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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 10, 2003


Middle East Certitude


The Columbia [University]Daily Spectator ran this article. I wonder whether Edward Said, a Columbia luminary (moonstruck) read it?
While we edge ever closer to war with Iraq and members of our faculty take their positions on the front lines of debate, we should take a closer look at the services our University provides on the Middle East. It is common knowledge that the great majority of faculty members in Columbia University's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department signed the divestment petition last fall. In doing so, they chose to express their ideological views, which are certainly legitimate expressions of moral judgment.
In theory, the faculty has every right to hold any view as long as it provides its students with a balanced education. But, in reality, some make no such effort. One professor particularly outspoken about his one-sided approach, Assistant Professor for Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History Joseph Massad, has recently published in Al-Ahram--the same paper that aired visiting professor Tom Paulin's support for shooting Jews in the West Bank. Massad has also recently passed his fifth-year review and will soon be up for tenure.

Massad makes no effort to hide his motivations--truly an admirable quality. On the first page of the syllabus for his class, Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Society, he bluntly states, "the purpose of the course is not to provide a 'balanced' coverage of the views of both sides, but rather to provide a thorough yet critical historical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict to familiarize undergraduates with the background to the current situation from a critical perspective." How something can be both thorough and critical while being unbalanced is anyone's guess. One would think that we need a teacher in the classroom, not a critic.

The problem lies not in what Massad believes, but in his openly biased presentation in the classroom. The statements he issues are anywhere from questionable to fundamentally wrong, and there is no better example than the article he published in Al-Ahram, entitled "The Legacy of Jean-Paul Sartre," in which he asks, "What is it about the nature of Zionism, its racism, and its colonial policies that continues to escape the understanding of many European intellectuals on the left?" The article is an attack on the greatest intellectuals of the past century--Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Etienne Balibar, and Slavoj Zizek--for decrying the anti-Semitism rampant in the Arab world and for recognizing the legitimacy of what he calls "the racist Jewish State."

In the article, Massad asserts that anti-Semitism in the Arab world is no more than "a Zionist-inspired propagandistic claim." If that were true, how would one explain Egypt's airing of A Knight Without a Horse, a mini-series based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, during Ramadan, or the daily derogatory cartoons appearing in the Arab media, or the fact that Muslim clerics around the Middle East call the Jews "the sons of pigs and apes" in their weekly sermons? [more]