'MckArthy [sic] Era': Columbia Middle Eastern Studies Chair Decries Free Beacon Report on Deans' Anti-Semitic Text Exchanges

Gil Hochberg praises 'dear friend' Josef Sorett in error-riddled social media post

Josef Sorett (, Gil Hochberg (
June 24, 2024

Columbia College dean Josef Sorett, under fire for his role in a texting scandal that landed three of his fellow administrators on leave, has support from at least one prominent Columbia faculty member: Gil Hochberg, a Hebrew professor who chairs the school's Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies department.

In a Sunday post shared to her private Instagram account, Hochberg linked to the Washington Free Beacon's June 12 report exposing vitriolic text messages sent between Sorett and his colleagues amid a panel on campus anti-Semitism. Hochberg rallied behind Sorett, calling him a "dear friend" whose critics are part of a new "MckArthy [sic] Era."

"I hope no one is taking a photo of my screen as I post this. I mean, how can this be real?????" Hochberg wrote in the post, which was obtained by the Free Beacon. "Josef Sorett dear friend. We will not be quite [sic] about this!"

Hochberg's defense of Sorett came just days after Columbia placed three administrators on leave as the school investigates the texting scandal. Those administrators—Vice Dean Susan Chang-Kim, Associate Dean for Student and Family Support Matthew Patashnick, and Dean of Undergraduate Student Life Cristen Kromm—were captured along with Sorett exchanging dismissive text messages while listening to a panel on the eruption of anti-Semitism on Columbia's campus.

At one point, Kromm used vomit emojis—"🤢🤮"—to reference an op-ed from a Columbia rabbi. Chang-Kim, meanwhile, texted Sorett to say the panel was "difficult to listen to but I'm trying to keep an open mind to learn about this point of view," to which Sorett responded, "Yup." Sorett also sent a text mocking Columbia's top Hillel official.

In her post, Hochberg took no issue with those texts. She did, however, raise concerns about the way they came to light, expressing bewilderment that an audience member took photos of Chang-Kim's phone as the vice dean sent the texts. Hochberg also adopted Kromm's fondness for emojis, including one in her post—"🤯"—that showed an exploding head.

Hochberg, who declined to comment, conducts research on the "intersections among psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory, nationalism, gender and sexuality," according to her faculty bio. In addition to her role as chairwoman of Columbia's Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Department, Hochberg serves on the executive committee of the school's Center of Palestine Studies.

The Columbia professor has a long history of disparaging the Jewish state. In April, she argued that Germany "should pay reparation[s] to Palestinians," saying that such a move would mark the "first step towards building a just democratice [sic] society in Palestine/Israel" and "take care of the guilt." A week later, she posted a picture praising former Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi, who blamed Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israeli "settler colonialism" and "apartheid."

More recently, on June 13, Hochberg accused Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and "his gangsters" of being "children killers" and "psychopathic monsters."

"Netanyahu and his gangsters MUST be stopped or the bloodshed will never stop," she wrote. "MONSTERS."

Unlike his colleagues, Sorett has not been placed on leave over his role in the texting scandal—in fact, the dean informed his fellow administrators of the disciplinary move last week, according to a Columbia spokesman. Sorett did not acknowledge his role in the scandal until Friday, when he sent an email to Columbia's Board of Visitors.

"I deeply regret my role in these text exchanges and the impact they have had on our community," he wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Free Beacon. "I am cooperating fully with the University's investigation of these matters. I am committed to learning from this situation and to the work of confronting antisemitism, discrimination and hate at Columbia."

Sorett sent that message just hours after the Free Beacon visited his residence to ask him about his involvement in the text exchanges. Sorett, who in 2020 called to defund New York City police by $1 billion, responded by calling the police.

Columbia declined to comment. On Friday, a university official said Sorett "will be recused from all matters relating to the investigation while continuing to serve as dean of the College."