Joseph Massad

Joseph Massad

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo:, University of Chile


* Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University
* Believes that Israel is a “racist” state and Zionism is the equivalent of “anti-Semitism”
* Supports terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians

Joseph Massad is Assistant Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) at Columbia University. He is a self-described “Palestinian-Jordanian” who routinely condemns Israel as a “racist state” and has clamored for its destruction. In April 2002, for instance, he delivered a public lecture wherein he castigated Israel as “a Jewish supremacist and racist state,” adding that “[e]very racist state should be destroyed.” One month earlier, Massad had insisted that “the Jews are not a nation” and the “Jewish state is a racist state that does not have the right to exist.” “It is only by making the costs of Jewish supremacy too high that Israeli Jews will give it up,” Massad said on another occasion.

Declining to distinguish between civilian and military targets, Massad stresses that the “resistance of Palestinians,” must extend to Israeli “civil institutions.” He hails as “anti-colonial resistors” those Palestinian terrorists who undertake to murder Jews inside the so-called Green Line demarcating Israel’s pre-1967 border. “Israel,” he told The New York Times in an April 2005 interview, “is the party most responsible for the oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Speaking no Hebrew, Professor Massad has a demonstrably weak grasp of Israeli history, and his books contain numerous errors prompted by his animus towards the Israeli state. In his 2001 book, Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan, for example, Massad makes reference to a November 1966 Israeli raid and “massacre” that took place in Samu, Jordan. Yet not even the Jordanians, who suffered the casualties to which Professor Massad is referring, depicted Israel’s action as a “massacre.” Samir Mutawi, who authored the semiofficial account of Jordan’s involvement in the 1967 war, wrote that “eighteen Jordanians” were killed in the raid. In fact, Massad himself provides an identical casualty figure later in his own text — thereby contradicting his prior claim that a “massacre” had occurred.

In the same book, Massad also writes that in the March 1968 battle of Karamah, the Israeli army “could not escape unscathed (as it had during the 1967 war and on many other occasions). For the first time in its history, it received heavy damages in personnel and material.” But in fact, while Israel lost 28 soldiers at Karamah, it had lost some 800 in June 1967. Moreover, in the 1948 war against its Arab attackers, Israel had lost a combined 6,000 of its soldiers and civilians.

According to the course catalog description of Massad’s class titled “Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Society”: “The purpose of this course is not to provide ‘balanced’ coverage of the views of both sides but rather to provide a thorough yet critical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict.” In Professor Massad’s view, Zionism — that is, the political and religious movement advocating the right of the Jewish people to an independent State — is inherently “anti-Semitic.”

Writing in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram in January of 2003, Massad attacked “Israel’s racist nature” and alleged an “ideological and practical collusion between Zionism and anti- Semitism since the inception of the movement.” Massad concretized this “collusion” with a reference to “Zionism’s anti-Semitic project of destroying Jewish cultures and languages in the diaspora in the interest of an invented Hebrew that none of them spoke, and in the interest of evicting them from Europe and transporting them to an Asian land to which they had never been …”

In one representative passage of the same AlAhram article, Professor Massad, citing no evidence, derided “the racist curricula of Israeli Jewish schools, the racist Israeli Jewish media representations of Palestinians, the racist declarations of Israeli Jewish leaders on the right and on the left, and the Jewish supremacist rights and privileges guiding Zionism and Israeli state laws and policies.”

In a December 2002 article for Al-Ahram, Massad wrote: “Today we live in a world where anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred, derived from anti-Semitism, is everywhere in evidence. It is not Jews who are being murdered by the thousands by Arab anti-Semitism, but rather Arabs and Muslims who are being murdered by the tens of thousands by Euro-American Christian anti-Semitism and by Israeli Jewish anti-Semitism.”

Massad repeatedly equates Israel and its leaders with Nazis. There are “stark” similarities, he claims, between the plight of Jews in Nazi concentration camps and Israeli prisons’ treatment of Palestinian terrorists (or “the children and young men of the stones and Molotov cocktails,” as Massad dubs them).

In the spring of 2005, Columbia University conducted an investigation into two incidents where Professor Massad was alleged to have screamed at pro-Israeli students. When questioned about the charges, Massad claimed to have no memory of any such occurrences. The investigatory committee concluded, however, that these incidents did indeed occur. Massad then dismissed his critics as being “pro-Israel.”

At daybreak on Saturday, October 7, 2023 — which was the major Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah — the Islamic terror group Hamas carried out a massive, multi-front, surprise attack against Israel, firing thousands of rockets from Gaza into the Jewish state, while dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the Israeli border in a number of locations by air, land and sea. “In an assault of startling breadth,” reported CBS News, “Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip, including towns and other communities as far as 15 miles from the Gaza border. In some places they gunned down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response.” Moreover, Hamas took hundreds of Israelis hostage, including dozens who were American citizens, and moved them to the Gaza Strip. The terrorists also paraded Israelis’ mutilated bodies in Gaza to cheering crowds of Palestinians. By Sunday, October 8, at least 600 Israelis had been killed and 1,800 wounded, making it the deadliest day Israel had seen in decades. On October 8 as well, the Wall Street Journal reported that officers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with agents of Hamas and three other Iran-sponsored terrorist groups, had recently attended meetings in Beirut to plan the operation.

Also on October 8, 2023, Massad wrote about the Hamas attack in an opinion piece published by The Electronic Intifada. Some key excerpts:

“What can motorized paragliders [who flew into Israel in order to murder hundreds of Jews] do in the face of one of the most formidable militaries in the world? Apparently much in the hands of an innovative Palestinian resistance, which early on Saturday morning launched a surprise attack on Israel by air, land and sea. Indeed as stunning videos show, these paragliders have become the air force of the Palestinian resistance.

“Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, the major offensive led by Hamas on 7 October, was not expected by anyone. It came in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli pogroms in the West Bank town of Huwwara and Jerusalem, especially by settlers storming al-Aqsa mosque during the Jewish High Holy Days over the last month, not to mention the ongoing siege against Gaza itself for more than a decade and a half.

“The consensus of many Arab media commentators is that the resistance has effectively obliterated the myth of Israeli military might and the undeserved reputation of its intelligence apparatus, whose failures – judging from the shocking success of the Palestinian offensive – are staggering. No less astonishing was the Palestinian resistance’s takeover of several Israeli settler-colonies near the Gaza boundary and even as far away as 22 kms, as in the case of Ofakim. Perhaps the major achievement of the resistance in the temporary takeover of these settler-colonies is the death blow to any confidence that Israeli colonists had in their military and its ability to protect them.

“Reports promptly emerged that thousands of Israelis were fleeing through the desert on foot to escape the rockets and gunfire, with many still hiding inside settlements more than 24 hours into the resistance offensive. Those who had not already fled were being evacuated by the army from more than two dozen colonies near Gaza. In the interest of safeguarding their lives and their children’s future, the colonists’ flight from these settlements may prove to be a permanent exodus. They may have finally realized that living on land stolen from another people will never make them safe. […]

“The sight of the Palestinian resistance fighters storming Israeli checkpoints separating Gaza from Israel was astounding, not only to the Israelis but especially to the Palestinian and Arab peoples who came out across the region to march in support of the Palestinians in their battle against their cruel colonizers. […]  No less awesome were the scenes witnessed by millions of jubilant Arabs who spent the day watching the news, of Palestinian fighters from Gaza breaking through Israel’s prison fence or gliding over it by air.

“The resistance’s remarkable takeover of Israeli military bases and checkpoints, where even the resistance fighters marveled at the rows of abandoned Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, upon which they placed their banners, has both shaken Israeli society and struck Palestinians and Arabs as incredible. No less striking was the capture of some of Israel’s colonial soldiers and officers in their underwear while sleeping. Images of humiliated Egyptian prisoners of war in their underwear during the 1967 war, not to mention those of Palestinian POWs in their underwear held by Israeli soldiers, continue to resonate in the Arab collective memory. […]

“The barbaric Israeli bombing of Gaza – including the targeting of civilian homes without any warning – had already killed more than 400 people including 78 children by Sunday night, according to the health ministry in Gaza. More than 2,300 Palestinian have been injured in the Israeli attacks. Meanwhile, the Palestinian operation has resulted in more than 700 people killed in Israel and more than 2,200 injured – all in all a horrifying human toll on all sides.

“As expected, the international enemies of the Palestinian people rushed to declare support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism and to condemn the Palestinian resistance. This included the Palestinian people’s chief enemies, namely, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. […]

“[R]egardless of who comes to power in Israel, nothing will change the nature of Israeli settler-colonialism and racism toward the Palestinians.”

In reaction to Massad’s comments, a Columbia University student created a petition which called for the removal of Massad from his teaching post. By October 16, it had gathered nearly 40,000 signatures.

Among Massad’s more notable colleagues in Columbia’s MEALAC program are Professors Gil Anidjar, and Hamid Dabashi.

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