I Am a Victim of Propaganda


Mr. Massad teaches Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Professor Massad's own website with the title:"Statement in Response to the Intimidation of Columbia University." HNN selected the title used here.

"University President Lee Bollinger says that Columbia officials will formally investigate accusations that some professors threatened and intimidated students. Alan Brinkley, the University's provost, is leading an inquiry into claims made in Columbia Unbecoming, a documentary film produced by non-profit Israel support group The David Project." --Columbia Spectator 10-28-04

The recent controversy elicited by the propaganda film Columbia Unbecoming, a film funded and produced by a Boston-based pro-Israel organization, is the latest salvo in a campaign of intimidation of Jewish and non-Jewish professors who criticize Israel. This witch-hunt aims to stifle pluralism, academic freedom, and the freedom of expression on university campuses in order to ensure that only one opinion is permitted, that of uncritical support for the State of Israel. Columbia University, the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, and I personally, have been the target of this intensified campaign for over three years. Pro-Israel groups are pressuring the university to abandon proper academic procedure in evaluating scholarship, and want to force the university to silence all critical opinions. Such silencing, the university has refused to do so far, despite mounting intimidation tactics by these anti-democratic and anti-academic forces.

The major strategy that these pro-Israel groups use is one that equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. But the claim that criticism of Israel is an expression of anti-Semitism presupposes that Israeli actions are “Jewish” actions and that all Jews, whether Israelis or non-Israelis (and the majority of world Jews are not Israelis), are responsible for all Israeli actions and that they all have the same opinion of Israel. But this is utter anti-Semitic nonsense. Jews, whether in America, Europe, Israel, Russia, or Argentina, are, like all other groups, not uniform in their political or social opinions. There are many Israeli Jews who are critical of Israel just as there are American Jews who criticize Israeli policy. I have always made a distinction between Jews, Israelis, and Zionists in my writings and my lectures. It is those who want to claim that Jews, Israelis, and Zionists are one group (and that they think exactly alike) who are the anti-Semites. Israel in fact has no legal, moral, or political basis to represent world Jews (ten million strong) who never elected it to that position and who refuse to move to that country. Unlike the pro-Israel groups, I do not think that Israeli actions are “Jewish” actions or that they reflect the will of the Jewish people worldwide! All those pro-Israeli propagandists who want to reduce the Jewish people to the State of Israel are the anti-Semites who want to eliminate the existing pluralism among Jews. The majority of Israel’s supporters in the United States are, in fact, not Jews but Christian fundamentalist anti-Semites who seek to convert Jews. They constitute a quarter of the American electorate and are the most powerful anti-Semitic group worldwide. The reason why the pro-Israel groups do not fight them is because these anti-Semites are pro-Israel. Therefore, it is not anti-Semitism that offends pro-Israel groups; what offends them is anti-Israel criticism. In fact, Israel and the U.S. groups supporting it have long received financial and political support from numerous anti-Semites.

This is not to say that some anti-Zionists may not also be anti-Semitic. Some are, and I have denounced them in my writings and lectures. But the test of their anti-Semitism is not whether they like or hate Israel. The test of anti-Semitism is anti-Jewish hatred, not anti-Israel criticism. In my forthcoming book, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question, I link the Jewish Question to the Palestinian Question and conclude that both questions persist because anti-Semitism persists. To resolve the Palestinian and the Jewish Questions, our task is to fight anti-Semitism in any guise, whether in its pro-Israel or anti-Israel guise, and not to defend the reprehensible policies of the racist Israeli government.

I am now being targeted because of my public writings and statements through the charge that I am allegedly intolerant in the classroom, a charge based on statements made by people who were never my students, except in one case, which I will address momentarily. Let me first state that I have intimidated no one. In fact, Tomy Schoenfeld, the Israeli soldier who appears in the film and is cited by the New York Sun, has never been my student and has never taken a class with me, as he himself informed the Jewish Week. I have never met him.

As for Noah Liben, who appears in the film according to newspaper accounts (I have not seen the film), he was indeed a student in my Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies course in the spring of 2001. Noah seems to have forgotten the incident he cites. During a lecture about Israeli state racism against Asian and African Jews, Noah defended these practices on the basis that Asian and African Jews were underdeveloped and lacked Jewish culture, which the Ashkenazi State operatives were teaching them. When I explained to him that, as the assigned readings clarified, these were racist policies, he insisted that these Jews needed to be modernized and the Ashkenazim were helping them by civilizing them. Many students gasped. He asked me if I understood his point. I informed him that I did not. Noah seems not to have done his reading during the week on gender and Zionism. One of the assigned readings by Israeli scholar and feminist Simona Sharoni spoke of how in Hebrew the word “zayin” means both penis and weapon in a discussion of Israeli militarized masculinity. Noah, seemingly not having read the assigned material, mistook the pronunciation of “zayin” as “Zion,” pronounced in Hebrew “tziyon.” As for his spurious claim that I said that “Jews in Nazi Germany were not physically abused or harassed until Kristallnacht in November 1938,” Noah must not have been listening carefully. During the discussion of Nazi Germany, we addressed the racist ideology of Nazism, the Nuremberg Laws enacted in 1934, and the institutionalized racism and violence against all facets of Jewish life, all of which preceded the extermination of European Jews. This information was also available to Noah in his readings, had he chosen to consult them. 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.

I remember having a friendly rapport with Noah (as I do with all my students). He would drop off newspaper articles in my mailbox, come to my office, and greet me on the street often. He never informed me or acted in a way that showed intimidation. Indeed, he would write me emails, even after he stopped being my student, to argue with me about Israel. I have kept our correspondence. On March 10, 2002, a year after he took a class with me, Noah wrote me an email chastising me for having invited an Israeli speaker to class the year before when he was in attendance. It turned out that Noah’s memory failed him again, as he mistook the speaker I had invited for another Israeli scholar. After a long diatribe, Noah excoriated me: “How can you bring such a phony to speak to your class??” I am not sure if his misplaced reproach was indicative of an intimidated student or one who felt comfortable enough to rebuke his professor!

I am dedicated to all my students, many of whom are Jewish. Neither Columbia University nor I have ever received a complaint from any student claiming intimidation or any such nonsense. Students at Columbia have many venues of lodging complaints, whether with the student deans and assistant deans, school deans and assistant deans, department chairmen, departmental directors of undergraduate studies, the ombudsman’s office, the provost, the president, and the professors themselves. No such complaint was ever filed. Many of my Jewish and non-Jewish students (including my Arab students) differ with me in all sorts of ways, whether on politics or on philosophy or theory. This is exactly what teaching and learning are about, how to articulate differences and understand other perspectives while acquiring knowledge, how to analyze one’s own perspective and those of others, how to interrogate the basis of an opinion.

Columbia University is home to the most prestigious Center for Israel and Jewish Studies in the country. Columbia has six endowed chairs in Jewish Studies (ranging from religion to Yiddish to Hebrew literature, among others). In addition, a seventh chair in Israel Studies is now being established after pro-Israel groups launched a vicious campaign against the only chair in modern Arab Studies that Columbia established two years ago, demanding “balance”! Columbia does not have a Center for Arab Studies, let alone a Center for Palestine studies. The Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) encompasses the study of over one billion South Asians, over 300 million Arabs, tens of millions of Turks, of Iranians, of Kurds, of Armenians, and of six million Israelis, five million of whom are Jewish. To study these varied populations and cultures, MEALAC has three full-time professors who cover Israel and Hebrew, four full-time professors to cover the Arab World, and two full-time professors who cover South Asia. One need not do complicated mathematics to see who is overrepresented and who is not, if the question is indeed a demographic one.

Moreover, the class that this propaganda machine is targeting, my Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies course, is one of a number of courses offered at Columbia that cover the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. All the others have an Israel-friendly perspective, including Naomi Weinberger’s “Conflict Resolution in the Middle East,” Michael Stanislawski’s “History of the State of Israel, 1948-Present” and a course offered in my own department by my colleague Dan Miron, “Zionism: A Cultural Perspective.” My course, which is critical of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, is in fact an elective course which no student is forced to take.

Let us briefly review these claims of intimidation. Not only have the students (of whom only Noah has ever taken my courses) not used a single university venue to articulate their alleged grievances, they are now sponsored by a private political organization with huge funds that produced and funded a film about them, screened it to the major U.S. media and to the top brass of the Columbia administration. The film was screened in Israel to a government minister and to participants at a conference on anti-Semitism. The film has still not been released to the public here and is used as a sort of secret evidence in a military trial. The film has also been used to trump up a national campaign with the aid of a New York Congressman to get me fired. All this power of intimidation is being exercised not by a professor against students, but by political organizations who use students against a junior non-tenured faculty member. A senior departmental colleague of mine, Dan Miron, who votes on my promotion and tenure, has recently expressed open support for this campaign of intimidation based on hearsay. Indeed with this campaign against me going into its fourth year, I chose under the duress of coercion and intimidation not to teach my course this year. It is my academic freedom that has been circumscribed. But not only mine. The Columbia courses that remain are all taught from an Israel-friendly angle.

The aim of the David Project propaganda film is to undermine our academic freedom, our freedom of speech, and Columbia’s tradition of openness and pluralism. It is in reaction to this witch-hunt that 718 international scholars and students signed a letter defending me against intimidation and sent it to President Bollinger, with hundreds more sending separate letters, while over 1400 people from all walks of life are signing an online petition supporting me and academic freedom. Academics and students from around the world recognize that the message of this propaganda film is to suppress pluralism at Columbia and at all American universities so that one and only one opinion be allowed on campuses, the opinion of defending Israel uncritically. I need not remind anyone that this is a slippery slope, for the same pressures could be applied to faculty who have been critical of U.S. foreign policy, in Iraq for example, on the grounds that such critiques are unpatriotic. Surely we all agree that while the university can hardly defend any one political position on any current question, it must defend the need for debate and critical consideration of all such questions, whether in public forums or in the classroom. Anything less would be the beginning of the death of academic freedom.

Related links

  • Robert"KC" Johnson: Five Questions for Joseph Massad

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    More Comments:

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    The Wall Street Journal has been widely read by international business men for over a century. Whatever the "New York Sun" may be, it did not exist when I lived in New York in the 1980s.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    1. Massad is not a professor in the Columbia History Department
    (see http://www.columbia.edu/cu/history/htm/h_faculty_profilen.htm )

    2. The name of this website is not "Political Screaming and Shouting News Network"

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Hard to say what, if anything, is being "taught" in this case. Certainly Massad is a biased name-caller, as, by all indications, are his obsessed detractors. Which of course makes all of them well suited for this website.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Thanks for the info and editorial asides.

    I will resist the temptation to employ a probably quite applicable New York City style vulgarity, and simply say: I'll believe it when I see it. Especially in these times when the word "conservative", like so much else, has been abominated almost beyond repair. But, in any event, I guess the answer to my question is: no exposed pulchritude on p. 3 ala world famous "The Sun" of London. And, I further gather that this new journalistic standard bearer is not a tabloid, even if its editorial stance may be as similar to the Post as to the Journal.

    There was, however, plentiful fresh sushi in New York already in the '80s. Overpriced, like much else there, but much more common than, for example (real) tacos. The great phony conservative George W. Bush, notwithstanding his manifold incompetences, is surely qualified to explain what a taco is and isn't.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Therefore, what ?

    You are volunteering to join IDF ?

    Lola L - 4/10/2006

    The essence of the middle east conflict is Arab Muslim racism against the Jews, from Arab Muslims' initial massacres of Jews in the holyland in 1929 (Hebron) [ http://haveitclearly.blogspot.com ]until today, the same genocide as a goal in mind.
    Or their Satanic hate education: http;//teachkidspeace.org

    Whereas Arab in Israel are not only full class equal citizens in Israel's democracy, but even preferred by most Israeli courts over Israeli Jews plus Arabs have MORE RIGHTS THAN JEWS because they don't have to serve in Israeli army like Israeli Jews are obligated to, yet have al the rights.


    As to differences of classes in Israel, US, UK, Australia etc.?
    It's hardly "racism".

    Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


    Do you live in New York City? If not, how is it you have an opinion about the NY Sun (they make very little available on the Internet)? I read it every day, it's a moderately conservative but very intelligent paper that pays special attention to city politics. What's your experience with it?

    Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


    Do you live in New York City? If not, how is it you have an opinion about the NY Sun (they make very little available on the Internet)? I read it every day, it's a moderately conservative but very intelligent paper that pays special attention to city politics. What's your experience with it?

    Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


    That too has changed. The influx of 200,000 migrants from Puebla and Oaxaca have made cheap good tacos plentiful.

    leo solomon - 12/7/2004

    When the world rose up with thunderous opprobrium at Israel's porported "massacre"I don't think they had the Red Cross in mind.I don't know how many tens ,hundreds, or thousands of Red Cross workers were killed.I do know ,however,how many Israelies were blown to pieces,and how many have had their ;ives blighted by horrendous injuries.
    I don't have any intention of joining the IDF.it's far to dangerous and i'm far to old.

    N. Friedman - 12/7/2004


    Diana Applebaum - 12/7/2004


    A number of undergraduates appear to feel that they, not Massad, are the victims.

    To: Columbia University

    Columbia University President Lee Bollinger
    Board of Trustees Chair David Stern
    The Columbia University Board of Trustees

    Columbia University is an outstanding academic institution, yet some students who express dissenting views in class are being intimidated and silenced by certain professors who have promoted a biased and politicized agenda in their classroom.

    We, members of the Columbia University community - including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the general community - call on Columbia University to renew its commitment to the principles of academic freedom, high standards of intellectual inquiry, and freedom of expression in the classroom.

    We believe that all Americans should be concerned about intimidation and restriction of free expressions on campus. We need to ensure that in our universities all students are able to engage openly in respectful intellectual debate.

    We believe that the Columbia University must adopt strong measures to end incidents of intimidation and harassment in the classroom and on campus, and to create a genuine learning environment within the University.

    We the undersigned call upon President Lee Bollinger and the Trustees of Columbia University to restore the academic integrity of Columbia University and request the following:

    1. Adoption of a zero-tolerance policy toward any harassment and abuse of professorial power in the classroom and on campus, with clear and effective consequences for those who violate the policy. This policy should include a "user friendly" complaint process that protects the victim, similar to policies and procedures for reporting sexual harassment.

    2. Investigation of the charges of abuse raised by students in the film “Columbia Unbecoming” in order to maintain the integrity of the University, and to ensure an open intellectual environment free of harassment of dissenting views.

    3. Adoption of a single standard and policy for ALL minorities and ethnic groups on campus.

    4. Diversification of the Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures department for the sake of academic integrity and intellectual diversity. We ask the University to encourage greater emphasis on the major challenges facing the Middle East, such as democracy, women and minority rights, civil society, religious fundamentalism, and modernity.


    The Undersigned

    N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


    As always, well said.

    Diana Applebaum - 12/6/2004

    Here is a link to a series of documents concerning an anti-war rally held at Columbia. Dabashi cancelled class and students complained that they felt that they were coerced to attend the rally. Dabashi and others flooded the campus paper with letters about the incident, Dabashi used some highly inflated rhetoric, "Zionism is a ghastly racist ideology," but the real issue is that students felt coerced to attend a political demonstration during class time. And when students feel that they are treated unfairly by Joseph Massad, the only remedy has been to complain to Hamid Debashi, the Department chairman.


    chad faulkner ryan - 12/6/2004

    Your university is only doing what any other profitable private organization does. It is going along with the stereotype that most jews and christians are going to support Israel becuase of cultural and religious backgrounds. I don't understand how they could be "threatening" Jews that are against the actions of Israel, but i can understand what the issue is. The university probably doesn't realize that it is offending anyone. Im sure that the information you saw as offensive was not seen that way by the person who made it.

    leo solomon - 12/5/2004

    For those who do not know or do not choose to know ,Yasser Arafat,convinced of the west's liberal media's willingness to believe almost anything negative about Israel,claimed that three thousand Palestinians were killed in the Jenin operation.Saab Erikat reduced that figure to ,a more modest five hundred.the UN and other bodies further reduced the number to fifty six-fifty of whom were characterised as fighters.Israel,in it's effort to avoid civilian casualties,lost twenty five soldiers.

    N. Friedman - 12/3/2004

    Thank you. I have also enjoying posting with you.

    Graham Hick - 12/3/2004

    Sir, you are a reasonable and intelligent fellow. I have enjoyed our discussion.

    I agree in not berating students over disagreements. Whether this man has done that or not, I have no idea either. Were it to be true, as it was for the Vassar professor you cited, and professors I have known, it would most certainly be wrong. However, the commision set up by the school found no wrong doing and no complaints. An outside group with an obvious political agenda disagrees and is applying pressure on the school to adjust it's scholarship to fit it's viewpoint, to the point of producing a film about it. I think that's wrong too, though they have every right to express themselves.

    While it's possible the advocacy group might have the right facts, I'm willing to think for now that Columbia can govern itself and it's teachers just fine. The burden of proof is on the accusers. Massad has cancelled the course in question to stop any further controversy. What more could this group, who have no ties to Columbia, want from him? His resignation? To burn him at the stake?

    Again I've enjoyed our discourse. Thank you.

    N. Friedman - 12/3/2004


    Fair point and rather well stated.

    On the other hand, I still think you misread (or is that miswatch) the film but, nonetheless, I accept that you speak earnestly. I note Nietzsche's remark that the mistakes great men are more fruitful than the truths of others.

    I note some more student complaints from Yale: http://www.yale.edu/yfp/archives/november04/november04_classroom.htm . There are some rather trivial complaints but also quite a few seemingly serious ones.

    Were I teaching a class with you in it, I would note why I disagree with you but - and this is my main point regarding the critique made of Massad - not berate you for holding what I think to be a misreading.

    Note, I see nothing wrong with teachers holding, expressing or even advocating viewpoints I find to be wrongheaded. I do, however, see something wrong with teachers attacking - rather than merely disagreeing with - students who hold different views on a topic. And I see nothing wrong with correcting errors but again, attacking students ought be avoided.

    Massad is accused of stepping way over the line by attacking, in effect, his students. Whether such is true, I have no idea. I merely note the allegation.

    Graham Hick - 12/3/2004

    I do not assume liberals are immune to intolerance. Quite the contrary. I agree with you that it is a universal phenomena. You assume that you know my politics and stances on certain usses. You don't. I don't view the world through a left or right lense, I approach every subject on it's own. A sort of Stoic viewpoint where I try to see the "logos" behind everything. Closemindedness occurs throughout the political spectrum. No one group holds the monopoly on it. My views are a hodge podge of political theory and philosophical systems. To fall lockstep with one group or another displays, to me, a lack of intellectual curiosity and independance.

    I don't think those students are crazy, I think they are unhappy with their situations and are blaming others for the choices they made or didn't make. If that one econ student from Bucknell wants to study a certain author that isn't offered in his class, he is free to check out their works in the library. Or transfer to a program that will accomodate his wishes. An extreme option I suppose, but I know if I'm in a situtation I'm unhappy with, I don't moan and complain, I do something to get out of it. If I don't enjoy the company of people I'm with, I leave their company and seek out people I enjoy being with. One is only a victim if one allow themselves to be.

    You also assume that because I don't draw the same conclusions as you from that movie that I "did not really understand" the movie I watched. Am I supposed to tailor my opinion to your view? I interpreted what was presented differently than you. Would you tell your students who draw different conclusions from you about the subjects you teach the same thing? Doesn't that stifle scholarship? I don't think you misunderstood what you saw in that movie, you just took away a different message than I did, based on your views and experiences. If you were my student, I would never state that you "didn't understand" that film. That would be arrogant of me.

    N. Friedman - 12/3/2004


    I am, in fact, a graduate of Vassar College where I studied religion and philosophy. Unless the school has changed a lot since my time there - and it has been decades -, most professors did quite well in presenting all sides of issues.

    I do recall one teacher in the Sociology department who seemingly hated men and made no bones about her views to the extent that she refused to hear anything which might cast men in a good light. I do not consider such an approach to pedagogy to be an effort to challenge the minds of students. I consider it poor pedagogy and a technique to stifle scholarship. I recall that the view of most of her students was, when in Rome, do like a Roman - which is to say, students merely tailored their opinions to the views of the teacher.

    The complaints being made in the film correspond with what I bet many students feel. Maybe the students are crazy. However, they make complaints entirely consistent with what occurred in the one doctrinaire teacher I had at Vassar.

    I believe you noted that most college professors are of the liberal stripe. I note that the New York Times also so reports. Your assumption is that liberals are immune from intolerance. My view is that intolerance is a universal phenomena that occurs when one group has the power to enforce its views.

    Which is to say, I think you did not really understand the movie you watched.

    Graham Hick - 12/3/2004

    I understood what you said. It seemed as if you were trying to draw a connection so I just wanted some clarification.

    I viewed the film and looked at the site and I stand by my opinion that this is just a boogey man. How do the few narrow opinions about the 3 colleges presented and the undocumented incidents at others show a vast left wing conspiricy of "politcal indoctrination"? One of the students interviewed even said it's not every class or all the time. How many colleges and universities are in the United States? How many professors and teachers are there at the college level? How do a few incidents display a larger and systematic problem? Do you think Bringham Young has these "problems"? How about Bob Jones University?

    The Bucknell complaints, for example, critisize that they're not being spoonfed the usual unchallenging lessons. They critisize the unique programs that have been developed. They're upset that they're being forced to use critical thinking. They're angry that their assumptions are being challenged. Didn't these students take a close look at the course descriptions before deciding to invest their money and time there? They have buyers remorse.

    This is my favorite line from the site "As a graduate of Vassar College and Stanford Law School, Mr. Greenberg thankfully has no first hand experience with the type of doctrinaire political intolerance apparently now so prevalent on American college campuses."

    Hahaha! I think the site needs to start selling tinfoil hats.

    I went to three very different colleges in the 1990's and teach at one now. That is the most ridiulously paranoid statement I've ever seen on the subject. This whole phenomenon reminds me of the communist witch hunts of the 1950's. This is McCarthyism remixed. I had similar problems with a very narrowminded and conservative tenured history professor. I didn't make a website about it or a film. I disagreed, did the work required, and moved on in my life.

    You see there is a diversity of institutions with a diversity of scholars teaching a diversity of opinions. This whole idea is based on false assumptions. This is a lowlevel fearmongering tactic that's typical of conservatives playing the "victim". Like how gay marriage is going "ruin" the family. Or how religious groups who can't get federal funding are "victims of bigotry and hatred". Puh-leeeze!

    Look out! It's the evil liberals! BOO!

    N. Friedman - 12/3/2004


    I did not say he brainwashed anyone. I said, if the allegations are true, he stifles the learning experience.

    On the other hand, the title of the fairly light hearted film is Brainwashing 101.

    Graham Hick - 12/3/2004

    How has Massad exactly brainwashed his students?

    N. Friedman - 12/2/2004


    I accidentally posted. What follows is the complete post.

    There is a world of difference between a professor who advocates a position and a professor who stifles all opinions he dislikes by attacking his students.

    Further, there is no shortage of non-liberal college calibre teachers. Such people tend to congregate in think tanks. On the other hand, while I call myself fairly liberal, what I have seen suggest that left-wing college professors are, in large numbers, abusing their positions. Such, you will note, has been very well documented by the liberal group AcademicBias.com and you might watch their advocacy film Graham,

    There is a world of difference between a professor who advocates a position and a professor who stifles all opinions he dislikes by attacking his students.

    Further, there is no shortage of non-liberal college calibre teachers. Such people tend to congregate in think tanks. On the other hand, while I call myself fairly liberal, what I have seen suggest that left-wing college professors are, in large numbers, abusing their positions. Such, you will note, has been very well documented by, among other groups, the liberal group AcademicBias.com and you might watch their film Brainwashing 101 at http://homepage.mac.com/erikabrowning/bw101-c7b.wmv . I have to say that some of what is reported is rather shocking.

    N. Friedman - 12/2/2004


    There is a world of difference between a professor who advocates a position and a professor who stifles all opinions he dislikes by attacking his students.

    Further, there is no shortage of non-liberal college calibre teachers. Such people tend to congregate in think tanks. On the other hand, while I call myself fairly liberal, what I have seen suggest that left-wing college professors are, in large numbers, abusing their positions. Such, you will note, has been very well documented by the liberal group AcademicBias.com and you might watch their film

    Graham Hick - 12/2/2004

    Ms. Applebaum did post an article about a particular incident that I didn't see before I asked "where is the proof?". She did in fact provide something to back up her claims. I regret the error.

    I am not a subscriber, so I did not view the article, but would be interested to know what evidence, if any, beyond one student's claim is presented.

    Graham Hick - 12/2/2004

    Well if the students are so sure of their position then why shouldn't they complain to the higest level? How is ok to not stand up for your beliefs and do something?

    Also, how are they imposing a single view? Massad claims there are other course within that department with other viewpoints. So who's telling the truth? Am I to believe him because he says so or you because you say so?And if a commission found that there have been no complaints, how does that backup your position? I'd say it refutes it.

    Graham Hick - 12/2/2004

    But he claims that he has intimidated no one and there are no complaints on record. His class is also, as he points out, an elective. Beyond that, going to Columbia or studying in that department is an elective.What he says he has been attacked for are his public writings and statements. All of this talk about him not allowing differing viewpoints in the classroom appears to be hearsay. Where is the proof?

    As a result of all of this public pressure he has opted not to teach this course. I find that to be a shame.

    Graham Hick - 12/2/2004

    There has been a tendency lately to attack "liberal" universities and professors from conservative groups and individuals acting as "victims". As a recent New York Times article points out, doesn't it make more sense for more liberal minded indiviuals to gravitate to professions like education and performing arts and more conservative minded people to gravitate towards highly competitive and financial professions? Do you hear me going off on the "conservative" financial traders and bankers and how they are pushing their viewpoints? I had plenty of conservative professors in college along with liberal ones and you know what? I drew my own conclusions.

    The idea that professors are to blame for this or that is an intellectual boogey man. Columbia is a private university that requires one passes certain cirteria to be accepted as a student. As such they can and should make their own decisions about who teaches and what. If some students have a problem with it, and no one here has provided any documentation of that, then they should have the courage to stand up to this professor and his department and if that doesn't get anywhere, the University itself. If this doesn't satisfy then there are about a million other colleges and universities to choose from if one doesn't like this particular department. Shouldn't education be challeneging? Not just to one's work ethic but to the very ideas that they believe?

    Finally if the university were to allow itself to cave under the pressure from outside groups, where does it end? What department or college or intellectual concern will be next? Will the creationists pressure biology departments to scrap evolution? Will history departmenst and archeological departments have to tow the line and say the earth was created in 4250 BC and that all of these folssilized animals were just placed there by god?

    Graham Hick - 12/2/2004

    Adam, allow me to respond or clarify each point you bring up

    1) I would argue right along with you with those ideas, however, from what little I know of this particular professor and the incidents he's supposedly accountable for, he is being atacked for his opinions on politics and social history, NOT verifiable scientific information. So the question is, do his opinions as a scholar have any place in a college? And yes, if people are unhappy with how he does his job they should speak up. If the department chair is supposedly an Iranian who hates Jews, then take the complaint higher up.

    I'd like to point out that religious groups have successfully sued to have Creationism taught alongside Evolution in public schools since they are both only "theories". I would argue that Creationsim has no place in secular public education unless it is a history of religion class or something like it.

    2) What I meant was that outside groups are drawing attention to this issue as well as pressuring the University. As the author states "Pro-Israel groups are pressuring the university to abandon proper academic procedure in evaluating scholarship, and want to force the university to silence all critical opinions. Such silencing, the university has refused to do so far, despite mounting intimidation tactics by these anti-democratic and anti-academic forces. "

    If that's a fact then I find that to be outside the proper channels. If students aren't complaining then why are people who never even attended Columbia?

    3) I guess I interpret their action as pressuring for a particular viewpoint and silencing the opposing one. Again my problem has to do with outside special interst groups lobbying to have their views presented and none other. I will assume that at many colleges and universitys the curriculum on this subject probably doesn't offend them, while with this particluar school it does. They are more than welcome to voice their concerns, but shouldn't his minority opinions be protected? Isn't the University doing the right thing by standing by one of it's scholars?

    N. Friedman - 12/1/2004


    According to Mr. Massad's above article: "Mr. Massad teaches Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University." Presumably he thinks he teaches something involving history. I gather that some of his students think he teaches propaganda.

    Diana Applebaum - 12/1/2004

    The New York Sun was launched a couple of years ago to provide New York with a newspaper that would cover New York (which the journal does not do,) have high journalistic standards (like the Times and the Journal,) and a conservative editorial slant (like the Journal but unlike the Times.) Many good things have come to New york since you moved away: fresh sushi, low crime rates, two Rhodes ccholarships for indigent immigrant kids at City College, and a new newspaper with high journalistic standards...

    N. Friedman - 12/1/2004


    Very, very well stated.

    Diana Applebaum - 12/1/2004

    There are two problems with following proper channels for filing complaints at Columbia.

    The first problem is that the Middle Eastern Sutdies Department at Columbia is so notorious that students avoid it like the plague. The stifling of opinion happens when only one opinion is taught. At Columbia, only Edward Said and post-colonialism are taught. This deprives students of the opportunity to hear a full range of scholarly opinion, and keeps many of them away form registering for any courses on the Moddle East. Why risk your GPA on a professor who cannot leave his personal hatreds outside the classroom?

    The second problem is that the system calls for students who feel that Joseph Massad intimidates students who assert that Israel is not a racist state to complain to the Department Chair. But the Dept. Chair is Hamid Debashi. Debashi calls Israel a capitol of "thuggery" - a "ghastly state of racism and apartheid" that "must be dismantled." He calls supporters of Israel "warmongers" and "Gestapo apparatchiks." The 53-year-old, Iranian-born scholar has said CNN should be held accountable for "war crimes" for one-sided coverage of Sept. 11, 2001. He doubts the existence of Al Qaeda and questions the role of Osama Bin Laden in the attacks.

    A commission set up by the University a year ago found that no Columbia student had ever filed a formal complaint. To many on campus, this confirmed that Columbia students are not stupid. You would, after all, have to be stupid to complain to Hamid Debashi that Joseph Massad had squelched you for defending the Jewish State.

    The David Project movie, and the current fuss on Morningside Heights, have to do with students who are insisting that the administration take a more realistic look at a Department that is enforcing a single, doctrinaire approach to the Middle East: Israel is an imperialist project, a colonial incursion, a racist, apartheid state that does not have the right to exist.

    It does not seem unreasonable to me for Columbia students to ask for professors who could present the modern politics of the Levant dispassionately and from a variety of perspectives, and allow an intelligent group of students to present evidence that contradicts the professor's opinion.

    MARK Wall - 12/1/2004

    Here here!!

    Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 12/1/2004

    1) “A lot of you are missing the point, and that is the vaule of diversity of opinions in universities and elsewhere.”

    You raise some good theoretical points but in reality, society has decided a long time ago that certain opinions should be debated and valued, and others simply have no place in an academic setting. Let us look at some extreme examples of opinions that, however valued for their diversity, would be unacceptable for a college professor in my view:

    - A Physics professor who believes that the earth is flat
    - A history professor who argues that slavery never happened, it is all a myth propagated by PC liberals
    - A biology professor arguing that all non-whites are racially inferior, have smaller brains, and were biologically structured for physical labor only.

    Those example are all of diverse opinions that can be spread in magazines, books, journals, and internet sites. The question is, do they have any place in an academic setting? I would argue not, even if I am not taking the class. You may disagree with me and that is fine, but it is certainly my right to call attention to it. Am I correct that the above should not be taught in colleges? Maybe not, but just as the 1st amendment protects those professors speech, it gives me the right to protest and let us both see the consequences.

    2) “As he says in the article, the university has proper channels for complaints. We all have to work within the system, be it employment, school or government, to change the system.”

    How is anyone working outside the system? No one physically attacked the professor in question, no one threw stones through his window (to my knowledge). Was Michael Moore doing anything illegitimate when he insinuated in a documentary that Bush cares more about Saudi Arabians than Americans? Of course not, it is his opinion and this is a free country.

    3) “This pressure by certain groups to get rid of people who's views they disagree with is not only anti American, it's has the tendency to be something that starts with F.”

    I do not follow your logic. Why should college professors, radio personalities, and TV shows be free to say anything they like, but those who disagree with those statements are acting un-American if they challenge it?

    If the college agrees with me, they may fire the professor for not teaching by the standards that he agreed to when he was hired. If it disagrees with me, my complaints will likely be ignored and he will be retained. That is the way it should be.

    Of course, this is all hypothetical. The professor in question has not been fired, or punished for what he said. Whether or not his comments fall into the category of acceptable teaching standards is open to debate… as it is being debated.

    N. Friedman - 12/1/2004


    While I think you have a ***very*** good point, the criticism of Professor Massad is a bit different. It is alleged that he does not allow a diversity of opinion. According to Ms. Appelbaum, "He permits neither the readings nor the students in his courses to present arguments to the contrary."

    Which is to say, he presents his viewpoints and not only ignores other viewpoints but simply does not allow other positions to be argued or considered. Such, you will note, is certainly acceptable for a columnist, but not necessarily for a professor seeking to educate his students. At least, such is what the real objection to him is.

    Graham Hick - 12/1/2004

    A lot of you are missing the point, and that is the vaule of diversity of opinions in universities and elsewhere. You don't like Mr. Massad's purported bias? Don't take his classes. You don't like what you see and hear in tv, movies or on the radio? Don't watch or listen. As he says in the article, the university has proper channels for complaints. We all have to work within the system, be it employment, school or government, to change the system.

    The larger issue isn't his opinions or mine or anyone else's. The issue is the attempts by certain groups to silence dissent. That smaller groups of people (not just on this issue) would enforce their views on larger groups.

    I am very fearful of the anti intellectual path this country has taken. Many people fought and died so that we may enjoy a secular society where we are free to express our opinions. This pressure by certain groups to get rid of people who's views they disagree with is not only anti American, it's has the tendency to be something that starts with F.

    Just as there are physcial thresholds for H20 between being a solid, a liquid or a gas, so are there politcal thresholds between representitive democracy and the F word. This type of attack crosses into that threshold.

    Brennan Stout - 11/30/2004

    The sophmoric comments should be enough to ignore the post and move on to more thorough criticism. One line citations to malign organizations or people constitute the makeup of an uninformed - or bomb thrower - dunce.

    Diana Applebaum - 11/30/2004

    The New York Sun is a reputable newspaper with a conservative editorial slant, rather like the Wall Street Journal. Some of us may disagree with Sun editorials, but that ought not to blind us to the fact that the Sun is well-regarded for maitaining high journalistic standards. The fact that it assigns reporters to such topics as the scandal regarding Kofi Annan's son (a story about which the New York Times freely quotes from the New York Sun) and the political slant of the Columbia faculty reflects the Sun's editorial priorities. The quality of its coverage of those issues reflects careful, professional journalism.

    Campus Watch is another organization that takes unpopular political positions. The WEB site, however, reposts articles from reputable general circulation and campus newspapers. It is a reliable and convenient place to find articles documenting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic positions taken by university faculty. The section documenting anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitism on the Columbia faculty. On Nov 30, the page contained 256 such articles.

    N. Friedman - 11/30/2004


    You write: "... the Israeli state as an entity pursues inherently racist and illegal policies much of the time in both the foreign and domestic realms." What policies do you have in mind?

    Let me ask you a few questions. Germany has a law of return which applies only to those who are ethnically German. Does that make the German state inherently racist?

    France also has a law of return which pertains to people who are, by blood (whatever that means), French. Does that make the French state inherently racist?

    Israel has a law of return law which applies to Jews. Does that make the Israelis state inherently racist?

    There are, so far as I know, no Muslims in France's national legislature yet France is 10% Muslim. Does that render the French state racist?

    There are, so far as I know, no Muslims in Germany's national legislature. Does that render the German state racist?

    Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, have representatives in the Knesset and have, depending on which party dominates Israel, held cabinet posts. Does that not render the Israeli state less racist than either the German state or France?

    There are, so far as I know, no Muslims on Germany's highest court. Does that make Germany a racist state?

    Israel has innumerable Arab judges including Arab judges who have served on the country's high court. Does that not make the Israeli state less inherently racist than either Germany or France?

    France occupies and has permitted people to settle on land which, on and off, belonged to Germany and where German was, pre-WWII, the spoken language. Does that render the French state inherently racist?

    Israel has occupied and settled people in land contingent to Israel that became part of Israel at the end of a war. Does that render the Israeli state more inherently racist than France?

    France has millions of permanent residents, mostly Muslim, who are denied the right to vote. Does that render France inherently racist?

    Germany has millions of permanent residents, mostly Muslim, who are denied the right to vote. Does that render the German state inherently racist?

    Israel has, on the land it captured in the Six Day War, not extended citizenship and, according to the position taken by Palestinian politicans, such non-citizens do not seek to become Israeli citizens. Does such render the Israeli state more or less inherently racist than either France or Germany?

    Poland and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) have expelled 2 million Sudetens and refuse to allow them and their offspring to return. Does that make Poland and the Czech Republic inherently racist?

    Jordan expelled 100,000 Jews from what is now called the West Bank during the war of 1948. Israel, in the same 1948 war, where its opponents not only started the war - proudly started it, if you check the record - but also openly boasted that they would kill or expel all Jews in what is now Israel, may - and this is open to serious doubt raised by very serious historians - have expelled a large number Palestinian Arabs. Does that render Israel inherently racist? and, if so, is Israel any more racist than Poland the Czech Republic?

    You may also wish - since you claim to be a lawyer - to read Jordanian Law no.6, § 3 of April 3, 1954, reactivated in law no. 7 of April 1, 1963, § 2. Such law provides that anyone can be a citizen of Jordan except a Jew. Does that make Jordanian state inherently racist? Or, Chris, are you a person who is only upset by what Jews and Americans do but not what Arabs and Europeans do?

    chris l pettit - 11/30/2004

    Him calling Jordan non-racist? he is also not blanketing all Israeli Jews racist...just the policies of the Israeli government and those who support and are complicit in them. It is the same as the fact that US policies are illegal and contrary to human rights and democracy, and those who support the government are complicit in those atrocites perpetrated, but not all Americans are projudiced, racist, or anti-human rights. There seems to be a problem of interpretation here. you never seem to be able to actually free yourself from your self interested extremist ideologies and see what is actually being stated. The post above actually makes a decent point about a weakness in the article...Massad's overly broad comments about Christians in the US that should actually have been more narrowly defined to include only the extremist Zionist and hard core Christian elements in the US. Your post does nothing but twist your own ideology around the subject with no support whatsoever. The ISraeli government and policies does not mean the Israeli people...the Israeli state as an entity pursues inherently racist and illegal policies much of the time in both the foreign and domestic realms. These policies can be imputed to the Israeli government and those complicit in the atrocities, not the entirety of the Israeli people...then again, that does not fit your ideological bent to label everyone who disagrees with Israel an anti-Semite, so I can;t expect you to drop your extremist stance...I know Mr. Friedman isn;t tolerant enough to.

    And you cite Campus Watch? Are you kidding me? The racist and extremist group led by a renowned hate monger, Daniel Pipes? For all your talk about banning anti-Israel books...if you were not complete hypocrites...you would call for all books of intolerance to be banned...which would include Pipes. your credibility is shot at this point in the post...

    And you quote the NY Sun...it is fairly obvious where your prejudices lie...maybe you ought to actually read some quality educational texts and educate yourself for a change...


    N. Friedman - 11/29/2004


    Excellent post.

    Diana Applebaum - 11/29/2004

    The bias in Massad's teaching is reflected in his insistence that Israel is a "racist" state. Since Israeli society, where Jews come in every shade of the rainbow, cannot be called racist in the traditional sense, Massad is apparently asserting that Israeli nationalism is inherently racist. Why Israeli nationalism should be called racist, but not the nationalism of Masaad's home country of Jordan - which has a law prohibiting Jews form residing in the country - is unclear. Israel, after all, allows Muslims to vote, sit in Parliament, and serve as officers in the Army - many Bedouins serve in the army. Jordan does not allow Jews to take up residence. Yet, in Massad's worldview, Israel is the racist state. Moreover, to Massad, the national aspirations of the Palestinian people should be considered legitimate, while the national aspirations of the Jewish people should be considered racist. Massad, moreover is a vehement advocate for the destruction of the Jewish state, both inside and outside the classroom.

    His syllabus is as biased as his attitude toward Israel. In a course required of majors, "Topics in Asian Civilization: the Middle East and India," he assigns only one book on Israel. Not an unreaonable ratio in a course of that scope. Escept that the book is "Israel: A Colonial-Settler State" by Maxine Rodinson ( http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/1386) Rodinson's work can be described as out-of-date, as an anti-Israel polemic, or simply as paltry. What it cannot be called is a major work on Israel. Or as the single text that a competant professor would be likely to choose if allowed to assign only one book on Israel.

    Massad does not merely oppose the idea that Israel's 5 million Jews have the right to be a nation. He permits neither the readings nor the students in his courses to present arguments to the contrary.

    In one class, a student spoke up with evidence that the so-called "massacre" in Jenin (a well-established hoax or canard) never ocurred. Massad shouted her down, saying "I will not have anyone sit through this class and deny Israeli atrocities." (http://www.nysun.com/article/3901)

    This is why Columbia students are up in arms over Massad's teaching.

    Gregory E. Brougham - 11/29/2004

    Prof. Massad appears justified in his claims that Columbia Univ. has a more than adequate selection of courses in Jewish/Israel studies. His decoupling of a Jewish state from authentic religious belief is also valid; Catholics do not view Vatican City or even the papal bureacracy as key elements of theological belief.However, his apologia becomes somewhat tarnished when he refers to Christian fundementalists as anti-semites. Granted, one can find a good deal of anti-semitism in the history Protestant fundementalism, but the desire to see the conversion of the Jewish people doesn't necessarily make that desire a critera for decerning anti-semitism. For many Christian fundementalists, the survival of the Jewish people is looked upon, rightly or wrongly, as a sign from God that Jews are his "Chosen People." This might be anti-secular, but not anti-semite.