Middle East studies in the News
Joseph Massad Update
by David Bernstein
Word comes from Martin Kramer that Prof. Joseph Massad of Columbia may have been granted tenure, though nothing has been formally announced. I've tangled with Massad before (you can read the posts at this link), and I don't see any reason to repeat myself.
However, I did come across something today that calls into question Massad's truthfulness in answering previous allegations against him. A few years back, Massad was accused in a film by the David Project, Columbia Unbecoming, of, in Massad's words, being "intolerant in the classroom." He published a lengthy response, which I reprinted on this website.
Among other points Massad made was this: "Moreover, the lie that the film propagates claiming that I would equate Israel with Nazi Germany is abhorrent. I have never made such a reprehensible equation." [The film actually quotes a student of Massad's as stating that Massad's "favorite description is the Palestinian as the new Jew and the Jew as the new Nazi."]
Now check out Massad's recent piece for the "Electronic Intifada," The Gaza Ghetto Uprising. If Massad does not quite "equate" Israel with Nazi Germany, he surely suggests a direct analogy between them, and it fits quite nicely with the student's claim that Massad referred to Palestinians as the new Jews and the Jews as the new Nazis. For example, beyond the obvious allusion to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in his title [I know authors don't always choose their titles, but Massad refers to the "Gaza Ghetto Uprising" in the text of his piece], after discussing a Polish Jew who committed suicide after refusing to serve on a Nazi-sponsored judenrat (Jewish Council) and fleeing to London, Massad writes, "The Palestinian Collaborationist Authority that runs the judenrat set up by Oslo has never even attempted to resist Israeli orders."
So, here's the scenario: (a) student in a documentary claims that Massad accuses Israelis of acting like the Nazis, and thinks the Palestinians are in the position of Jews under Nazi rule; (b) while a controversy brews over the documentary that could cost him his career, Massad denies that he has ever said that Israel is the equivalent of Nazi Germany, and objects that he finds such a notion reprehensible; and (c) once the relevant controversy blows over, Massad writes an article that analogizes Israel to Nazi Germany, and analogizes Palestinians to Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, in a way that comes about as close to equating Israel with Nazi Germany as one can without directly stating, "I think Israel is just like Nazi Germany."
Various defenders of Massad, who took his response to the allegations against him at face value, should be feeling rather embarrassed right about now.
UPDATE: I should note that equating Israel with Nazi Germany would be protected by academic freedom, so long as a professor didn't try to impose this view on his students. But Massad didn't plead academic freedom, he claimed the underlying allegation was false.
FURTHER UPDATE: On his website, Massad states that the student who made the allegation in question was never his student.
He also claims that Columbia's Hillel rabbi, Charles Sheer (now emeritus) simply made up the claim that Massad argued in a public lecture in effect "that the Zionists are the new Nazis; the Palestinians are oppressed victims and therefore the new Jews," and that this was the original source of the allegations made in the movie. Putting the movie aside, now that Massad has clearly argued in print that the "Zionists" are analogous to the Nazis, and the Palestinians to Jews undergoing massacres by the Nazis, I don't think there's much question as to whether the rabbi's account or Massad's denial is more plausible.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.
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