Columbia University's Joseph Massad is at it again. In a piece published last week in Egypt's semi-official Al-Ahram, Professor Massad claims that "Israel's apologists and right-wing witch-hunters" are mobilizing against "established scholarship."
"All respected scholars in the field agree that most or all Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 were expelled directly or indirectly by Israel," he writes. "The debate that exists is about whether all Palestinian refugees were physically expelled by the Israeli army or that the Israeli army expelled the majority while a minority of refugees fled, not as a direct result of physical force but as an indirect consequence of actions taken by the Israeli army and government. In contrast, media and popular ideological knowledge in the US still insists that the Palestinians fled on their own, or worse, were called upon to do so by Arab leaders (despite Israeli false claims that Arab leaders called on Palestinians to flee, research has shown that they called upon them to remain steadfast in their homeland) while the Zionists begged them to stay!"
Well, Mr. Massad is not accurate. In an article titled "Were the Palestinians Expelled?" published in the July-August 2000 number of Commentary, Professor Efraim Karsh, head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, painstakingly traces the departure of about 60,000 Arabs from Haifa and concludes, "The crime was exclusively of Arab making. There was no Jewish grand design to force this departure, nor was there a psychological 'blitz.' To the contrary, both the Haifa Jewish leadership and the Hagana went to great lengths to convince the Arabs to stay."
Mr. Karsh cites as evidence, among other documents, a report by Sir Alan Cunningham, the British high commissioner for Palestine, who wrote, "British authorities in Haifa have formed the impression that total evacuation is being urged on the Haifa Arabs from higher Arab quarters and that the townsfolk themselves are against it."
Mitchell Bard's useful online resource "Myths and Facts" includes a mountain of other evidence that Arab leaders at the time called on the Palestinian Arabs to flee. It quotes from the memoir of Haled al Azm, the Syrian prime minister in 1948-49, who said, "Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return."
Mr. Bard quotes the Jordanian newspaper Filastin of February 19, 1949, which wrote, "The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies." And a refugee quoted in the Jordanian newspaper, Ad Difaa, September 6, 1954, who said: "The Arab government told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in."
Mr. Massad didn't return our phone call to ask him to explain to us just how Israel managed to fake all these Arab newspaper articles and statements by Arab ministers. Or what is "scholarly" about his Al-Ahram article but "ideological" about Mr. Karsh's Commentary article. But as we've been saying for some time now, the burden of leadership at Columbia lies not with junior professors such as Mr. Massad, but with the trustees in whom Columbia's donors and graduates and tuition-paying parents have entrusted the task of providing those professors with some adult supervision.