Joseph A. Massad: In the Center of the Columbia Storm

Historians in the News

Robin Finn, in the NYT (4-8-05):

IF intimidation, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, Joseph A. Massad, the Columbia University professor implicated last week by a faculty panel investigating charges of intimidation of students by pro-Palestinian professors, is apparently on his best behavior as he sits on his spotless microsuede sofa a stone's throw from the campus where his classroom conduct has been denounced as "inappropriate." And where he has received hate e-mail, including this advice from a fellow faculty member: "Go back to Arab land where Jew hating is condoned. You are a disgrace and a pathetic typical Arab liar."

Not a nice thing to say to a Christian fellow who began holding Seders as an undergraduate in Albuquerque (he had a Jewish roommate).

Who's intimidating whom here? Or, to borrow the title of an article Professor Massad wrote for Al-Ahram Weekly as the campus brouhaha reached a boiling point, spurred by "Columbia Unbecoming," a film produced in Boston by the pro-Israel David Project: "Semites and Anti-Semites, That Is the Question." Sort of.

According to Professor Massad, any self-respecting scholar of Middle East studies knows that "Israel is the party most responsible for the oppression of the Palestinian people." He has issues with the Palestinian national movement, too.

He seems, if anything, ingratiating, not intimidating. The perfect host, perfectly attired, right down to the opalescent links binding his French cuffs. The reading material on his coffee table is decorative propaganda, apolitical: "The World Atlas of Wine"; a pictorial of a favored destination, Amberley Castle in Sussex, England; and a catalog in which he excitedly points out the brass chandelier, a handmade reproduction of 18th-century Islamic/Egyptian design, he recently purchased in Cairo. What a novelty: a politically pugnacious professor - he insists he won't stand for anti-Semitism or anti-Palestinianism in his classroom and packs scholarship to combat both - with a metrosexual gloss....

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