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Columbia University

Columbia University - Again

A student once asked Joseph Massad (profiled in the previous section) if Israel gives warnings before bombing certain buildings so residents can evacuate. "Instead of answering my question, Massad exploded," she reported. "He told me if I was going to 'deny the atrocities' committed against the Palestinians, I could get out of his class."

A new report in the New York Daily News has shown that this climate of bias and intimidation at Columbia University extends far beyond one professor. It has infected academic politics at the university. Even some faculty members fear social and professional consequences if they express pro-Israel sentiments. Many have chosen silence over risking damage to their careers.

Here is a sampling of Columbia faculty views collected in this report:

Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Chairman of the Mideast-Asian Languages and Cultures Department: Israel is "nothing more than a military base for the rising predatory empire of the United States," "a ghastly state of racism and apartheid," and it "must be dismantled." Supporters of Israel are "warmongers" and "Gestapo apparatchiks."

Nicholas De Genova, Professor of Anthropology and Latino studies: "U.S. patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy," "The heritage of the victims of the Holocaust belongs to the Palestinian people.... Israel has no claim to the heritage of the Holocaust." At an anti-war teach-in he expressed a wish that U.S. troops in Iraq would face a "million Mogadishus" (referring to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that left many dead and wounded American soldiers).

Bruce Robbins, Professor of English and Comparative Literature: "The Israeli government has no right to the sufferings of the Holocaust" and has "betrayed the memory of the Holocaust."

George Saliba, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science, to a recent Columbia graduate: "You have no claim to the land of Israel... no voice in this debate. You have green eyes, you're not a true Semite. I have brown eyes, I'm a true Semite."

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arabic Studies: Israel is an "apartheid system in creation" and a "racist" state. Jerusalem is "an Arab city" whose control by Israeli "foreigners" is "unacceptable." The war in Iraq "will be fought because these neoconservatives desire to make the Middle East safe not for democracy, but for Israeli hegemony."

Joseph Massad, Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History: "The Jews are not a nation.... The Jewish state is a racist state that does not have a right to exist."

Professor Massad has reacted to the furor with particular indignation. His web site now opens with a lengthy statement (which also appears on the anti-Israel web site Electronic Intifada) in which he denies any anti-Israel bias at Columbia and accuses his critics of conducting a "witch hunt" and a "campaign of intimidation" to "stifle" his "academic freedom." He takes exception to the following incident reported in the Daily News and elsewhere:

Students and faculty interviewed by The News consistently claimed that the Jordanian-born Palestinian is the most controversial, and vitriolic, professor on campus.

"How many Palestinians have you killed?" he allegedly asked one student, Tomy Schoenfeld, an Israeli military veteran, and then refused to answer his questions. (Feiden, "Hate 101")

Massad states:

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.

Here Massad undermines his own credibility. His statement implies that the incident was a fabrication. But the same article in Jewish Week that Massad cites for support states that the incident did occur "after an off-campus lecture." Schoenfeld stood by his story, saying that Massad "trespassed good taste." Massad's statement that he "never met" Shoenfeld is false. Shoenfeld did not take courses with Massad, but the Daily News report never claimed that he did.

Massad undermines his credibility further by the way he treats his critics:

[Daniel] Pipes and [Martin] Kramer are two of the most outspoken defenders of Israel's "right" to be a racist state. They are also keen to defend Israel's prerogative to kill and bomb anyone who stands in its way of protecting its right to discriminate on racial grounds. (Massad, "Policing the Academy")

This is a ridiculous, slanderous statement transparent to anyone who has read either Pipes or Kramer, who do not call for bombing anyone on racial grounds. The charges of racism against Israel are truly Orwellian, when one considers the government-sanctioned anti-Jewish racism common throughout the Arab world.

In the same article Massad makes another self-damaging statement:

I oppose any state that discriminates against its own citizens based on ethnic, religious, racial, national (or any other) grounds, and this especially includes those states that have discriminatory laws as Israel does.

Really? Any state? If Massad is so concerned about discrimination, why does he mention only Israel and no Arab countries, where discrimination often becomes outright oppression? According to a recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle,

Jews were stripped of their citizenship in Egypt, Iraq, Algeria and Libya; detained or arrested in Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Egypt; deprived of employment by government decrees in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Algeria, and had their property confiscated in all of the Arab lands except Morocco, according to Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.

In addition, Jews are barred from citizenship in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But perhaps Massad really is a man of his word, and opposes only countries that discriminate against their citizens. Since Jews cannot be citizens of nearly all Arab countries and have no representation in government, as Israeli Arabs do, it appears that Massad has no objection to Arab states that discriminate against, or even persecute, Jewish non-citizens!

Dan Miron, a professor of Hebrew literature, reports that "scores of Jewish students - about one a week" have complained to him about classroom bias. "Students tell me they've been browbeaten, humiliated and treated disrespectfully for daring to challenge the idea that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish nation.... They say they've been told Israeli soldiers routinely rape Palestinian women and commit other atrocities, and that Zionism is racism and the root of all evil." What reason would so many students have to lie about all of this?

Anti-Israel bias on many college campuses is perhaps the most intense and most conspicuous side of an intellectual disease afflicting many of our universities: anti-Westernism in general. Too many professors are treating the classroom as platforms for propagating their own political views, ignoring or greatly misrepresenting the other side. As a result, we are not doing our best to prepare the next generation of this country's leaders.


Epstein, Jack. "Jews Who Fled Arab Lands Now Press Their Cause." San Francisco Chronicle, March 28, 2004.

Feiden, Douglas. "Hate 101: Climate of Hate Rocks Columbia University." New York Daily News, November 21, 2004.

Feiden, Douglas. "Students Rip Columbia 'Zionists'." New York Daily News, November 23, 2004.

Harris, Jonathan Calt. "Anti-Israel U." New York Post, August 25, 2003.

Khalidi, Rashid. "Attack Iraq? The Real Reasons and the Likely Consequences of the Next War." In These Times, January 27, 2003.

Liebovitz, Liel. "Controversial Film Roils Columbia." The Jewish Week, October 29, 2004.

Massad, Joseph. "Policing the Academy." Al-Ahram Weekly, April 10, 2003.

Massad, Joseph. "Statement in Response to the Intimidation of Columbia University."

Shamir, Shlomo. "Columbia Vows Swift Action on Anti-Israel Professors." Haaretz, November 26, 2004.

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