who defend the faculty.
Several students have accused Massad and other members of his department of intimidating them in class and at public lectures. If their accounts are true, there should be entire rooms full of witnesses who can confirm what they say.
In all the months this controversy has been brewing, I have not heard a single witness come forward to corroborate the charges.
MEALAC is small, and the number of its faculty who study Israel — and who generally support its policies — is vastly out of proportion to the number who study Muslim nations and peoples.
It is hardly a place where the deck is stacked against Israel, though one would never know it from reading The Post.
It's a shame the NYCLU is supporting professors at Columbia who are biased against Israel and use their classes for propaganda — stifling contrary opinions from their students.
This is not an Arab dictatorship but an American university, where either both sides should be presented or none.
Why, when it comes to Israel, is the NYCLU against freedom of expression and freedom from intimidation?
An important distinction should be stressed in the debate over the anti-Israel professors at Columbia.
It is the distinction between a professor having a strong anti-Israel bias — both in his outside activities and even in his class presentations — and engaging in the kind of open student intimidation The Post describes.
If Columbia President Lee Bollinger's committee should come up with solid proof of the blatant intimidation that has been charged, then dismissal of the offending professors is definitely justified.
I stress the term "solid" because even though I am a fierce pro-Israel partisan, I am also a conservative economist teaching in a liberal town, and I know that disgruntled students can try to make life miserable for a professor they disagree with on ideological grounds.
Either way, Bollinger should simply hire a few pro-Israel professors for his department.
This is the way departments of economics handle the problem of differing approaches to research and teaching of economics.
Bollinger's feet should be held to the fire on this issue.
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