NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: A petition to oust a Columbia University professor, Joseph Massad, known for his controversial remarks regarding Israel, has gained over 20,000 signatures. The professor is under scrutiny after praising recent Hamas attacks and refusing to condemn its actions.
The petition, initiated by Maya Platek, a 23-year-old junior and former student-body president, alleges that Massad is "supporting terrorism". The petition was launched on Change.org on Friday, October 14.
Joseph Massad's controversial stance
Massad is a tenured professor in Columbia's Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History departments and has been employed by the university since 1999.
According to the New York Post, he has a history of anti-Israel remarks, and is currently facing criticism for an article he wrote on Electronic Intifada, where he celebrated what he referred to as the "stunning victory of the Palestinian resistance" against Israeli "cruel colonizers."
In this article, he described the attacks as "astonishing," "astounding," "awesome," and "incredible." In the piece, Massad detailed the actions of the Palestinian militants and the takeover of Israeli "settler-colonies," viewing it as a significant blow to Israeli colonists' confidence in their military's ability to protect them.
"The sight of the Palestinian resistance fighters storming Israeli checkpoints separating Gaza from Israel was astounding," wrote Massad, adding, "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."
His statements have ignited outrage, particularly in the wake of Hamas attacks that left thousands of Israelis affected, with many casualties.
Columbia University has a history of being criticized for its liberal leanings, with an Israeli student being assaulted outside the campus library last week.
The group Alums for Campus Fairness has mobilized a truck to call out Columbia Dean Josef Sorrett for not condemning the recent attack on Israel.
The truck displays the words "DEAN SORETT: CONDEMN HAMAS TERRORISM NOW" alongside a graphic image of a child's room soaked in blood, juxtaposed with pro-Palestinian protesters, one of whom is proudly displaying a swastika.
Massad's previous encounters with censure
This is not the first time that Massad has faced censure. In 2005, he survived a university investigation that upheld some allegations of anti-Israel views expressed in his classroom, with one instance of unacceptable behavior noted. He was granted tenure after his second attempt at promotion.
Massad's academic interests, which include theories of identity, culture, nationalism, sexuality, race, and religion, have sparked controversy throughout his tenure at Columbia. He has been accused of promoting "Jew-baiting" history and has been a source of frustration for Columbia alumni who questioned his tenure in 2009.
Maya Platek, in her petition, asserts that Massad's praise of the recent abhorrent attack encourages violence and misinformation, particularly putting Jewish and Israeli students on campus at risk.
"Moreover, many students have expressed that they feel unsafe in the presence of a professor who supports the horrific murders of civilians," she continued.
"Regardless of one's stance on the conflict, supporting and praising one of the worst acts of terrorism in history is never acceptable. We call on Columbia University to hold Massad responsible for his comments and immediately remove him from the Columbia faculty," the student added.
Journalist Bari Weiss, a Columbia alum who previously raised awareness about Massad's pro-Palestinian leanings in 2005, condemned the professor's Hamas-sympathizing rhetoric.
"Joseph Massad, the author of this piece, is a tenured professor @Columbia. I have been criticizing him since I was an undergrad and was accused of being a hysteric and worse for doing so," Weiss posted on X. "I was just listening to what he had to say. Read it for yourself."
Support for the petition
One former student who signed Platek's petition recalled how Massad "abruptly cancelled class and instructed everyone to attend the on-campus pro-Palestinian rally" during their time at Columbia. The administration later reprimanded him for this action, but "clearly nothing has changed with him," the student insisted.
Platek, the initiator of the petition, expressed her shock and concern over Massad's support for "terrorism".
"I have seen a lot of support from the Columbia student body, alumni, and many others who are concerned that there is a professor at Columbia who supports terrorism," she stated.
The petition has garnered various critical comments. "Professors shouldn't be glorifying terrorism. I really never thought I would have to write that," one wrote.
"This was possibly the most offended I've ever been," another student told Campus Watch, adding, "Massad does not even pretend to give the entire picture, he states that on the first day. Besides being offensive, is it really worth it to take a class that doesn't tell you both sides of a controversy?"