The Palestinian intifada against Israel may have been a blessing in disguise for Jews, according to a Columbia University assistant professor, Joseph Massad.
Mr. Massad, who teaches in the university's Middle East studies department, argues in a recently published essay that Palestinian Arab "resistance" against Israelis is not anti-Semitic but an expression of goodwill toward Jews living in the Jewish state.
Mr. Massad in his writings and teaching has articulated the view that Zionists have adopted the identity of the anti-Semite and Palestinians have taken on a Jewish identity. In one of his latest essays, in the Winter 2005 issue of the scholarly journal Cultural Critique, Mr. Massad argues that Palestinian resistance is a struggle against anti-Semitism and that Israel as a Jewish state represents the most vicious form of anti-Semitism.
"The irony of an anti-Semitic Zionism depicting the Palestinians as the real anti-Semites is not a simply rhetorical move, but instead is crucial to Zionism's fashioning of Jewish public opinion, both in Israel and on a global scale," Mr. Massad writes in the essay, "The Persistence of the Palestinian Question."
Palestinian terrorists have killed more than 700 Israeli civilians since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in the fall of 2000, according to the Web site of the Israel Defense Force.
Some critics of the Palestinian Authority, particularly under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, attribute much of the violence to the government-sponsored spread of anti-Semitic propaganda in schools and in the press. The Palestinian group Hamas, a major perpetrator of terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens, posts on its Web site the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," the notorious forgery created by tsarist Russian secret police at the turn of the 20th century.
Further into his piece, Mr. Massad writes: "What Palestinian resistance demands is the de-Europeanization of the Jew; it calls for Zionism's abandonment of European anti-Semitism as its inspirational source."
A fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Martin Kramer, called Mr. Massad's essay "a string of hallucinogenic fantasies about the Jews, driven by his obsessive crank theory that Zionism is the height of anti-Semitism."
Mr. Kramer, who is also a research associate at the Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University, continued: "In Ramallah, Massad might pass for a great expert on Jewish history. That Columbia University allows him to pose as such in New York City is a travesty."
In the essay, Mr. Massad also compares Israel's treatment of Palestinians to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews. After Israel's founding, he writes, Zionism "transformed those who remained inside Israel into foreigners in their own land and, from 1948 until 1966, subjected them to life under a military, racialist system of rule that was reminiscent of the life of European Jews under the worst types of anti-Semitic rule." The Nazis, he argues, serve as "pedagogical model" for the Israeli army.
Mr. Massad, who is undergoing a fifth-year departmental review and is teaching two courses this spring semester, is among at least five Columbia professors in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures who have been accused of mistreating students in the classroom.
A special faculty committee appointed by Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, is investigating at least two incidents involving Mr. Massad. Students said Mr. Massad threatened to expel a Jewish student from his classroom after she defended Israel's military action in the West Bank. They also said Mr. Massad refused to answer a question posed by an Israeli until the student divulged how many Palestinians he killed while serving in the Israel Defense Force.
Some students have questioned what they said is Mr. Massad's tendency to denounce Zionism in his courses, including a course he taught in the fall about the history of the Middle East.
Columbia undergraduate Daniel Harlow, a student in Mr. Massad's fall semester course on Middle Eastern history, said Mr. Massad was "very factual in his lectures, and he was very respectful of students."
A professor in Columbia's anthropology department, Mahmood Mamdani, who participated last night in a panel discussion about academic freedom at Columbia, told the audience at the university's law school: "You don't register for Joseph Massad's course to get a Zionist view of the Middle East. Anyone who does needs to get their head examined."
Mr. Mamdani and two other members of the panel - Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University and the Nation magazine's publisher, Victor Navasky, who teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism - drew parallels between the climate of the McCarthy-era pursuit of Communist Party members and the current atmosphere surrounding Columbia scholars.
Mr. Massad, who refuses to speak to The New York Sun, has denied treating any student inappropriately.