OpinionSchools & Higher Education

Columbia University’s top antisemite

In a recent webinar, Joseph Massad spewed lies, Oct. 7 revisionism, antisemitic conspiracy theories, pro-Hamas propaganda and more.

The statue in front of Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Credit: Nowhereman86 via Wikimedia Commons.
The statue in front of Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Credit: Nowhereman86 via Wikimedia Commons.
Andrew E. Harrod
Andrew E. Harrod, a Middle East Forum Campus Watch fellow, freelance researcher and writer, is a fellow at the Lawfare Project. Follow him on X @AEHarrod.

The “Oct. 7 Hamas offensive” from Gaza into Israel was part of a “war between the Palestinian resistance” and an “Israeli colonial settler and apartheid regime,” declared Joseph Massad in a Dec. 4 webinar. The tenured Columbia University professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, already facing a massive petition drive calling for him to be fired after he celebrated Hamas’s atrocities, had once again proudly displayed his despicable and murderous antisemitism.

In the webinar, held by the ironically named Rutgers University Law School Center for Security, Race and Rights (CSRR), Massad discussed what was titled “The West, Israel and Settler Colonization of Palestine.” His comments drew largely on two articles published on the Muslim Brotherhood- and Qatar-linked Middle East Eye website (here and here). CSRR’s director, the factually challenged Rutgers law professor Sahar Aziz, moderated.

As usual, Aziz introduced Rutgers as the “people’s electric law school” with a “proud history of defending the rights and the lives of the underprivileged, the oppressed and the censored” before launching an anti-Israel tirade. She falsely asserted that, in its ongoing offensive to destroy Hamas in Gaza, Israel is “carpet bombing residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, churches and mosques.” In fact, Israel has succeeded in limiting civilian casualties in a difficult urban combat environment to a remarkable degree.

Aziz claimed without evidence that “Israel’s war crimes include systemic starvation, dehydration and destruction of the health care system,” calling these “medieval” practices. She failed to mention that Hamas steals humanitarian aid while the IDF tries to guide civilians to safe zones. Aziz continued with her blood libels nonetheless, falsely claiming that Israel implements a “plan to maximize Palestinian deaths.” She omitted the fact that Hamas has extensively embedded its terrorist infrastructure among civilians in order to use them as human shields. This is undoubtedly a systemic “plan to maximize Palestinian deaths.”

For his part, Massad sought to portray the recent American deployment of warships to the eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel as old-fashioned Western gunboat diplomacy.

“This is not the first time U.S. or European ships have been dispatched to protect white colonists in Palestine” against “indigenous Palestinians,” he claimed, invoking the myth of Palestinian indigeneity. Massad particularly focused on how “Palestinians” in Jaffa in 1858, in what was then commonly called “Syria,” “resisted” a group of “white American Protestant fanatics” who had founded a Christian Zionist settlement. In reality, this “outrage at Jaffa”—bizarrely showcased by Massad—involved marauding Arab bandits who killed Frederick Steinbeck, the great-uncle of the Nobel Prize-winning writer John Steinbeck, and raped Frederick’s wife and mother-in-law.

“The West’s racist rage and Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians,” Massad shrieked, reflect a “historical colonial lineage.” Accordingly, he claimed, a “deeply racist anti-Arab and pro-Israeli U.S. media” aided Israel in 1973 by messaging “that Egypt and Syria had invaded Israel itself when in fact they had invaded Egyptian and Syrian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.” He did not speculate on whether the Arab armies would have limited their advance to these areas won by Israel in a defensive war or marched on towards Israel’s destruction.

Massad also shamelessly exploited the unavoidable, tragic loss of Palestinian civilians during Israeli combat operations by equating them to Israelis deliberately massacred by Hamas on Oct. 7 at a music festival and in their homes. He expectorated on what he called the “usual hypocrisy and racialized sympathy for Israeli Jewish victims of war and silence on the far greater numbers of Palestinian victims.” Yet the only sympathy he showed for Jewish victims was in his promotion of the debunked racist claims of “indiscriminate strafing of people at the music festival by the Israeli armed forces or of cars occupied by Israeli civilians fleeing the scene of the fighting.”

Massad then launched into a series of racist conspiracy theories, repeating the deranged lie that “Claims of mass murder of babies and their decapitation and of mass rapes of women among others were dispensed to a white supremacist Western world ready to believe any Israeli claim about the racially inferior Palestinians.” Western media, he lied again, has been “quietly retracting many of [the claims] one by one.” These hideous falsehoods, akin to Holocaust denial, contradict copious evidence, interrogations of captured Hamas jihadists and images that have shocked American lawmakers and all who have seen them.

Hilariously, Massad embraced the genocidal chant of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” while denouncing Israel’s nonexistent “genocidal killing machine.” He further spewed the classic antisemitic claim that “A core part of Jewish identity today is instituting Jewish racial supremacy over non-Jews and colonizing other people’s lands” in “Palestine.”

He then engaged in Holocaust revisionism by snidely comparing the doomed music festival near the also nonexistent “Gaza concentration camp,” allegedly the world’s “largest open-air prison,” to white South Africans partying under apartheid near black ghettos.

In a shockingly inhuman claim, he also dismissed the horrors endured by Hamas’s hostages by equating them to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, stating that the “number of Israeli hostages is minuscule compared to the number of Palestinian civilians abducted by Israel.” To a man well-paid to educate impressionable students, it appears that civilians are terrorists and terrorists are civilians.

Despite his fevered antisemitism, Massad also rejected any comparison of Hamas’s atrocities to those of the Nazis and whitewashed Hamas’s obvious Jew-hatred. “When Palestinians attack Israel and Israeli Jews they attacked them as colonizers, not as Jews,” he falsely claimed.

In a vile effort to paint Jews as aggressors who revel in the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, Massad even cited a remark by the discredited Israel-hater Norman Finkelstein, saying that since his parents were Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein’s “mother had supported the indiscriminate bombing of German civilians” during World War II.

Massad consistently denigrated Jewish Zionists as frauds, citing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “Polish origins,” although Netanyahu’s diaspora family also spent generations in Spain. He also slammed the “Lithuanian origins” of Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Barak. He neglected to mention that the Palestinians themselves are descended from Arab imperialist conquerors originating in Saudi Arabia.

Massad further revised Zionist history by saying, “Jews had several choices of where the settler colony could be located” outside of Israel, including the 1903 Uganda plan, failing to acknowledge that the Zionist movement never wavered from its ultimate goal of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

Massad also recycled the dubious claim, rejected by historians like Benny Morris, that Israeli intelligence agencies bombed Jewish targets in Iraq in the early 1950s to prompt Jewish immigration to Israel.

With a nod to the public outrage professors such as Massad have provoked, Aziz mused about “how fragile academic freedom is,” holding fast to academics’ self-image as a sacred order beyond the criticism of mere mortals. But as Middle East studies professors and even some university presidents are starting to discover, the American public and its donor class are finally starting to hold them accountable for their bigotry, racism, arrogance and lies.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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