Policing the academy
INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITOR
RECENTLY, Columbia University in New York City amongst other American and Canadian universities has been the object of a great deal of attention as regards the question of academic freedom. A coalition of groups and individuals from Columbia as well as from outside that university have made claims regarding the alleged "intimidation" and "harassment" of students who voice strong support for Israeli government policy. Professors who stand on principle are targetted as engaging in "hate propaganda" and "anti semitism" just for raising issues crucial to mankind.
To shed light on recent events at Columbia and to reveal the truth behind the drama, we are printing two statements concerning the university's Ad Hoc Grievance Committee and an article "McCarthyism stalking American campuses" by Joseph Mossad, assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, from the website http://www.censoringthought.org based at that university. The thrust of Columbia's Grievance Committee is that professors must be "politics free". These statements provide chapter and verse, demonstrating that this campaign, though dressed in the high ideals of freedom, is indeed not only hopelessly misguided, but politically motivated, disingenuous, based on fraud, and profoundly dangerous to free thought and legitimate, honest scholarship. Prof Mossad states: "This campaign of intimidation against academics and students has been well planned and conceived with one major goal in mind: defamation."
Similarly, various forces are using force, arbitrary rules and regulations and the media to pressure Canadian youth and faculty from participating in politics and even to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian question in a serious manner. At Dalhousie, St. Mary's, the University of New Brunswick, Concordia, York, the University of Toronto, MacMaster University, the University of Guelph and the University of Western Ontario, administrations have been using arbitrary rules and regulations to deny space to and politically repress students who openly defend the Palestinian cause. The recent Palestine Lives! conference at McMaster documented case after case in this regard. For its part, on 5 November 2004 B'nai Brith Canada launched an "unprecedented" national campaign involving human rights complaints against five universities in Quebec and Ontario, alleging that they were not defending the "rights and privileges" of Jewish students. The budget behind this campaign is reputed to be $1 million. Dr. Mohammed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress and a world renowned professor of engineering at the University of Waterloo, was targetted last fall after appearing on a TV Ontario program on "terrorism" in a smear campaign aimed against anyone who defends the Palestinian cause. Moreover, it later came to light that Adam Aptowitzer, Ontario chair of the B'nai Brith Institute for International Affairs, said the following on the very same program: "When Israel uses terror . . . to destroy a home and convince people . . . to be terrified of what the possible consequences are, I'd say that's an acceptable use to terrify somebody." Aptowitzer's advocacy of state terrorism was conveniently overlooked by media columnists and editorial scribblers calling for Dr. Elmasry's resignation.
Many of the same zealous American operatives such as Daniel Pipes -- initiator of the pro-Israel website calling itself CampusWatch, launched in September 2002 in the wake of Operation Defensive Shield in Israel -- are also freely criss-crossing the border and active within Canada. Such media as the National Post and the Globe and Mail have given prominence to their dangerous and criminal views in the service of a narrow political agenda. Writing in the National Post (18 July 2001), Pipes recommended that the Israeli government intensify the brutality of the occupation. His specific recipe for new forms of collective punishment against the residents of the West Bank and Gaza was to accelerate the pace of economic warfare against the population and "permit no transportation of people or goods beyond basic necessities. Shut off utilities to the PA. Raze the PA's illegal offices in Jerusalem, its security infrastructure, and villages from which attacks are launched." Read that again and notice that Pipes was advocating "razing villages" a la Lidice in violation of the well-known Nuremburg principles on crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity. This agenda includes systematic racism and repression of Arabs/Muslims by the Canadian and US governments, including such measures as Bill C-36, the Patriot Act and security certificates. The McMaster students drew the conclusion: "These measures empower these governments to deny such basic rights as the right to not be held without charge and the right to see the evidence presented against you in court. It is in this broader context that these attacks against Palestinians organizing on the campus" and the question of "academic freedom" and "free speech" should be seen. (See article "Palestine Lives!" in this edition.)
Shunpiking Online has already posted a virtual Dossier on Secret Trails and Security Certificates (see December, 2004) and will be publishing more indepth material on these questions in coming editions. Our purpose in reproducing this material is to continue to inform the public as to the true ideas, actions, purposes, motives and sponsors of such individuals and organizations and the actual issues involved so that you may draw your own conclusions. In this manner, the public may meet their claims not only with justifiable scepticism but the indigination and contempt they deserve. On the other hand, wherever students and faculty have stood their ground, as at Colombia, McMaster and other universities, the attempt to squelch and criminalize dissent and depoliticize the student youth has been unsuccessful.
* * *
Prof Joseph Massad of Columbia on the McCarthyism stalking American campuses
o Statement to the Ad Hoc Committee, Joseph Massad, 1 March 14 2004
o Professor Joseph Massad's Response To The Ad Hoc Committee's Report
o Statement in Response to the Intimidation of Columbia University
o "Policing the Academy". Joseph Massad on the McCarthyism stalking American campuses, Published in Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 633, 10-16 April 2003
Statement to the Ad Hoc Committee
March 14, 2005
By JOSEPH MASSAD
Assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, New York
I appear before you today because of a campaign of intimidation to which I have been subjected for over three years. While this campaign was started by certain members of the Columbia faculty, and by outside forces using some of my students as conduits, it soon expanded to include members of the Columbia administration, the rightwing tabloid press, the Israeli press, and more locally the Columbia Spectator. Much of this preceded the David Project film "Columbia Unbecoming," and the ensuing controversy. In the following statement, I will provide you with the history of this coordinated campaign, including the facts pertaining to the intimidation to which I am being subjected by the Columbia University administration, most manifestly through the convening of your own committee before which I appear today out of a combined sense of intimidation and obligation and not because I recognize its legitimacy. You need to bear with the details of the following narrative, as the campaign of intimidation against me is most insidious in its details.
I started teaching at Columbia in the Fall of 1999. At the conclusion of my first academic year, during which I taught my class on Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies, I received a Certificate of Appreciation for teaching presented by "The Students of Columbia College, Class of 2000," and was nominated and was one of the two finalists for the Van Doren teaching award which went that year to Professor Michael Stanislawski. In my second year, I began to be told of whispers about my class on Palestinian and Israeli politics and Societies. Jewish Students in my class in the Spring 2001 would tell me that I was the main topic of discussion at the Jewish Theological Seminary and at Hillel and that my class is making the Zionists on campus angry. I took such reports lightly, as the class had doubled in size from the first year. I did notice however that the class included some cantankerous students who insisted on scoring political points during the lectures. I would always diffuse the situation by allowing all questions to be asked and by attempting to answer them informatively. I would do so in class and during office hours. I had strong positive evaluations from most of my students with some complaining that the class was biased. Although my course description explained that "The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough yet critical historical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict to familiarize undergraduates with the background to the current situation," (3) I decided in the following year (Spring 2002) to emphasize that point more clearly. The course description read as follows:
The course examines critically the impact of Zionism on European Jews and on Asian and African Jews on the one hand, and on Palestinian Arabs on the other --in Israel, in the Occupied Territories, and in the Diaspora. The course also examines critically the internal dynamics in Palestinian and Israeli societies, looking at the roles class, gender, and religion play in the politics of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. 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. (4)
The point of the class description is to make sure the students understood that no side was being presented, neither the Palestinian nor the Zionist side, but rather that this was a course that was critical of both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. When I taught the class in 2004, after returning from my sabbatical, I decided to remove the sentence on "balance," especially after CampusWatch began to attack me for including it, to which I will return below. I removed it. (5)
It was with this as background that I started my Spring 2002 semester. My Palestinian and Israeli course seemed to have a more cantankerous crowd that year than before. Even though this year, the class had two discussion sections to accommodate the number of students, a number of students insisted on having discussions during the lecture. Some would bring with them a pro-Israel lobby propaganda book from which they would insist on reading in class. I would let them.
I saw her on college walk one day after Spring break. She came up to me and told me that she had just been to Israel and the Occupied Territories and expressed how bad she felt about the situation there. She apologized about the petition and told me that she had been approached "from the outside" to do it but she had dropped the matter. She spoke of people at the medical school and others from outside the university who were behind the idea, but did not provide details. I did not inquire.
Another student of mine (now at the School of International and Public Affairs), who self- identified as a "Likudnik," also approached me on campus one day during the Spring 2002 semester, telling me that he and a few other students had been invited to see a female professor at the medical school. He described that the meeting was so "surreptitious" and "conspiratorial," that it felt that they were planning on having me "murdered." In fact, the plan was to strategize how to get me fired. The student told me that they discussed the option of meeting with a female administraror who worked at the time at the Middle East Institute, to coordinate the plan with her. He told me that he had informed the students and the medical school professor that even though he disagreed with me, that he thought I had the right to express my views.
During the same semester, in April 2002, I was attacked and misquoted by the Spectator after attending an on-campus rally in support of Palestinians under Israeli military attack in the West Bank and Gaza, and an op-ed piece and letters were published in the Spectator accusing me of "anti-Semitism" for a lecture I had given at the Middle East Institute in February 2002.(7) The op-ed piece by a junior at Barnard named Daphna Berman, who was not my student, drew parallels between a swastika found in a law school bathroom and my lecture and rebuked the university for allowing me to speak out:
"I was struck by the University's willingness to publicly condemn blatant expressions of anti- Semitism [such as the swastika incident] while simultaneously condoning, and even sponsoring, more tacit and subtle forms of that same evil. Massad's talk is lent a certain legitimacy by mere virtue of the fact that his views exist within an academic framework. The rhetoric is polished, the multisyllabic words characteristic of academia are pleasing to the ear, and so Massad's message somehow becomes more acceptable, more palatable. Yet fundamentally, the difference between Massad's message and its more blatant and visually tangible manifestation are only subtle."(8)
As for the political rally, which took place on Wednesday April 17, 2002, I was one of countless speakers. I spoke out and asserted the following: ""Like white South Africans who felt threatened under apartheid and who only felt safe when they gave up their commitment to white supremacy, Israeli Jews will continue to feel threatened if they persist in supporting Jewish supremacy. Israeli Jews will only feel safe in a democratic Israeli state where all Jews and Arabs are treated equally. No state has the right to be a racist state." The Spectator misquoted me as saying that Israel is "a Jewish supremacist and racist state," and that "every racist state should be threatened."(9) When I protested the misquotation, the Spectator journalist who wrote the story, Xan Nowakowski, apologized and informed me via E- mail that she did not even attend the rally and got the quotes from another reporter. She assured me that the newspaper would run a correction. After a back and forth for almost a week on E-mail, the Spectator ran the correction on April 24, 2002.
On June 25 2002, Daniel Pipes and one Jonathan Schanzer published an article in the New York Post titled "Extremists on Campus," in which they listed me as one such extremist and complained that I use my class as a "soapbox for anti-Israeli polemics." The Wall Street Journal published on September 18, 2002 an article about a pro-Israel website calling itself CampusWatch being launched by Daniel Pipes, stating that the website listed 8 professors (including me) with our own public dossiers as enemies of America and Israel and called on our students to monitor us in class. Following the launch of CampusWatch, my E-mail was spammed for months with over 4000 E-mails daily, which I had to sift through until finally Columbia was able to install an anti-spamming program. Moreover, I was subjected to identity theft when thousands of racist E-mails would be sent in my name to individuals and listservs, including a few to the White House and Congressmen threatening them with terrorist action. Moreover, thousands of other E-mails would be sent to people with requests of notes of receipt being sent back to my E-mail account which clogged it further with thousands of such E-mail receipts. I also received tens of racist E-mails and phone messages including death threats directed at me. In the meantime, Pipes's website called on our own students to spy on us in the classroom and report to him, and Kramer called for my dismissal from Columbia University.(10) In interviews that I gave to the press, I spoke about the misquotation which Pipes and Kramer continued to propagate, and about my experience in my Spring 2002 class, with regards to the petition to get me fired and the secret meeting at the Medical school which my student had told me about.(11)
As I was on sabbatical in London that year, I was relatively shielded from the campaign, even though my E-mail account continued to be disrupted. I did come to Columbia to deliver a lecture on Palestinian cinema in January 2003. My lecture, titled "The Weapon of Culture," discussed how Palestinian cinema was a weapon of resistance and an act of culture in reference to Amilcar Cabral's famous essay "the Weapon of Theory." Kramer immediately attacked my paper based on reports in the press. (12)
In late January 2003, I began to write a column to the Egyptian Weekly Al-Ahram which deals mostly with Palestinian-Israeli affairs and with the Arab World more generally. Every time I published an article, Kramer and Pipes would write about it, as would new student recruits that they had on campuses. One such ideological recruit was a first year student in General Studies whom I had never met called Ariel Beery. Beery would become one of the main people defending the claims of the David Project in whose film he appeared and called me "one of the most dangerous intellectuals… on campus." Beery has never taken a class with me and never met me. Beery, who claims to have served in the Israeli army in Lebanon, had his own Spectator column and a personal blog. Beery arrived on the Columbia campus when I was on sabbatical, yet, surprisingly, he chose to write about me in his column. After criticizing my Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies course, which he never took, Beery asserted:
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.
Basing his arguments on of one my newspaper columns, Beery added the following:
"If anything, Massad's claim [in his column] that there is no anti-Semitism in the Arab world should disqualify him from setting foot in a Columbia University classroom as a professor of Modern Arab Politics. Just as you would not trust a surgeon with shaky knowledge of the human anatomy, Columbia should not trust the minds of its charges to a professor with a limited knowledge of the body politic of the region he supposedly is an expert in. [Massad also] says that the claim that Israel is democratic is no more than a 'propagandistic image.'… th[is]…charge on Israel should again disqualify Massad from teaching at Columbia."(13)
In a second column, Beery again railed against me and lamented that
"Our educations are bound in intellectual Egypt, enslaved by the post-colonialist slant that has permeated our social sciences, while our institution is trapped by its old-fashioned bylaws into protecting the employment of those who espouse hateful and violent rhetoric… Will President Bollinger and future Provost Alan Brinkley be our gate and our key to a new and better University? Only time will tell. Let's just hope that our time in the wilderness will be short and that next year we will enjoy a rebuilt Columbia."(14)
This is in addition to myriad log entries on me on his website.
In April 2003, I decided to respond to Kramer and Pipes in an article titled "Policing the Academy," in which I fleshed out their agenda and their plans. I concluded by stating that
"Kramer, Pipes, and co. are angry that the academy still allows democratic procedure in the expression of political views and has an institutionalised meritocratic system of judgment…to evaluate its members. Their goal is to destroy any semblance of either in favour of subjecting democracy and academic life to an incendiary jingoism and to the exigencies of the national security state with the express aim of imploding freedom. Their larger success, however, has been in discrediting themselves and in reminding all of us that we should never take the freedoms that we have for granted, as the likes of Kramer and Pipes are working to take them away."(15)
I attach the text of my article at the end of this statement. (See Appendix)
"Professor Massad has reversed the roles of all the players and redefined many of the historic events: the Zionists are the new Nazis; the Palestinians are oppressed victims and therefore the new Jews... From a distance, this diatribe may sound ludicrous. However, its impact on campus is serious. MEALAC should enable our students to explore issues vital to their understanding of the modern Middle East in a balanced way…"
We will see how the false claim attributed to me by Rabbi Sheer that I said that "the Zionists are the new Nazis," a claim I never made, would find its way to Ariel Beery who would make the same claim in the video "Columbia Unbecoming,"(19) as would Noah Liben in his description of my course --a false claim that would be repeated ad absurdum in the media. Sheer concluded with two interesting claims, one which effectively called on students not to take my class, and another announcing the filming of Columbia Unbecoming:
"Of course, academic freedom is a cornerstone of our University. However, students are understandably reluctant to take courses from faculty who impose their biases in their teaching. A student group is currently working on a video that records how intimidated students feel by advocacy teaching, and how some are discouraged from taking MEALAC courses or majoring in Middle East studies."
Sheer further called on Columbia University to "share my passion for unbiased scholarship and the establishment of a proper learning environment so our students - Jews and non- Jews - can learn about complex issues with honesty and integrity." (20)
Suffice it to say that my class had over fifty students for the Spring 2004 and students did not heed the call made by Sheer. The class did however include a number of auditors (I found out they were unregistered during the last week of class) who would consistently harass me with hostile ideological questions that ignored all the readings. Students complained about the disruption this caused the class. I tried to emphasize to the auditors that their questions must be relevant to the subject at hand and that they must do the readings. They never did and I continued to answer their questions until the end of the semester to avoid creating a tense atmosphere in the classroom.
During this period, the New York Sun and Kramer and Pipes continued to attack me in their columns and on their websites. In an article on December 30, 2003, the Sun had again attacked one of my newspaper columns misquoting me. In my column, I stated that "While Israel has no legitimacy and is not recognized by any international body as a 'representative' of the Jewish people worldwide but rather as the state of the Israeli people who are citizens of it...," the Sun quoted me as saying that "Israel has no legitimacy." I asked for a correction from the reporter Jacob Gershman. He agreed and the newspaper ran it the next day.(21) This however was just a brief lull. On May 4, 2004, the Sun ran another article about me by one Jonathan Calt Harris, identified as an associate of Daniel Pipes at Campus Watch, titled "Tenured Extremism." After a litany of misquotes, half quotes, and outright fabrications, Calt Harris, who referred to my views as akin to those of "Nazis," concluded by stating: "Mr. Massad is soon up for tenure review. Should this once distinguished university stoop to provide a permanent forum for his views, it would signify a truly stunning oversight…He knows no distinction between a classroom lecture and advocacy at a public demonstration." (22)
In the meantime however, I received a letter from Joel J. Levy, director of the New York chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, copies of which had been sent to President Bollinger and Provost Brinkley. The letter was significantly dated on May 6, 2004, two days after Calt Harris published his article in the Sun. The letter complained to me that, according to one report it received from one student who attended a lecture that I had given at the University of Pennsylvania on March 24, 2004 (which incidentally was the same lecture I gave at Columbia's Society of Fellows the previous October), ideas expressed in my lecture are "anti-Semitic." The letter made false claims about what my lecture said and asked that I retract them and issue an apology for my allegedly anti-Semitic remarks. I wrote Mr. Levy back and copied President Bollinger and Provost Brinkley. I stated in my letter that:
"My principled stance against anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism is a matter of public record and cannot be assailed by defamatory 'reports' or by letters from the ADL that consider them credible sources. Indeed I have condemned anti-Semitism in my Arabic and English writings, regardless of whether the person expressing it was pro-Israel or anti-Israel, an Arab, an American Christian, or an Israeli Jew… I therefore expect a prompt correction of the errors contained in your letter and demand an immediate apology, a copy of which should be sent to President Bollinger."(23)
I never heard back from the ADL, or from the provost.
It was with this as background that news about the David Project film "Columbia Unbecoming," surfaced on October 20, 2004 in a New York Sun article.(24)
The Aftermath of Columbia Unbecoming
I was horrified by the media campaign against me and the calls for my dismissal from Columbia that were issued by Congressman Weiner and by the editors of the Daily News and the New York Sun, as well as calls by Jewish members of the New York City Council to investigate the matter. These calls were issued as declarations about the controversy by the national head of the ADL and Mayor Bloomberg were also made to the press and the film was suddenly being shown in Israel before a government minister at an anti-Semitism conference. I had requested a meeting with Provost Brinkley who did not contact me once during the early days of the controversy during which President Bollinger was making all kinds of statements to the press. My request to meet with the Provost was made through the chair of my department, Marc van de Mieroop, who attended our meeting in the Provost's office on the 27th of October. I inquired of the provost as to why he would sit down secretly to watch a propaganda film produced by a lobbying group and why he would remain silent about it after he had seen it. The provost apologized and admitted that these were mistakes but that now we needed to contain the problem. He assured me that he had received countless letters in my support and few against me. When I spoke with Vice-President Dirks later, he also informed me that he had received "hundreds" of letters in my support and "three or four" against me. I trust that the President, the Provost, and the Vice-President, have shared with you these letters. While the provost and I corresponded briefly on E-mail, mainly about my concerns regarding statements made by President Bollinger, which the Provost would challenge and represent as the media's inaccurate rendering, soon there would be no further communication with him. President Bollinger to this day has not contacted me.
Let me begin by responding to the claims put forward in "Columbia Unbecoming," both based on press reports and on the recent transcript of the film made available on the web. I still have not seen the film. Let me reiterate what I said in my statement regarding the claims put by the students in the film:
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 hours, and greet me on the street often. He never informed me or acted in a way that showed intimidation. Indeed, he would write me E-mails, 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 E-mail 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!(26)
As for the claim made by Ariel Beery, whom I have never met and who has never been my student, that my "favorite description is the Palestinian as the new Jew and the Jew as the new Nazi." Such a statement is an outright lie. Beery gets this quote not from anything I said or wrote, but from the fabrication made up by Rabbi Sheer on his Hillel web posting of January 4th 2004. As for the claims made by Deena Shanker, whose story suddenly appeared in a report in the New York Sun after my posted statement dismantled the false claims made by Liben and Schoenfeld, her claims are also outright lies. (27) In her New York Sun account, Ms. Shanker stated that she asked me "if it is true
Shanker later told the New York Times a different story:
"She said that Professor Massad sometimes ridiculed her questions and during one class exchange yelled at her to get out. (She stayed.) 'People in the class were like blown away,' she said."(28) Her account to the Jerusalem Post was also inconsistent with the other two accounts:
'If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people then you can get out of my classroom!' Massad shouted, according to Shanker's account…Shanker was shocked…'Sometimes teachers and professors yell at students - it happens - but this was not like anything I've ever experienced. He was not treating me like a student,' she said… Shanker said she had grown accustomed to Massad's antagonism toward Israel, but the professor's rage at her for speaking up was frightening… 'I felt - I wouldn't say 'intimidated' was the right word - I would say: humiliated, violated, scared. This was very overt and explicit.'(29)
Deena Shanker is lying in all three versions of her story. I have never asked her or any student to leave my class no matter what question they asked. In fact, I never asked any of my students to leave class for any reason. I have no visual memory of Deena Shanker who never came to office hours or spoke with me after class. The incident she describes has never taken place.
In the aftermath of the film, I have received, and still receive, a barrage of hate mail and racist E-Emails and voicemail messages. The first such E-mail message was from a medical school professor called Moshe Rubin. Professor Rubin wrote me on October 20th, the same day as the first report was published in the Sun. Under the subject heading "Anti-Semite" he wrote:
Many more such E-mails would follow. The campaign would quickly expand and include medical school professor Judith Jacobson. Such threatening E-mails have also targeted others in my department. A recent E-mail was sent last week to all the Jewish students and faculty at MEALAC from an Israeli group calling itself "United Trial Group -- Peoples Rights International," informing them that:
"We advise you to immediately dismiss/kick ass of Joseph Goebbels, aa Joseph Massed based on the President Bush Bill against anti-Semitism and according with the US anti-terrorism law, proscribing Nazi propaganda and incitement to terror. If you and the administration won't immediately dismiss that fascist bastard, you and the administration will be personally liable and accountable for aiding, abetting and harboring this Muslim criminal, and subject to criminal prosecution and multimillion compensations in damages… You have 30 days to comply and inform us."
I should state that I have received immense support from across the world, through countless letters and thousands of signatures on an online petition. These include hundreds of individual letters from academics, students, and supporters, and tens of letters from my own students, especially my Jewish students. All these letters were sent to President Bollinger, Provost Brinkley, and Vice-President Dirks. Copies of many of these letters were sent to me. In addition, a colleague at the University of Texas at Austin, Professor Neville Hoad, circulated a letter within a few days of the controversy and obtained 828 signatures of major scholars and academics around the United States and the world, which he also submitted to the President, the Provost, and the Vice-President. Another academic colleague at the State University of California, As'ad AbuKhalil, set up an on-line petition, which obtained upwards of 3000 signatures, a copy of which was also sent to Bollinger. Hooligans attempted to undermine the petition by signing names like "Adolf Hitler" and 'Osama Ben Laden," but they were not able to shut the petition down. In addition, two letters were sent to the Prsident, the Provost, and the Vice-Presdient, one by 24 graduate students at MEALAC, and another by 52 graduate students from other departments at Columbia. The Middle East Studies Association's Academic Freedom Committee also issued a letter defending my academic freedom, as did the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Thirty professors from the American University in Cairo also sent a letter defending me. President Bollinger has as of yet not responded to any of these individuals or organizations with the notable exception of the ACLU. A response was also sent by the Provost to the AAUP. In the meantime, my own senior colleague Dan Miron had joined the fray with claims to the New York Sun that students in the department had been complaining to him of class humiliation by professors every week for years.(30)
President Bollinger's Failure to Defend the Faculty
The response of the Columbia University administration to the David Project was swift. As I will show below, in statement and action, Columbia's President Bollinger has prejudged the accused faculty, and failed to defend us or the MEALAC department, and he refused to defend Columbia's own record of pluralism and tolerance, the variety of courses the university offers on the Middle East, or Columbia's established commitment to promote Jewish and Israel Studies. Instead President Bollinger and his administration, as the evidence I will present will show, gave legitimacy to the film "Columbia Unbecoming," referred to its claims as facts, and promised an "investigation." His subsequent statements and actions have emboldened those engaged in the campaign to intimidate me and would confirm to the public that the allegations against me are in fact true, at least, as far as he was concerned. Let me illustrate how this transpired.
Columbia's first response to the allegations contained in the film, "Columbia Unbecoming," was a statement released by the President himself. This statement was released after Congressman Anthony Wiener called on Columbia to fire me in a letter to Bollinger, and after two newspapers (the New York Sun and the Daily News) added their voices to Wiener's and asked that I be fired, and after a medical school faculty member, Moshe Rubin, sent me a racist E-mail which I had immediately forwarded to Provost Brinkley. In his statement, Bollinger referred to the "disturbing and offensive nature of incidents described in the film" without using the word "alleged" before incidents. This was certainly not an oversight, especially coming from a lawyer. He further added that academic freedom "does not, for example, extend to protecting behavior in the classroom that threatens or intimidates students who express their viewpoints." Bollinger failed to make any reference as to whether academic freedom extends to protecting students engaged in intimidating professors by raising a media campaign against them. Nor did the statement address whether the intimidation of the faculty and the Columbia administration by outside pressure groups, the press, and government officials would be tolerated.(31) In his statement, instead, Bollinger announced that he had asked the Provost to "look into" the students' claims, which in subsequent press reports quoting him, he referred to as an "investigation." (32)
The next day, on October 28, Bollinger met with national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, an organization that had targeted me since May 6, 2004, when it sent a letter to me copied to Bollinger accusing me of anti-Semitism. According to press accounts, Bollinger sought to meet with Foxman and other leaders of Jewish organizations. On November 11, after delivering a lecture at the University Club on Fifth Avenue, Mr. Bollinger was asked about the student accusations against Columbia faculty members, "according to an audience member who did not wish to disclose his identity… Mr. Bollinger… said he was committed to academic freedom but wouldn't condone "stupid" behavior by faculty members."(33) Such a biased and disrespectful choice of words would continue in Bollinger's press declarations. In response to allegations by students repeated to him by a reporter from New York Magazine that "On day one, students say, [Massad] tells his class they shouldn't expect "balance." There's even a disclaimer in his syllabus." Bollinger responded:
"I believe a disclaimer before starting your course is insufficient…It doesn't inoculate you from criticism for being one-sided or intolerant in the classroom…That's not to prejudge any claims here. But if you're asking, in the abstract, 'Can a faculty member satisfy the ideal of good teaching by simply saying at the beginning, I'm going to teach one side of a controversy and I don't want to hear any other side and if you don't like this, please don't take my course,' my view is, that's irresponsible teaching."(34)
Bollinger never contacted me to check whether this is true and has not seen copies of my syllabi. While he claimed that he was answering a hypothetical question to New York Magazine, he would soon be so emboldened by the very repetition of the claims against me that he would abandon the necessity he initially saw for the hypothetical caveat. This is how the reporter of the Jewish Week put it:
"Bollinger is careful not to name names, but he makes clear he is at odds with some professors in the [MEALAC] department, whether or not they are guilty of the allegations against them…"Just as I can't go in to my First Amendment class and say you know, I happen to think that censorship is a very good idea, and if you want to take a course on freedom of speech that emphasizes, you know, against censorship, God bless you, and go do that," he said."(35)
Indeed, Bollinger now speaks of these allegations as outright facts. Witness what he told students over dinner a few days ago as reported by the Columbia Spectator: "'I'm not going to talk about whether the accusations are true or not. Let's just assume they're true,' Bollinger said." (36) The Spectator reporter adds the following:
"The second claim made by the film, according to Bollinger, was that some professors did not permit students to voice their own opinions about matters of discussion in the classroom. He identified this action as a clear violation of academic freedom…The third claim was that some MEALAC courses are blatantly biased, presenting only one side of the spectrum of opinions on contentious subjects. Bollinger said that the warnings professors gave ahead of time about the one-sidedness of their courses were 'unacceptable.'"(37)
Note that the situation was no longer hypothetical. I should emphasize here that not only did Bollinger or Provost Brinkley never contact me about my course, neither of them responded to my announcement that I had cancelled it, which I made in my publicized statement in response to the intimidation to which I was being subjected. I had indeed sent a copy of my statement to Provost Brinkley before posting it. He wrote me back counseling me not to release it. However neither he nor Bollinger, nor even Vice President Dirks, expressed any discomfort that I, a Columbia faculty member, was canceling one of my courses because of intimidation. None of them informed me that I would be protected by the university were I to teach it again and that the university would ensure my rights and protect me against intimidation. Indeed, what I was subjected to is not more protection by my own university but more intimidation. The most concrete manifestation of which was the formation of your committee.
On the issue of the formation of your ad-hoc committee, the first point I want to refer to is the establishment of the committee and then move to its mandate. The step taken by the administration to establish a committee to investigate professors based on student grievances that were not lodged with any university body but rather aired through an off- campus lobbying group sets a dangerous precedent of violating the academic freedom of professors. The establishment of the committee coupled with the statements by Bollinger to the press have given the clear impression that the David Project had legitimate issues to raise with Columbia, and that even though Bollinger himself had assured everyone that there were no registered complaints against any of the accused professors through any Columbia channel, and that he had already convened a secret committee to investigate similar allegations the previous semester, the so-called Blasi committee, which found no evidence of bias, he still saw a need for a second special committee to become the address of such complaints.
The matter of the committee charge is of grave importance. I requested and had a meeting with Vice President Dirks in his office on December 9 to discuss this particular matter. I told him then that I would not consider the ad-hoc committee a legitimate body unless it included in its charge the investigation of claims of intimidation of faculty by students, by administrators, and by off campus pressure groups. He responded positively to my concerns by asking me for my telephone number in Amman, Jordan, as I was traveling the next day on December 10th. He said that I needed to be next to a phone and fax in the next day or two so that he could call me and fax me a draft of the charge to approve so that he could release it then to the public. I was satisfied with this arrangement. Vice President Dirks however never contacted me. I E-mailed him on December 14 to inquire about the charge. He wrote back on December 19th informing me that he had not "yet been able to come up with a statement about the committee. I'll send you something as soon as it is ready." I never heard back from him. Upon returning to Columbia in mid-January, my students forwarded to me a mass E-mail that Vice-President Dirks had sent out inviting students to appear before the committee. I was taken aback by such a step, as I still did not know what the committee's charge was. I wrote to the vice-president to inquire on January 20 as to what had transpired. He wrote me back clarifying that he had not promised to share with me the circular he had sent out to the students. As for the charge, he explained that he still had not finalized it and would do so in a couple of days. I heard again from him a week later asking me to pick up a copy of the charge from his office. I did and was shocked to find that it did not include the investigation of faculty intimidation by students and administrators. I never heard back from Vice-President Dirks who never offered an explanation or an apology for his disrespectful conduct, having failed to inform me of the change of plans and then offering me the charge as a fait accompli.
I am very concerned about the choice of Floyd Abrams as your advisor, a position whose mandate has not been made public. Mr. Abrams is publicly identified with pro-Israeli politics and activism. He has spoken at fund raisers for causes in Israel,(38) has worked and consulted with the Anti-Defamation League, one of the parties campaigning against me, and received a major award from it in 2003, the Hubert H. Humphrey Award, and has endorsed the book The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz who has been speaking publicly in lectures and to the media against me, in the context of the ongoing witch-hunt, alleging that I support terrorism. In his blurb endorsing Dershowitz's book, Abrams states:
"In a world in which Israel seems always to be the accused, regardless of the facts, Alan Dershowitz's defense offers an oasis of sanity and straight talk. It may be too much to hope that Israel's accusers will read this powerful and persuasive response to their charges. It is not at all too much to ask that fair--minded observers do so."(39)
Given these statements by Abrams, the decision to appoint him as advisor to this committee conveys at the least the appearance of partiality.
On the question of my scholarship and my integrity as a teacher, Bollinger's statements sadly suggest that he has taken sides against the faculty and the university in this controversy. Compare his recent declarations with those of Martin Kramer, one of the main people behind this witch-hunt. Kramer wrote on November 5, 2002 in a web posting:
"The other issue of overriding concern here is the apparent absence of any effort by the Columbia administration to promote diversity. Here I don't mean the false diversity of academic mafias. They think it's crucial to assemble people of different ethnic, national, religious, racial, gender, and disciplinary backgrounds-provided they say the same thing. I' m talking about intellectual diversity, which used to be a value at Columbia. The only historian of the modern Middle East at Columbia [besides the possible employment of Rashid Khalidi] is another Palestinian, Joseph Massad, who is a militant follower of Edward Said. (He's now up for tenure.) Imagine that Khalidi were added, and Massad were tenured, both to teach history. They work in the same area, and their politics, while not identical, are very similar. The whole thing begins to look like a cozy club of like-minded pals, who peer at the Middle East through exactly the same telescope, from exactly the same vantage point."(40)
Compare Kramer's statement with Bollinger's. After reviewing Kramer's views and those of others on the alleged lack of intellectual diversity at Columbia and in Middle East Studies more generally, and after citing Bollinger's own record on "racial diversity" at the University of Michigan, New York Magazine's reports that: "today, [Bollinger] says he's equally committed to intellectual diversity."(41) This led the reporter to conclude that this "may not augur well for professor Massad's longevity at Columbia, no matter how favorably disposed the provost's committee may be to him."(42) Bollinger would elaborate on that point later to the Jewish Week, where according to the newspaper, "Bollinger acknowledged, albeit elliptically, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not being taught in a balanced way that reflects the complexity of the region. He believes that 'the historic, horrific treatment of Jews, especially in the 20th century, is not something to be taken as a matter of the past, and while I may not share all the policy judgments of the Israeli government, I believe the conflict cannot in any way be fairly regarded as lying at the feet of choices that Israel has made.'" (43) Instead Bollinger recommends that MEALAC be "expanded" and that it continue to teach the Palestinian Israeli conflict but not as it has done so far:
"I happen to think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of central importance in the modern world," he said, "and we want to be able to think about that in its full complexities. That's going to mean that there will be thoughts some people will find difficult, or even offensive, and yet we must be able to explore given our belief in academic freedom. However, it is our obligation to do that with full respect to the complexity, and if we don't do that, we have failed ourselves, we have failed our own principles."(44)
The implication being that those of us, and the reference is clearly to me, who teach the Palestinian Israeli conflict at MEALAC do not teach it with its "full complexity" or that I do not "respect" such complexity. Perhaps I need to state to the committee that I derive my authority as a scholar of the Middle East from my doctoral training here at Columbia's Political Science Department which granted me my PhD with distinction, a rare honor that was further certified by the Middle East Studies Association which granted me its most prestigious award for a social science dissertation for 1998, the Malcolm Kerr Award. My book, which was based on my dissertation, was published by Columbia University Press, and has been endorsed and reviewed favorably by the most prominent Middle East scholars in the academy. The only unfavorable review, out of seventeen favorable reviews, it received was in Martin Kramer's unscholarly magazine, Middle East Quarterly. My book and my articles on the Palestinian Israeli conflict are used as standard texts for courses on nationalism and on Palestine and Israel across the United States and Europe. My recent work on sexuality and queer theory is also taught across the country, and a book length study on the subject is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. I currently have two standing offers from prestigious presses for a book based on my published essays on Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. An attack on my scholarship therefore is not only an attack on me and on MEALAC but on Columbia's political science department, on prestigious academic presses, including Columbia University Press, and on the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), an opinion expressed by Martin Kramer who also condemns Middle East Studies at Columbia and MESA itself. I should affirm here that President Bollinger is under the impression that he can set the research agenda for Middle East scholarship at Columbia much better than Columbia's Middle East faculty. He told the Jewish Week that "we need to integrate better than we have other fields that have knowledge relevant to the work being done in MEALAC. What is the relationship, for example, between the environmental facts of life in the Middle East and Asia, or its diseases, and the culture there?" (45) This retreat to 19th century climatology and medical anthropology is disturbing. Would President Bollinger also think that there is a relationship between "environmental facts, its diseases and the culture" of African Americans or of American Jews?
I am concerned that Bollinger may well be making an academic judgment about me that is based not on my scholarship or pedagogy but on my politics and even my nationality. A case in point is Bollinger's recent response to a letter sent by one James Schreiber, a member of Columbia Law School's board of visitors and former federal prosecutor, who says that a lecture that I gave and which he attended at Columbia's Middle East Institute three years ago was comparable to a speech at a "neo-Nazi rally." Bollinger met with Schreiber privately at his home and reportedly told him that he found his letter to be "powerful" and that he seeks to "upgrade" the faculty in the Middle East studies department.(46) In addition, when a number of faculty members and I signed a petition in 2002 calling on Columbia to divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel, a country guilty of human rights abuses, Bollinger's response betrayed a strong emotional reaction and a stronger political bias:
"The petition alleges human rights abuses and compares Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid, an analogy I believe is both grotesque and offensive."(47)
While the campaigners against me off this campus do not have the direct power to influence my future employment at Columbia, Bollinger clearly does, and therefore his failure to defend academic freedom is detrimental to my career and my job. I am further chilled in this regard by reports that at the recent general meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Bollinger sought to change the fifty-year tradition regarding how tenure cases are decided at Columbia when he stated that he and the trustees, in accordance with the statutes but in contravention of a fifty-year tradition, would want to have the final say in tenure cases in the future.(48)
In conclusion, the foregoing has given you the minimum of details and historical narrative regarding this coordinated campaign from inside and outside the university targeting me, my job, and my chances for tenure, based on my political views, my political writings, and my nationality. That the Columbia University administration acted as a collaborator with the witch-hunters instead of defending me and offering itself as a refuge from rightwing McCarthyism has been a cause of grave personal and professional disappointment to me. I am utterly disillusioned with a university administration that treats its faculty with such contempt and am hoping against hope that the faculty will rise to the task before them and force President Bollinger to reverse this perilous course on which he has taken Columbia's faculty and students. The major goal of the witch-hunters is to destroy the institution of the university in general. I am merely the entry point for their political project. As the university is the last bastion of free-thinking that has not yet fallen under the authority of extreme rightwing forces, it has become their main target. The challenge before us is therefore to be steadfast in fighting for academic freedom.
1 The only change I have made in this version of the statement is to remove the names of students, professors, and administrators that I had included in the original statement but who have not sought publicity on this issue. I did so to protect their privacy. I have kept the names of students who have spoken publicly.
2 Charge to Ad Hoc Committee from the Vice President for Arts and Sciences.
3 This is the full course description for Spring 2001:
"This course covers the history of Zionism in the wake of the Haskala in mid nineteenth century Europe and its development at the turn of the century through the current "peace process" between the state of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. The course examines the impact of Zionism on European Jews and on Asian and African Jews on the one hand, and on Palestinian Arabs on the other -- in Israel, in the Occupied Territories, and in the Diaspora. The course also examines the internal dynamics in Palestinian and Israeli societies, looking at the roles class, gender and religion play in the politics of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough yet critical historical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict to familiarize undergraduates with the background to the current situation."
4 This is the full course description for Spring 2002:
"This course covers the history of Zionism in the wake of the Haskala in mid nineteenth century Europe and its development at the turn of the century through the current "peace process" between the state of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. The course examines critically the impact of Zionism on European Jews and on Asian and African Jews on the one hand, and on Palestinian Arabs on the other --in Israel, in the Occupied Territories, and in the Diaspora. The course also examines critically the internal dynamics in Palestinian and Israeli societies, looking at the roles class, gender and religion play in the politics of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. 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."
5 This is the course description for Spring 2004:
"This course covers the history of Zionism in the wake of the Haskala in mid nineteenth century Europe and its development at the turn of the century through the current "peace process" between the state of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. The course examines critically the impact of Zionism on European Jews and on Asian and African Jews on the one hand, and on Palestinian Arabs on the other --in Israel, in the Occupied Territories, and in the Diaspora. The course also examines critically the internal dynamics in Palestinian and Israeli societies, looking at the roles class, gender and religion play in the politics of Israel and the Palestinian national movement. The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough yet critical historical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict to familiarize undergraduates with the background to the current situation."
7 See Daphna Berman, "Masks of Tolerance," February 26, 2002.
9 Xan Nowakowski, Students Organize Sit-In To Support Palestinians," Columbia Spectator, 18 April 2002.
10 In a column that he posted on his website titled "Bir Zeit-on-Hudson," on 5 Februray 2003, Kramer wrote this threatening statement: [Massad has] also failed to learn from Said that you lie low until you have tenure, but that's another matter." On February 20, 2004, he wrote an entry about me stating Massad"wants tenure at Columbia, and will seek it with a new book entitled The Persistence of the Palestinian Question. Will Columbia scrape bottom?" In an entry on June 14, 2004, Kramer wrote "Here's my idea: Massad should be de- Columbia-nized when he comes up for tenure." On October 22, after the David Project film was revealed to the public, Kramer wrote "I sincerely hope that Columbia will have the good sense not to tenure Massad, who is a pseudo-scholar…" and followed that on November 6 with the question: "So is Columbia prepared to tenure a professor who teaches that Christian (and Jewish) supporters of Israel in America are the world's most powerful anti- Semites? That's the crux of the Massad question." All the above quotes can be found on http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899529/ On December 10, 2004, he wrote "If Columbia has any sense at all, he'll eventually have to struggle with the meaning of this word: unemployed." Posted on http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899529/
11 See for example my interview with Nigel Parry of Electronic Intifada, posted on
12 See Kramer's "Bir Zeit-on-Hudson," posted on 5 Februray 2003,
13 Ariel Beery, "Middle East Certitude," Columbia Spectator, 10 March 2003.
14 Ariel Beery, "Between the Narrow Points," Columbia Spectator, 14 April 2003. See also his article "The Burning Flames," Columbia Spectator, 24 April 2003.
15 Joseph Massad, "Policing the Academy," Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April 2003.
16 Jacob Gershman, "Massad's Theory: The Zionists are the Anti-Semites," New York Sun, 22 February 2005.
17 Rabbi Charles Sheer, "The Treatment of the Middle East Studies at Columbia University," 6 January 2004, posted on the Hillel website:
19 See the transcript of "Columbia Unbecoming," 10.
20 I Rabbi Charles Sheer, "The Treatment of the Middle East Studies at Columbia University," op.cit.
21 Jacob Gershman, "Israel Is Accused of Anti-Semitism," New York Sun, 30 December 2003. They ran the correction on December 31.
22 Jonathan Calt Harris, "Tenured Extremism," New York Sun, 4 May 2004.
23 This is the full text of my letter:
May 16, 2004
Mr. Joel J. Levy, Director
823 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017
Dear Director Levy,
I was deeply disturbed by the accusations that your letter of May 6, 2004 leveled against me. The "reports" that you have received from " a student who attended the lecture" are utterly inaccurate and bear little relationship to the text of my lecture. My principled stance against anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism is a matter of public record and cannot be assailed by defamatory "reports" or by letters from the ADL that consider them credible sources. Indeed I have condemned anti-Semitism in my Arabic and English writings, regardless of whether the person expressing it was pro-Israel or anti-Israel, an Arab, an American Christian, or an Israeli Jew (you may consult with my review of Israel Shahak's and Norton Mezvinsky's book Jewish Fundamentalism published by the Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies and available at http://web.mit.edu/cis/www/mitejmes/issues/200105/br_massad.htm where I condemn the anti-Semitic approach used by anti-Zionist Israeli Jewish scholars to analyze Judaism and Jewish fundamentalism).
I therefore expect a prompt correction of the errors contained in your letter and demand an immediate apology, a copy of which should be sent to President Bollinger.
Cc: President Lee C. Bollinger
Provost Alan Brinkley
24 Jacob Gershman, "Columbia Abuzz Over Underground Film," New York Sun, 20 October 2004.
25 Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser, "In Defense of the David Project," Columbia Spectator, 16 November 2004.
26 See my "Response to the Intimidation of Columbia University," posted on my Columbia webpage on 3 November 2004: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/mealac/faculty/massad/
27 Shanker's claim was first reported by Jacob Gershman, "Columbia Prepared to Protect Students from anti-Israel bias," New York Sun, 17 November 2004.
28 N.R. Kleinfield, "Mideast Tensions Are Getting Personal on Campus at Columbia," New York Times, 14 January 2005.
29 Uriel Heilman, "Non-Academic Debate,' Jerusalem Post, 23 December 2004.
30 Jacob Gershman, "Bias Festerd 'For Years,' Professor Says," New York Sun, 29 October 2004.
31 Statement from Lee C. Bollinger on the David Project Film, October 27, 2004.
32 See for example Sam Dillon, "Columbia to Check Reports of Anti-Jewish Harassment," New York Times, 29 October 2004.
33 Jacob Gershman, "Columbia Probe Eyed By Council, " New York Sun, November 12, 2004.
34 Jennifer Senior, "Columbia's Own Middle East War,"New York Magazine, January 10, 2005.
35 Liel Leibovitz, "The Winter of His Content," Jewish Week, 4 March 2005.
36 Lisa Hirshmann, "Over Dinner, Bollinger On Academic Freedom,"Columbia Spectator, 10 March 2005
38 See "Israel Cancer research fund, Women of Achievement Lunch to Fight Cancer," in 15 Minutes, about his emceeing such an event.
39 The quote is posted on the book publisher's website:
40 Martin Kramer, "The Columbia Club of Middle Eastern Studies," 5 November 2002, weblog can be found on: www.martinkramer.org
41 Jennifer Senior, "Columbia's Own Middle East War,", New York Magazine, January 10, 2005.
43 Liel Leibowitz, "The Winter Of His Content," Jewish Week, 4 March 2005.
45 Liel Leibowitz, 'Winter of his Content," op.cit.
46 Jacob Gershman, "Ex-Prosecutor Likens Massad Speech to a 'Neo-Nazi Rally'," New York Sun, 25 February 25.
47 "President Lee Bollinger's Statement on the Divestment Campaign" 7 November 2002
48 Minutes of the General Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 16 February 2005.
Response to the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report (1)
By JOSEPH MASSAD
Assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, New York
(4 April 2005) The Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report suffers from major logical flaws, undefended conclusions, inconsistencies, and clear bias in favor of the witch-hunt that has targeted me for over three years. Despite these major limitations, the report acknowledges that there has been an organized attempt by internal and external forces to intimidate faculty at Columbia and that I have been the central target of this attempt. In the following, I will point out the most glaring flaws in the report to illustrate that not only was the committee illegitimate, but that it has also produced a report that is not defended by argument, facts, or proof.
I should reiterate that I do not recognize the legitimacy of the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee established by the Columbia administration, as I consider it an instrument in the ongoing campaign to suppress academic freedom on this campus. This is so because the charge of the committee ignored the central question of the intimidation of faculty by other faculty, by students, by administrators, and by forces from outside the university. I told this to the members of the committee when I met with them on March 14th and clarified to them that I had acquiesced in appearing before them out of a combined sense of obligation and intimidation. It is this sense that motivates my response to the report that the committee released on March 28.
Pedagogy in Context
Let me begin with section IV of the report titled "Pedagogy in Context." Despite the limitations placed on the committee by its official charge, the committee's report was forced to acknowledge that I have been the target of a political campaign by actors inside and outside the university, as well as by registered and unregistered students inside and outside my classroom. It affirms that during the Spring of 2002, I was spied upon by at least one other professor on campus, that my class was disrupted by registered students (non-auditors) and unregistered auditors, and that individuals and organizations outside the university targeted me, my class, and my teaching. Furthermore, the report not only confirms that in my classes, and specifically in the Spring 2002 course on Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies, I allowed all questions to be asked, but, in fact, implicitly assigns blame to me for being too open during the Spring 2002:
there is ample evidence of [Massad's] willingness -- as part of a deliberate pedagogical strategy -- to permit anyone who wished to do so to comment or raise a question during his lectures. For many students this approach itself became problematic because it allowed a small but vociferous group of fellow students to disrupt lectures by their incessant questions and comments. (Section IV)
The report also claims that as a result of this situation, the atmosphere in the classroom, as described by some students, was "tense": "Some students referred to 'emotional outbursts,' another to the atmosphere being 'combative.'" Yet despite these limitations and provocations against the professor, the report states that "A significant number of students found Professor Massad to be an excellent and inspiring teacher, and several described his class as the best they took at Columbia."(2) Moreover, the report further affirms that instead of being provoked to respond to this campaign inappropriately or irresponsibly, that I seem to have taken my professorial tasks professionally and responsibly:
Outside the classroom, there can be little doubt of Professor Massad's dedication to, and respectful attitude towards, his students whatever their confessional or ethnic background or their political outlook. He made himself available to them in office hours and afterwards. One student, critical of other aspects of his pedagogy, praised his "warmth, dynamism and candor" and his unusual accessibility and friendliness. One of the group of students who questioned him regularly and critically in class told us of their friendly relations outside class where their discussions often continued. (3)
As for limitations that I insisted on in my classroom, the report confirms one: ""Professor Massad…has been categorical in his classes concerning the unacceptability of anti-semitic views."(4) The report also affirms that the committee did not find that any of my students were "penalized for their views by receiving lower grades."(5) The report does not find any other limitations that I imposed on my students. It is in this context that the report examines the claim made by Deena Shanker, which is alleged to have taken place during the Spring 2002 class on Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies.
The report engages Deena Shanker's claim in a way that renders it into a moving target. The committee first reports Deena Shanker's testimony in which she claims that I told her "If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom!"(6) Shanker has two witnesses, one is a registered student, and one whom she claims was a visitor for the day, a claim that has not been verified by anybody except for Shanker who is the only witness that this person was visiting my class, just as he is her witness that the incident she describes took place! As for the registered student, he provided testimony that differs significantly from that provided by Shanker. He alleges that I "raised" my "voice considerably and said that 'I will not stand by and let you sit in my classroom and deny Israeli atrocities.'"(7) Note that Shanker's claim that I instructed her to "get out of my classroom" is not corroborated but rather replaced by a different claim altogether. The fact that I deny that the incident ever took place and that my testimony is corroborated by three students, two graduate Teaching Assistants and one registered undergraduate student, while mentioned in the report, is treated as immaterial to the report's conclusion. Also immaterial to the report's conclusion is the report's finding that Shanker did not register this complaint in her anonymous evaluation of the course, nor reported it to any one in authority nor spoke of it to me, her professor.
The report, despite noting the campaign against me during the Spring of 2002 from inside the classroom and outside it, from inside the university and outside it, and despite its finding that I had conducted myself in a responsible professorial way with students who would incessantly disrupt and interrupt my class, surprisingly moves to conjure up a fantastic scenario wherein it "finds it credible that Professor Massad became angered at a question that he understood to countenance Israeli conduct of which he disapproved, and that he responded heatedly."(8) This the report explains as consisting of an allegedly "rhetorical response…conveying that [Shanker's] question merited harsh public criticism." Thus, what the report finds credible is that I became "angered" and "responded heatedly" with "harsh public criticism."(9) Notice that the charge is a moving target. It started with the claim that I threatened to expel Deena Shanker from my class, to my threatening not to "stand by" while Shanker denies Israeli atrocities, to the final form of the charge, namely that I responded "heatedly" to Shanker with "harsh public criticism." It is this last charge that the report found "credible."
The Committee makes no attempt to relate Shanker's allegations to two of its own findings: first, that those testifying before the Committee agreed that I conducted my class in an inclusive manner, both in terms of allowing everyone to ask questions and that I set no limitations on the questions that could be asked. How then was the allegation that I sought to exclude, whether directly or through a heated exchange, a student who disagreed with me found credible? And, second, that I and my class were already the target of an organized attempt at espionage and intimidation when Shanker claimed to recover her memory suddenly because of hearsay by another student interviewed in "Columbia Unbecoming." Let me move now to the report's attempt to establish facts. The report never claims that it established Shanker's claim as true beyond a reasonable doubt, rather that it found it "credible." What this suggests is that at best the evidence was not persuasive enough to establish the claim as a solid incontrovertible fact but rather as "credible." Still, the report never explains the basis on which the committee found Shanker's claim and her witnesses more "credible" than my denial and that of my witnesses. Floyd Abrams, the advisor to the committee, responded to my public query by telling the Chronicle of Higher Education "That's what juries do all the time."(10) Mr. Abrams seems to elide the fact that the ad hoc committee is not a court and that unlike the ad hoc committee, a real court and a real jury listen to real testimony, not from volunteers, but from all who were determined to be present when an incident occurred, and that the witnesses are subjected to cross-examination. These important elements, which escaped the attention of our esteemed lawyer, did not apply to the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee, as it is not a court of law, evidenced by its failure to accord me due process. Indeed, the committee's conclusion of the credibility of Shanker's claim stands undefended by facts, logic, or argumentation, all of which are absent in relation to this finding.
In contrast with the committee's conclusion that at worst it found it "credible" that I responded to Shanker "heatedly" with "harsh public criticism," President Bollinger reached an altogether different conclusion. In a radio interview on April 1, 2005 with NPR's Brian Lehrer, Bollinger responded to Lehrer's statement that the committee found it probably true that Massad "yelled at a Jewish student to get out of his classroom," by affirming that the described incident "did in fact happen" (emphasis added). Bollinger not only changes the report's finding that the claim of a "heated" response and "harsh public criticism" is "credible" but transforms it into a new claim, namely, that I instructed Shanker to "get out" of my class room, and that this claim is a "fact."
As for the Tomy Schoenfeld's claim, the Committee affirms that it occurred at an unspecified time ("in the late Fall or early Spring terms of the 2001-2002 academic year"), and at an unspecified place ("in a building adjacent to campus on 113th or 114th street"), at an event with an unspecified title and unknown sponsor.(11) Schoenfeld claims that at this alleged event I asked him "How many Palestinians have you killed." He brought with him one witness who, like him, also could not recall the time, place, or title of the event at which this alleged incident took place. According to the report,
Mr. Schoenfeld told the committee that he had not spoken to a dean or advisor about the incident. By contrast, an assistant dean of student affairs in the School of General Studies recalls that Mr. Schoenfeld spoke with her about the incident shortly after it occurred. Although he seemed upset, she remembers that at the time he did not think this episode warranted further action. (12)
Although the report mentions that I have denied that this incident ever took place, that I have never met or seen Mr. Schoenfeld, the report concludes that "In light of the confirmation of the event by another student and the contemporaneous reporting to a dean, the committee finds it credible that an exchange of this nature did occur at a location adjacent to campus."(13) Let me emphasize that what the committee found "credible" is not that I allegedly asked Schoenfeld "how many Palestinians have you killed," rather that an "exchange of this nature" occurred. What that means, the report does not clarify. It would seem that based on this finding, anyone who was a student in any department at Columbia University in the last six years can come forward to this committee claiming an imaginary exchange with me at some event whose date, place, sponsor, and title need not be disclosed, and the committee will find their claim at least partly "credible." There is therefore a glaring illogic governing the committee's finding in this instance, given the facts available to it. Moreover, I should reemphasize that given the organized political campaign against me, which the report acknowledges, it is mystifying why the report fails to make any connection between this campaign and the nature and timing of the claims made by Shanker and Schoenfeld.
Now having established these two claims against me as being "credible," the committee moves to analyze why this situation occurred and what remedies are needed. The committee declares that:
Almost none of the issues enumerated in the preceding pages found their way into the normal channels for addressing student concerns about curriculum and instruction, particularly complaints about individual faculty and specific courses. The establishment of this committee was a response to the failure to address such concerns clearly, promptly, and consistently. These failures reflected both the negligent or misguided behavior of individuals and widespread systemic confusion about responsibility and authority. As a result of these failures, outside advocacy groups devoted to purposes tangential to those of the University were able to intervene to take up complaints expressed by some students, further confusing the location of responsibility and authority for addressing student concerns about instruction at Columbia.
This is indeed a surprising conclusion. Since the report tells us that neither Deena Shanker nor Tomy Schoenfeld (nor even Lindsay Shrier, for that matter, who had complained to the committee about Professor George Saliba) sought to register their complaints against me with any university channel, how could the university be faulted for not addressing their grievances? As there were no other grievances of merit against me, or Professor Saliba, according to the report, or against any other professor for that matter, to what failure of university grievance procedure is the committee referring? This is especially puzzling as the report states that "Many of the matters brought before us did not, in our opinion, constitute the basis for formal grievances but were issues that warranted sympathetic hearing and an appropriate university response."(14) Which matters exactly then were reported to existing grievance channels that failed to address them? On that, the report remains silent.
The report issued by the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee is indeed a weak report that is flawed in its very essence. Not only does it not provide a logical progression of its arguments to reach a conclusion, it simply states conclusions that are undefended in the body of the report. This applies as much to its finding claims by Shanker and Schoenfeld "credible" as to it identifying the university grievance procedure as having failed, which in turn pushed complaining students to outside parties. The report fails completely to establish facts or to persuade by reasoned argument. Its conclusions are simply baseless, demonstrating a lack of courage and a lack of principled commitment to academic freedom.
The only possible logic that might have contributed to the findings reported by the committee is the logic of pressure exercised by the administration and outside groups on the committee to declare specific findings. Such pressures are hardly separable from the national campaign targeting academic freedom on various campuses across the country. It was these pressures to which the administration had initially acquiesced when it established the Ad Hoc Committee as part of the inquisition of the faculty. Since as I demonstrated above, the report's conclusions follow no logic or consistent argument, one is left with a sense of bewilderment as to why the committee would find unsubstantiated student claims more "credible" than the testimony of professors. It is here where the political element was perhaps greatest in influencing the findings of the committee, wherein it decided to throw the witch hunters a morsel to placate them.
Even though the report acknowledges that there has been an ongoing organized effort at intimidation, by forces both external and internal to the university, of Middle East faculty at Columbia, especially me, and that this has been going on for years, the committee fails to see how its very establishment and the manner in which it established its findings makes it part of this campaign of intimidation. The objective of this campaign is to silence all dissenting scholarly voices, indeed to silence scholarship per se on the Palestine/Israel conflict. As scholarship on the conflict has largely uncovered the scale of the atrocities and historical wrongs that Israel and the Zionist movement have visited and continue to visit on the Palestinian people, the witch hunters won't have any of it. It is high time that Columbia faculty stood up to this internal and external campaign that seeks to suppress our academic freedom and to destroy the institution of the university. If we fail to act now, the repercussions will indeed be grave for all of us.
1. This response will be posted on www.censoringthought.org and on my webpage at www.columbia.edu/cu/mealac/faculty/massad/
2. All citations in this section are from Section IV of the report.
3. Section IV.
4. Section III, C.
5. Section III, D.
6. Section III, 1.
10. Jennifer Jacobson, "Columbia U. Report Criticizes Professor's Classroom Conduct But Finds No Pattern of Anti-Semitism," Chronicle of Higher Education, 1 April 2005.
11. Section III, 2.
14. Section VI, 5.
Statement in Response to the Intimidation of Columbia University
By JOSEPH MASSAD
Assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, New York
(3 November 2004) 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 US 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 (see
http://web.mit.edu/cis/www/mitejmes/issues/200105/br_massad.htm). 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
(http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=10049). 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 hours, and greet me on the street often. He never informed me or acted in a way that showed intimidation. Indeed, he would write me E-mails, 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 E-mail 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 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 (all but Noah have not even 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 US media and to the top brass of the Columbia administration. Last Wednesday, 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 fora or in the classroom. Anything less would be the beginning of the death of academic freedom.
"Policing the Academy"
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 633, 10-16 April 2003
Joseph Massad* on the McCarthyism stalking American campuses
As I was reading one of the latest death threats I received via e-mail, I remembered the defamatory campaigns to which Edward Said has been subjected since the 1970s and which included the firebombing of his office in the 1980s. Since last summer, apologists for Israel's "right" to be a racist state (and to use whatever violence it can muster in defence of that "right") have begun a campaign of defamation against anyone in the US academy who dares to question any Israeli action or practice. This campaign is part of a larger effort to discredit US universities as arenas for independent scholarship and thought. It also aims to delegitimise universities who refuse to serve the interests of either the national security state or the Israeli government. The fact that those spearheading this campaign are almost exclusively part of a large conglomerate known as the pro-Israel lobby in the US is hardly surprising. Since 11 September, the campaign has expanded to include any academic who believes that Islam is not a terroristic evil religion bent on murdering the "civilised", and that Muslims and Arabs are humans who are entitled to civil, political, and human rights in their own countries as well as in the United States.
While academics live in a world where intellectual disagreements are registered through scholarly debates and discussions, and where methodological disputes are negotiated on the pages of academic journals and books and in the context of conferences, the new self- designated academic policemen refuse to acknowledge such modes of argumentation and fora as appropriate. In their fantasy world, the offending academics must be silenced, dismissed from their jobs, and their offending publications heaped and burned in an auto-da- fé. The strategy of the thought policemen consists of a refusal to address any of the offending contentions made by scholars and instead relies on the use of policing methods of discrediting, intimidation, and character assassination often used in societies run by the secret police. The overall purpose of this policing agenda is the destruction of academic freedom and the subversion of democratic procedure.
Take the examples of two of the better known academic policemen in recent years, the American Daniel Pipes and the Israeli Martin Kramer, neither of whom teaches in the US academy; as a result, some might say that they have an ax to grind with a system that refuses to recognise their talents, especially in the field of policing and propaganda. Pipes and 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. Their role in the debate is to extend Israeli violence to the US academic arena by bombarding all enemies of Israel with defamatory accusations. It is not Merkava tanks, Uzi submachine guns, or Apache helicopters that are used in this bombardment, but rather newspaper gossip columns and secret police-style dossiers to name the preferred methods; as for the e-mail spamming, identity theft, and the death threats to which the unrepentant have been subjected, one can be sure that Kramer and Pipes are unconnected to either of them. Admittedly, their campaigns, unlike the Israeli government's campaigns, have not yet eliminated anyone physically (although the death threats sent by others to many of us continue), but the main point is to eliminate us professionally, and, failing that, to terrorise us into silence. Like the Israeli strategy of indiscriminate violence and terror, these campaigns have failed to achieve their purpose, whether to stop the Palestinians from resisting Israel's illegal occupation and violence in the case of Israel, or to stop Israel's academic critics in the case of the academic policemen.
This campaign of intimidation against academics has been well planned and conceived with one major goal in mind: defamation. This is undertaken by following a number of steps involving refusal to engage any of the ideas or propositions put forth by the targeted professors, much less to refute them, consistent use of innuendo, fabrication of claims based on half-quotes pulled out of context, recruitment of young and impressionable defenders of Israel's aforementioned "rights" on college campuses, use of the right-wing press to whip up hysteria about anti- Israel sentiment being allegedly rampant on US campuses, and calls for outright dismissal of professors found guilty of not upholding Israel's "right" to be a racist state. The less the US public believes in defending Israel's crimes, the more intense the campaign becomes.
While the pro-Israel lobby's campaigns to discredit people who criticise Israel had decreased in relative terms after Oslo, they were revived after the failure of the Camp David talks and the eruption of the second Intifada. The lobby and its individual manifestations have become rabid in their campaigns of discrediting offenders to the point that they have become embarrassing to many Americans who support Israel.
The campaign against university professors and instructors began in earnest in the Spring of 2002 and has not abated since. Columbia University, where I teach, is a major focus of the campaign, as it is seen by Kramer and Pipes as a major battleground for their cause. In addition to the unceasing campaigns against Edward Said, the campaign is now focussing on new professors, namely University of Chicago Professor Rashid Khalidi who will be joining Columbia University next fall, Professor Hamid Dabashi, the chairperson of the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia, and myself. Other professors and academics targeted on other campuses include John Esposito, Juan Cole, Ali Mazrui, M Shahid Alam, and Snehal Shingavi, among others.
The effort was inaugurated by a newspaper article published by Pipes (who has no academic post whatsoever) under the title "Extremists on Campus", and a book published by Kramer who is "senior researcher" at Tel Aviv University's aptly named "Moshe Dayan Centre". Kramer, the cleverer of the two, assailed American Middle East academics for their "failure" to explain the Middle East to the US public. What Kramer means is that unlike many of their Israeli Jewish counterparts, American academics have failed to explain to Americans that Muslims and Arabs are violent uncivilised creatures and that Israel has a right to be a racist state (although in fact many of them do exactly that). As Kramer works at the Moshe Dayan Centre, named after that luminary of Israeli military conquerors, one hopes in vain that some of Dayan's wisdom would have rubbed off on Kramer. Alas, if Dayan acknowledged in reference to Israel that "there is no single place in this country that did not have a former Arab population", Kramer in turn chases down any academic who would remind the world of such forgotten facts and demands that such an academic repent his sins. Dayan, ever the pragmatist, was never upset with legitimate Palestinian rage at Israel which he was determined to crush. He insisted to the likes of Kramer: "Let us not today fling accusations at the [Palestinian] murderers [of Jewish colonial settlers]. Who are we that we should argue against their hatred? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their very eyes, we turn into our homestead the land and the villages in which they and their forefathers have lived."
Pipes, on his part, set up McCarthyist public dossiers on the eight professors of choice on a Web site and called on our students to spy on us and report any anti-Israel statements that we might make in class. Tens of professors (among tens of thousands who work at US universities and colleges) rushed to defend the blacklisted professors by demanding that their names also be added to the blacklist. For Pipes and Kramer, this was indication enough of how anti-Israel US academic culture had become, never mind the tens of thousands of professors who fell silent and did not defend academic freedom or us. This skewed view is all the more telling in the case of the ebullient Kramer who dubbed Columbia University "Bir Zeit on the Hudson".
Now, in the tradition of Zionist lobbyists, the issue is not to have an Israeli view balanced with a Palestinian view about the subject, but rather, failing the suppression of Palestinian views altogether, to insist on a second, a third, and a fourth Israeli view to "balance" the one Palestinian view. Take the campaign against a course that I teach at Columbia titled "Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies" as an example. This course has enraged Kramer and his ilk and is used as evidence that Columbia University is an anti-Israel university. The fact that there are many other courses at Columbia (in existence for years, long before my course was even conceived) covering topics on contemporary Israeli society and politics, on Zionism, on conflict resolution in the Middle East, on Israeli literature, as well as on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict itself, all taught from an Israel-friendly angle (and not always by full-time professors) is immaterial; it is this orphan course taught with a critical view of Israel (and of Palestinian nationalism) that is the problem and which must be balanced. The fact that Columbia University features an important centre for Israel and Jewish studies but no centre on Palestine and Arab studies let alone a centre on Arab studies more generally, is not taken to mean that Columbia is a place friendly to Israel, rather the opposite: the existence of one course that criticises Israel is sufficient to conclude that rampant anti-Israelism (often dubbed "anti-Semitism") has taken over the university.
If this was not enough, Columbia's Bir Zeit status is augmented by the divestment campaign started last year by the Faculty Committee on Palestine (of which I am a member), which indicates further to Kramer that US academics are not upholding Israel's right to be a racist state. The fact that Columbia has a counter-divestment petition whose signatures outnumber the pro-divestment petition by a factor of 33 to one (among faculty the rate is four to one against divestment) does not allay his fears or those of his followers, nor the fact that Columbia University's new president has publicly denounced the divestment campaign as "grotesque". Any questioning of the policemen's cause unto itself is seen as a thought crime, even a mortal sin against the sacrosanct cause of Israel. If anyone were to use these facts to label Columbia "Hebrew University on the Hudson", this would be seen legitimately as anti-Semitic. However, Kramer and his followers are never brought to task for their virulent anti- Arab racism.
What Kramer, Pipes, and their ilk want to achieve is a subversion of the democratic process as well as of the academic process. Their intent is to subvert the academy by deriding its independence and by attempting to make it subject to the national security state and the thought police. As far as the democratic process is concerned, their goals are to suppress dissenting views by defaming them and calling for people to be dismissed from their jobs if they expressed them. Kramer has called for the dismissal of Dabashi, myself, and others and began an unsuccessful campaign to pressure Columbia University to withdraw its offer to Khalidi. Notice that the academic qualifications of the targeted professors based on our recognised publications and academic records are negated a priori by Kramer who questions the very legitimacy of the institutions that have granted them to us, whether Middle East Studies as a field, the Middle East Studies Association, the university presses that publish us, or the universities that employ us (he lamentingly calls me "the flower of Columbia University"). In Kramer's and Pipes' fantasy world, the only recognition that academics should seek in order to qualify to teach and publish on the Middle East is that of Israel's academic police in the United States. As a gesture of good will, such academics should perhaps attempt to publish in Kramer's and Pipes' journal Middle East Quarterly, which is indeed impressive for the absence of scholarship in it. Maybe one day Kramer and Pipes would demand of the academy that publishing in Middle East Quarterly become a condition for any academic to obtain tenure or promotion!
Kramer and his young dupes have huffed and puffed lately about my recent article in Al- Ahram Weekly on "The Legacy of Jean-Paul Sartre", claiming that "The Jews, not being a nation by (Massad's) definition, cannot have nationalism. They have only racism..." I of course have not made such a claim. Israel is a racist state not because of Jewish nationalism but because of its legally institutionalised racism where only Jews (not Israelis) have rights and privileges based on their national belonging. 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. It is this and similar questions that Kramer and his followers do not want to draw attention to, as they have no convincing answers to offer. The question is: do Kramer and Pipes actually believe that these methods will work in suppressing our views and freedom of thought and force us to worship at the altar of their favourite settler-colony?
Kramer, Pipes, and co are angry that the academy still allows democratic procedure in the expression of political views and has an institutionalised meritocratic system of judgment (admittedly with its own faults) to evaluate its members. Their goal is to destroy any semblance of either in favour of subjecting democracy and academic life to an incendiary jingoism and to the exigencies of the national security state with the express aim of imploding freedom. Their larger success, however, has been in discrediting themselves and in reminding all of us that we should never take the freedoms that we have for granted, as the likes of Kramer and Pipes are working to take them away.
* The writer is assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.
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Al-Ahram Weekly Online : 10 -16 April 2003 (Issue No. 633) Located at:
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