Tenure Track Bigotry

Columbia prof unleashes ‘anti-Jewish screed’

Joseph Massad / Columbia University
May 14, 2013

A tenured Columbia University professor is facing criticism for claiming in a column published Tuesday by Al Jazeera that Zionism is anti-Semitic and that the Jewish people who opposed Zionism and Israel died in the Holocaust, a notion that critics deemed anti-Semitic.

Columbia Arab politics professor Joseph Massad wrote that the Nazis successfully "killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism," or those Jews who might oppose Israel today.

"While the majority of Jews continued to resist the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its alliances with anti-Semites, the Nazi genocide not only killed 90 percent of European Jews, but in the process also killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely because they refused to heed the Zionist call of abandoning their countries and homes," Massad wrote, before discussing "the affinity between Nazis and Zionists."

Massad also condemned America and the West for touting "pro-Zionist Nazi policies."

One of Massad's colleagues at Columbia said his piece "reflects profound ignorance of Jewish history."

"The notion that the Protestant Reformation is the basis for Jews’ belief in the continuity of Jewish life from ancient times, or for their ties to the land of Israel, reflects profound ignorance of Jewish history," Professor Paul S. Appelbaum, the university's Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Law, said in an email.

Appelbaum said that Massad skews history in order to slander Jews and Christians.

"The chain of Jewish tradition and the centrality of the land of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people have been a focus of Jewish thought, daily prayer, and self-consciousness since the destruction of the Second Temple and the subsequent exile of the majority of Jews," Appelbaum said, refuting Massad's core argument.

"The contention can only be understood as a rhetorical device aimed at slandering Jews and Christians simultaneously, setting the stage for the essay’s rather dubious conclusion that only the Palestinians stand 'in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism,'" he said. "Such an excursion into post-modern fantasy does not deserve to be taken seriously."

Prominent Middle East observers such as Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg quickly criticized Massad for arguing that "all the good Jews"—i.e., those who opposed the creation of Israel—"were killed in the Holocaust."

"Congratulations, al Jazeera," Goldberg tweeted, "You've just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory."

Columbia University spokesmen and several other representatives declined multiple requests for comment on the controversy when approached by the Washington Free Beacon.

Massad argued in his 4,000-word piece that the state of Israel is the chief proprietor of anti-Semitism and that so-called Zionists colluded with and courted the Nazis and other anti-Semites in order to spur Israel’s creation.

These types of anti-Semitic theories are typically propagated by Holocaust deniers and other various anti-Semites.

"Israel's claim that its critics must be anti-Semites presupposes that its critics believe its claims that it represents ‘the Jewish people,’" he wrote. "But it is Israel's claims that it represents and speaks for all Jews that are the most anti-Semitic claims of all."

Israel demands that "for there to be peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must become, like the West, anti-Semites by espousing Zionism and recognising Israel's anti-Semitic claims," Massad wrote.

Massad incorrectly writes that Jewish Zionists rushed to befriend the Nazis in order to advance their political agenda.

"The Zionists would strike a deal with the Nazis very early in their history," he wrote. "Zionist envoys were dispatched to Palestine to report on the successes of Jewish colonization of the country."

"The Nazis' Final Solution initially meant the expulsion of Germany's Jews to Madagascar," Massad said. "It is this shared goal of expelling Jews from Europe as a separate unassimilable race that created the affinity between Nazis and Zionists all along."

Massad has a loose grasp on Nazism and history, his critics argued.

"Zionism, according to Massad, emerged not as a response to European anti-Semitism but in sympathy with its racialist precepts," wrote columnist and blogger Liam Hoare.

"As for the comparison of Nazism and Zionism, I think such an attempt at equivalence says a good deal more about the author than he intends," Hoare writes. "It is the statement of a sick and disordered mind. To compare the two and deem one as bad as the other is beyond the pale."

Hoare excoriates Massad for his comments about the so-called "good Jews" being killed off by the Nazis.

"It is not much of a stretch to characterise Massad’s thesis as follows: All of Europe’s good Jews were the ones that did not heed to call to make aliya [immigration to Israel] and died in the Holocaust; the Zionist Jews who made it to Palestine and survived were (and are) bad Jews," Hoare wrote, before summing up the essay thusly: "It’s enough to make you heave."