Dismiss Professor Joseph Massad sign now

Office of the President
Columbia University
535 West 116th Street
202 Low Library
Mail Code 4309
New York, NY 10027

Dear President Bollinger:

Professor Joseph Massad's dismissal from his position as modern Arab politics professor at Columbia's Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, (MEALAC) should be made an imperative at Columbia University. Massad could obtain a tenured position and in light of these facts, this is simply reprehensible:

Professor Massad is one of the school's harshest critics of Israel, which he frequently describes as a racist and Jewish supremacist state.

He is often cited as the prime example by critics of Middle Eastern studies in America, who say the field has an anti-Israeli bent.

Thoroughly discussed in the documentary Columbia Unbecoming and in national media reports, Professor Massad has been quoted as comparing Israelis to Nazis and Prime Minister Sharons cultural views to those of Joseph Goebbels. He has reportedly refused to allow students to dispute his allegations of Israeli atrocities in class.

A student of Professor Massad, told the Jerusalem Post (12/31/04) that Massad shouted at her: "If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people then you can get out of my classroom!"

At a lecture at Oxford University, Massad declared: The Jews are not a nation. The Jewish state is a racist state that does not have the right to exist. Perhaps the most notorious allegation against Massad involves a claim that (at an off-campus event) he refused to answer a question from an Israeli student unless that student told Massad how many Palestinians he had killed.

Today, this is the kind of Academic Freedom Columbia University students are forced to endure. Mr. President, we urge you to address this and dismiss Massad for the virulent hatred and political grandstanding which takes place in his classroom.

He teaches a course called "Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies" that "provides a historical overview of the Zionist Palestinian conflict to familiarize undergraduates with the background of the current situation," according to Columbia's course guide.

The course description for "Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Society" itself notes:

"The purpose of this course is not to provide "balanced" coverage of the views of both sides but rather to provide a thorough yet critical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict."

Massad is declaring out right his position on Israel, using the language of homicide bombers.

To further appreciate what is meant by "critical" Massad's use of the word "Zionist" is worthy of closer examination. In Professor Massad's view, Zionism--that is, the political and religious movement advocating the right of the Jewish people to an independent state-is inherently "anti-Semitic". On its face, the claim is absurd; Zionism has never defined itself with reference to biological or racial traits, accenting only affiliation to the Jewish faith; moreover, Israel boasts a considerable diversity of races and grants more rights to Arab citizens than does any Arab state.

Joseph Massad is probably one of the most dangerous intellectuals or self-proclaimed intellectuals on campus, not for the great majority of his views, but for the fact that he uses the classroom as a platform for political propaganda which is baseless and has a level of dishonesty in its presentation. His favorite description is the Palestinian as the "New Jew" and the Jew as the "New Nazi".

One example that he used to demonstrate was that the word "Zion" - the foundation for "Zionism" - "Zion" in Hebrew means "penis" so it's a big masculine movement. Anyone with a little knowledge of Hebrew knows that CIUM is the word for "Zion" - so what Massad was saying wasn't even remotely true.

Here is a professor who teaches a course on Israeli politics. He has 1) no knowledge of Hebrew, 2) is not familiar with its history, 3) and doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation.

Professor Massad has a demonstrably feeble grasp of Israeli history and speaks no Hebrew. His books contain numerous errors prompted by his animosity toward the Israeli state. In his 2001 book, Colonial Effects; The Making of National Identity in Jordan, for example, Professor Massad makes reference to a November 1966 Israeli raid and "massacre" that took place in Samu, Jordan. Note that the Jordanians, who suffered the casualties to which Professor Massad is referring, did not depicted Israel's action as a "massacre". Samir Mutawi authored the semiofficial account of Jordan's involvement in the 1967 war, and wrote that "eighteen Jordanians" were killed in the raid. In fact, Professor Massad himself provides an identical casualty figure later on his own text - fifteen soldiers and three civilians killed-thereby contradicting his prior claim that a "massacre" had occured. Professor Massad also writes that in the March 1968 battle of Karamah, the Israeli army

"could not escape unscathed (as it had during the 1967 war and on many other occasions). For the first time in its history, it received heavy damages in personnel and material."

But while Israel lost twenty-eight soldiers at Karamah, it had lost some eight hundred in June 1967. Moreover, in the 1948 war against its Arab attackers, Israel lost a combined six thousand of its soldiers and civilians.

The casual observer unaware of what's happening at today's modern university might easily assume that Professor Massad's savage emnity toward Israel, his explicit rejection of its right to exist as a nation, his support for violence against Iraeli citizens, and his many egregious errors in scholarship--to say nothing of his biased view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--would be sufficient to disqualify him from teaching about the Jewish State. Not at Columbia. After all, Professor Massad teaches a program in which one of the members, Hamid Dabashi, has publicly written that the physical bodies of Israeli Jews are in their very structure, evil.

In an article entitled "Reducing the Palestinians", published in the December 25-31, 2003- issue of the Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, Mr. Massad, offering historical context, compares what he considers Israel's anti-Semitism with the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," the fabricated account of a cabal of Jews plotting to rule the world concocted by the czarist Russian secret police in the early 1900s. The article was reprinted on the Web site of the Electronic Intifada, an online publication that champions the Palestinian Arab intifada against Israel.

In this article, Mr. Massad argues that the chief negotiators of the unofficial peace plan known as the Geneva Accord,Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, are guilty of anti-Semitism by recognizing the right of the Jewish people to statehood.

Susan Heller Pinto, a spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitism around the world, called Mr. Massad's description of Israeli anti-Semitism "not worthy of comment."

"We believe that Israel is a Jewish state," she said. "By trying to make it only a state of the Israelis, he's denying the legitimacy of the Jewish state."

Indeed, in his article Mr. Massad writes, "Israel has no legitimacy."

The ad-hoc committee organized to to address the students concerns raised in "Columbia Unbecoming" by then Vice President of Arts and Sciences, Nicholas Dirks, was biased. These individuals were personally and professionally connected to the MEALAC (Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures) department and its professors, and could maintain no objectivity.

The intent of this petition is to call upon President Bollinger for Columbia to work to resolve the relevant concerns related to Massad's employment and political activism in the classroom. Sadly, the ad-hoc committee assembled to deal with this issue was completely flawed in its composition. The membership of the committee was strongly influenced by Nicholas Dirks, who signed a petition calling on Columbia to divest its holdings from companies selling hardware to Israel. Professor Dirks wife is a professor in the MEALAC (Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures) department and was co-teaching with one of the professors accused of bias.

All five committee members were either personally or professionally close to the professors named by students as hostile. Lisa Anderson served as a dissertation advisor to Joseph Massad, who acknowledges her contributions in his book "Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan." Two of the committee members, Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives Jean Howard and comparative literature professor Farah Jasmine Griffin, also signed the divestment from Israel petition. Another member of the committee is a severe critic of Israel and has suggested that the rise of global anti-Semitism is Israels fault. Finally, the remaining committee member served as the Vice President of Arts and Science at the time these incidents took place.

The central purposes of a University are the pursuit of truth, the discovery of new knowledge through scholarship and research, the study and reasoned criticism of intellectual and cultural traditions, the teaching and general development of students to help them become creative individuals and productive citizens of a pluralistic democracy, and the transmission of knowledge and learning to a society at large. Free inquiry and free speech within the academic community are indispensable to the achievement of these goals. The freedom to teach and to learn depend upon the creation of appropriate conditions and opportunities on the campus as a whole as well as in the classrooms and lecture halls. These purposes reflect the values -- pluralism, diversity, opportunity, critical intelligence, openness and fairness -- that are the cornerstones of American society.

We call upon President Bollinger to read and adhere to Columbia University's own rules as stated in the University's Statement of Academic Integrity:

"Freedom of Expression is an essential part of University life but does not include intimidation."

We urge you to take action with regard to the swastikas which were carved into the metal walls of the bathroom in Butler Hall after "Columbia Unbecoming" was screened, and related events of harrassment and intimidation directed at students who do not agree with or raise questions about the political indoctrination that goes in their classrooms.

"Freedom of Speech" should not belong only to people who sit on one side of a political ideology; it belongs to everyone. It would seem that today, the sad reality at Columbia University is that only one view is allowed to be presented. We urge the University and you to consider a more reasonable course of action to address the concerns.

These are just a few of the points of contention which many of us, inside and outside the school, would like to see addressed.

Professor Joseph Massad absolutely should not be teaching students in this manner or be allowed to lead 'teach-ins' which amount to political protests at a University which lays claim to 'academic integrity'. Professor Joseph Massad's activism does not belong in the classroom.

We have seen Ward Churchill's activism and the result:

One member of the five-person investigative committee recommended that ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill be fired, and four recommended he be suspended, university spokesman Barrie Hartman said.

Without question the investigative committee at the University of Colorado was comprised of people other than his sympathetic ideological peers.

It is high time to take action in the case of Professor Joseph Massad, and we urge you to do so.

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Hilda McbrideBy:
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President Bollinger


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