Tenured Columbia Professor Proudly Supports Terrorism Against Israel
by Ariel Behar
A tenured Columbia University professor endorsed terrorism in a speech given at the Palestine Center earlier this month.
“The Oslo Accords inaugurated this process of liquidating the Palestinian national struggle while the ‘Deal of the Century’ plans and hopes to conclude it,” Professor Joseph Massad said. “The only thing standing in its way is the ongoing Palestinian resistance to Israeli settler colonialism and racism that continues inside Israel and Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza; the ongoing Marches of Return in Gaza; and the armed resistance of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades to Israeli invasions in Gaza.”
The al-Qassam Brigades is the military wing of Hamas, which is a US-designated terrorist organization. It has killed more than 650 civilians, but according to Massad, Israel’s “settler-colonialism” justifies al-Qassam’s actions. In reality, most conflicts between Hamas and Israel are triggered by Hamas indiscriminately firing rockets into Israel.
While people on both sides of the conflict criticize Oslo, Massad’s speech mischaracterized its goal of taking steps toward a peaceful, two-state solution. In his eyes, “The establishment of the Israeli settler colony resulted in the usurpation of all of historic Palestine,” meaning Israel has no right to exist.
In his speech, he cast Hamas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people instead of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), furthering rendering Oslo illegitimate.
“The Israeli recognition of the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people took place at the exact moment that the PLO ceased to represent the national will of the majority of Palestinians,” he said. “As Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres himself had asserted correctly at the time, and I quote him, ‘we have not changed, the PLO did.'”
Despite some of Oslo’s shortcomings, it created autonomy for the Palestinians — via the Palestinian Authority — in the West Bank. To cast the Palestinians as walking away empty-handed is simply not true. Similarly, Massad’s emphasis on “settler colonialism” ignores the history in which Israel was able exchange land for peace with Egypt, negotiate peace with Jordan, and also its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
Israel’s payoff for that withdrawal was the installation of a radical Islamist terrorist group seizing control of the territory, and choosing to build a terrorist infrastructure rather than to improve life for the people there.
Massad’s assertion that Israel is a colonial and racist country also ignores repeated peace offers that would have created a Palestinian state, only to see them rejected.
Massad was far from alone in bashing Israel at the Palestine Center conference. Other speakers included Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) Yousef Munayyer. During a 2014 interview, he said Hamas is “not only a terrorist organization; they’re a resistance movement, they’re a political organization, they’re a social services organization, and I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘terrorism’ to just hijack conversations.”
Earlier in November, Munayyer took issue with a Wall Street Journal report that Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Abu al-Ata was killed — because the headline didn’t mention Israel. “Killed by whom?,” he tweeted. “Killed by what? A Falling coconut? A rabid hedgehog? Note which actors are perpetrating violence are identified in headlines and which are not.”
Al-Ata definitely perpetrated violence. He was responsible for a series of recent attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers, and Israel had intelligence that he was on the cusp of launching a new wave of violence. He was killed in a precision strike on his apartment, with no casualties outside. Israel reportedly used a drone to ensure he was home before firing.
Like Munayyer, Massad also has a history of bigoted rhetoric.
In a 2013 Al Jazeera editorial, “The Last of the Anti-Semites,” he wrote that Zionists and Nazis partnered in order to transfer German Jews to British Palestine. Massad, a professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, 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.”
Therefore, according to Massad, it is the Palestinian people and anti-Zionist Jews who are actually on the front lines opposing antisemitism and Zionist colonial manifestation. “It is their resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large,” he wrote.
Jeffrey Goldberg, now The Atlantic magazine’s editor in chief, called it “one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.”
The piece proved too controversial even for Al Jazeera, and it was taken down, only to be put back up with an extensive editor’s note.
As early as 2002, Massad was under investigation at Columbia University for allegedly intimidating a student.
“She [the student] says he yelled at her after she raised her hand and asked whether Israel gives warning before bombing certain areas in the West Bank,” the New York Sun reported. Massad denied the allegations, calling the student a liar.
In a documentary produced by The David Project, Columbia Unbecoming, one student described Massad as one of the most dangerous academics on campus, claiming his lectures were used to propagate instead of inform. The student said that Massad’s “favorite description is the Palestinians as the new Jew, and the Jew as the new Nazi.”
Last month, an organization called “Alums for Campus Fairness” issued a report calling Columbia a “Hotbed for Hate.” It devoted more than a page to Massad’s hostility to Zionism and Zionists, dating back to 2002.
Seen in that light, Massad’s endorsement of Hamas “resistance” may be disappointing, but it cannot be considered surprising.
A version of this article was originally published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism.