Blogs > Cliopatria > Five Questions for Joseph Massad

Nov 30, 2004 3:34 pm

Five Questions for Joseph Massad

The HNN homepage has a copy of the statement from embattled Columbia professor Joseph Massad, who has been accused of using his classroom to intimidate pro-Israel students and champion his anti-Israel foreign policy beliefs. As far as I know, Massad has refused to talk to the press--an interesting tactic if he's confident in his position--but I assume he's still talking to Columbia administrators. If I were a CU administrator, I might ask him the following questions, based on statements that he himself makes on his website:

When you say that, besides your offering, all of the other “courses offered at Columbia that cover the Palestinian/Israeli conflict . . . have an Israel-friendly perspective,” how do you define “Israel-friendly perspective?” And in what specific ways do you know how other Columbia faculty members teach their classes?

You describe the students who contributed to the Project David film as having joined “anti-democratic” forces. How do you define the term “anti-democratic”?

When you claim that “pro-Israel groups launched a vicious campaign against the only chair in modern Arab Studies that Columbia established two years ago, demanding ‘balance’”—which largely consisted of urging the university to reveal the source of the funds for the endowed chair, which turned out to be an Arab government—in what way was this campaign “vicious”?

I assume that you agree that historians need to base claims on evidence. What evidence do you possess that “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?" And what evidence do you possess that 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?” Do you make similar claims, that seem at best to be wild exaggerations, about Israel in your classes?

Why do you consider it appropriate to use time in a History class to criticize the “racist” foreign policy of Israel? Do you also spend time in your classes criticizing the foreign policies of, say, Iran and Saudi Arabia?

And one question for the media, especially the Columbia Spectator, the main campus newspaper. One of the most controversial allegations against Massad is that he intimidates students who express pro-Israel students in his class. Why have you not interviewed a representative sample of his students—say, 25 or 30—to test the credibility of these allegations?

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