A forum for empowerment

    The Witchhunts Continue
    Columbia University and the New Anti-Semitism


    Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder
    respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.


    Rape, massacre, theft, torture, ethnic cleansing: these are not crimes
    which nations can defend with ease - especially when unearthed by
    their own historians. Israel recently faced this most troubling
    predicament. Combing through declassified state archives, Israeli
    scholars of the past twenty years have discovered their nation was
    founded upon the mass expulsion and deliberate destruction of the
    native Palestinian people. (1) Israel, it turned out, was far more Goliath
    than David. Since this presented somewhat of a public relations
    problem for a state still engaged in brutalizing Palestinians and
    stealing their land, a new self-justifying rationale needed to be

    Enter the "new anti-Semitism." This doctrine turns reality on its head,
    declaring criticism of Israel's racist behavior to be itself racist ­ "anti-
    Semitic." Empathy for Palestinians being beaten, bullied, and
    bulldozed out of existence, the doctrine goes, is nothing but some
    disguised expression of Jew-hatred. Goose-stepping Germans and
    uprooted Palestinians are portrayed as part of the same unbroken
    line of anti-Semitism, even though those inhabiting concentration
    camps today ­ "the largest ever to exist," says Israeli historian Baruch
    Kimmerling - are the Palestinians themselves. (2) But no matter.
    Abusing the memory of Holocaust victims to shut down criticism of
    Israeli crimes ­ crimes unearthed mostly by Jewish historians - may
    be obscene, but it is also effective.

    Wielding this new ideological weapon, Israel's champions aim to cut
    down pro-Palestinian voices inside America with the same
    ruthlessness Israeli soldiers employ to shoot up Palestinian children
    outside their homes. (3) The latest targets in this well-organized hit
    are Arab-American professors at Columbia University who teach
    Middle Eastern studies. The targets have been judiciously selected.
    Since these particular professors are Arab in an age when bombing
    and torturing Arabs has virtually become a national sport, they make
    for easy prey; and since they have added to their original sin of being
    Arab the even graver sin of speaking the truth about Israel's past ­ no
    less in a country which subsidizes Israel's existence - they also make
    for necessary prey.

    In full accordance with "new anti-Semitism" modus operandi, the
    attacks paint the professors themselves as the attackers. With
    Orwellian brushstrokes, they are rendered as demons bent on
    "intimidating" Jewish students at the university. This much is to be
    expected. Less expected, however, is the almost embarrassing
    shoddiness of the trumped-up production. The wild charges made
    against the professors are so poorly substantiated and the political
    motives of the accusers so painfully transparent, one almost forgets
    that America's well-financed pro-Israel network has extensive
    experience in smearing its opponents. (4)

    Curiously, the charges of "silencing" and "intimidation" first made
    waves when it was learned that the accusing students made their
    case on camera. They appeared in a short film, titled "Columbia
    Unbecoming", produced by a Boston-based group called the David
    Project. At this point it is both necessary and prudent to ask: what is
    the "David Project"?

    At its website, the organization describes itself as "a grassroots
    initiative that promotes a fair and honest understanding of the
    Middle East conflict." A noble enough endeavor, no doubt. But a
    few lines later, we come to this: "We train people to be pro-active in
    their Israel advocacy" Another page offers ­ for a fee, of course ­ an
    intense three-hour ideological session titled "Making the Case for
    Israel." Searching for a "Making the Case for Palestine" program
    yields no results. Similarly, a look at the speaker's roster reveals
    many pro-Israeli speakers, but not a single pro-Palestinian. Perhaps
    most revealing is the text prefacing their speaker section: "For more
    information on how to bring our speakers to your synagogue, school,
    church, or community center, please call" (5) Apparently churches
    and synagogues are welcome, but mosques need not apply. One
    wonders why.

    The site then goes on to describe what it considers to be a "fair and
    honest position": "The essence of the Middle East conflict is about
    Jewish existence and self-determination in the face of a hostile Arab
    world and radical Islamists." (6) Israel's own recent historians take a
    rather different view. Commenting on the founding of Israel, Senior
    Lecturer of Military History in the IDF Aryeh Yitzhaki says, "a
    generation has passed, and it is now possible to face the ocean of
    lies in which we were brought up. In almost every conquered village
    in the War of Independence, acts were committed, which are defined
    as war crimes, such as indiscriminate killings, massacres and rapes."
    (7) Describing Zionism ­ the founding ideology of Israel ­ another
    Israeli historian, Tom Segev, writes: "'Disappearing' the Arabs lay at
    the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of
    its existence. With few exceptions, none of the Zionists disputed the
    desirability of forced transfer - or its morality." (8)

    Committing war crimes and disappearing people from their homes
    doesn't quite square well with pious rhetoric about "self-determination."
    But the folks at the David Project are free to cling to their pro-Israel
    political line. That they do so while pretending to be some kind of
    impartial educational group, however, speaks volumes. So much for
    "fairness" - and, even more so, "honesty."

    Given the clear ideological orientation of the David Project, one is
    forced to ask the obvious: why would students claiming to be
    "intimidated" and "silenced" by their professors bypass all university
    channels, and rush headlong into the arms of a political front group?
    Looking at the film itself provides us some answers.

    In this half-hour production featuring 14 students, only six present
    firsthand complaints; standing accused are professors Joseph
    Massad, George Saliba, and Hamid Dabashi. Complaints range from
    random flyering incidents having nothing to do with professors, to
    general ideological disagreements with what professors have written,
    to statements they allegedly made in person. No evidence is
    presented for any of the charges.

    Columbia student Adam Sacarny wrote in the school's newspaper
    upon seeing the film: "Much like the electoral campaigns, it uses
    talking points in place of pesky verifiable facts," adding, "The film's
    case is so shoddy that I fail to see how any critical viewer could leave
    the theater convinced that [the department] has violated academic
    integrity standards." (9) Even the generally sympathetic Israeli daily
    Haaretz admits, "The movie fuses few solid examples of intimidation ­
    only some of which involved professors and the students they were
    teaching ­ with generalized complaints of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic
    statements and behavior on campus." (10) And despite these
    students' claims of being "silenced," "intimidated," and "denied"(their
    own words), not one of them say their grades were affected. (11)

    Quite "coincidentally," the main target of the film is the untenured
    professor, Joseph Massad. He is accused of making outlandish
    comments and exhibiting an extreme intolerance toward pro-Israeli
    views in class. Yet only one of the students in the film has even taken
    a course with the professor. Moreover, precisely none of them even
    majored in the "offending" department of Middle East and Asian
    Languages and Cultures. (12) But rest assured. The complaining
    students have other "qualifications."

    One student shuttles back and forth from America to Israel to explain
    how to adjust the prefatory sales pitch for the film depending on the
    audience. (13) Another served in the Israeli military, which, according
    to events personally witnessed by former New York Times Middle East
    Bureau chief Chris Hedges, "entice[s] children like mice into a trap
    and murder[s] them for sport," and which also, according to a CIA
    study, acquires "data for use in silencing anti-Israel factions in the
    West" and engages in "sabotage, paramilitary and psychological
    warfare projects, such as character assassination and black
    propaganda." (14) Another complaining student who was a lead
    organizer for the film, Ariel Beery, boasts an impressive resume: he
    served as a spokesman for the Israeli military, is the head of the on-
    campus Zionist group, and is also an agent and informer for Daniel
    Pipes' notorious CampusWatch.org website, where students are
    encouraged to "report" their professors' political views if they are
    deemed insufficiently servile to the conservative party line. (15)

    But this is not all. None of the targeted professors were even allowed
    a chance to rebut the charges on the film. The reason for this,
    according to David Project head Ralph Avi Goldwasser, in comments
    given to the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, is that "the film wasn't
    meant to be a documentary; it was merely an effort to collect students'
    testimony about classroom incidents." Unsurprisingly, the David
    Project is simply being dishonest (again), since it turns out that they
    deliberately ignored the voices of Jewish and non-Jewish students
    who found such "incidents" to be fabricated and had no problems
    with the targeted professors. Eric Posner, who describes himself as
    "a Jew, an Israeli, a Jerusalemite, and an American," reports that "I
    was approached last year by Ariel Beery who wanted to hear my
    opinion about MEALAC and Massad, whose class I was enrolled in at
    the time. When I expressed my profound appreciation for Massad's
    critical approach and the multiplicity of perspectives that he offers in
    his classroom, Beery told me that he wouldn't be calling me back for
    a taped interview." (16)

    Posner also took it upon himself to gather some highly illuminating
    statements from other students who took Professor Massad's classes.
    Below are four:

    "Several individuals who audited this class regularly attempted to
    disturb the progress of the class. During these disturbances, the
    auditors often attempted to dominate the class discussion with
    personal statements unrelated or extremely loosely related to the
    course material. They were regularly unprepared for the classroom
    discussion, not having completed the required reading, and for the
    most part were largely ignorant of the class' subject matter. It was
    fairly obvious that these individuals had registered for the course for
    the sole purpose of disrupting the progress of the class. To my
    amazement, [Massad] allowed each and every student in the class
    an opportunity to speak, regardless of their familiarity with the class
    subject matter and required course material."
    -John Taplett

    "I am Jewish. I am not a Zionist. Joseph Massad is a man who
    understands the distinction and does not attempt to conflate the two
    around a vague connection with Israel. Knowing that he is being
    accused of anti-Semitism is not only a slap in HIS face, it is a slap in
    the face of every Jew who understands a legacy of oppression and
    chooses not to become an oppressor."
    -Maura Finkelstein

    "On the question of religion, he was openly critical of all religions
    including Islam ­ his anti-Israeli opinions could not reasonably have
    been construed as anti-Semitic. Similarly, while being critical of Israeli
    policy, he did not hesitate to offer critical opinions of Yasser Arafat. In
    general, he maintained a tone of critical scholarly inquiry."
    -Hitesh Manglani

    "As for academic discrimination, I am a Jew who wrote a term paper
    criticizing Palestinian nationalism for its foundation in support for
    violence, and despite Massad's supposed bias, he gave me an A."
    - Benjamin Wheeler (17)

    By now the general picture is quite clear. An ideologically motivated
    clique of Zionist students, possessing no actual evidence of
    "intimidation" but infuriated upon hearing their fairy-tale version of
    Israeli history dismantled, teamed up with a pro-Israel political front
    group masquerading as educators to smear a few Arab professors as
    "anti-Semites" - conveniently excluding the opinion of those "Semites"
    who fully support their teachers and actually took classes with them.

    More damning than the poverty and hollowness of the film, however,
    is the fact that it was even produced. After all, what kind of "victimized"
    students are able to summon to their command the financial and
    technical resources of something like the David Project? Moreover,
    how do such "victims" procure for themselves a $3 million dollar
    building on campus, a privilege no other Columbia group enjoys?
    (18) Claims to victimization ­ a central feature in the reverse-reality
    trick known as "the new anti-Semitism" - are also completely
    discredited by the fact that viciously right-wing tabloids in New York,
    the Sun and the Daily News, have joined in on the attack against the
    professors, castigating them as "firebrands" and demanding they be
    fired. Prominent New York City politicians have also demanded that
    the professors be "investigated" if not fired outright. (19) Truly
    remarkable is the "victim" so well-endowed in assets and allies.

    I do not mean to suggest, however, that these Zionist students have
    no understanding of intimidation or persecution - far from it. Indeed,
    they well know of a place where people are intimidated in extreme
    ways, often "ordered to urinate and execrate on one other," "beaten
    and ordered to crawl around;" a place where children are forced to
    clean their masters' latrines and are then taken into rooms to be
    beaten senseless, until "they cannot stand up"; where passengers
    are pulled from cars and then "beaten with rifle butts and helmets";
    where pregnant women are prevented from reaching hospitals; where
    the masters refer to the slaves as a "cancer" requiring "chemotherapy"
    or "amputation" ­ where in essence, people are treated far worse than
    anything these students claim to have undergone. (20)

    The "where" is occupied Palestine, the people being brutalized are
    Palestinians, and those doing the brutalizing are Zionists. Here is
    where millions of natives suffer under military occupation imposed
    by Israeli soldiers - at least 20% of whom "join the army with the
    preconception that Arab lives are worth less than Jewish lives, "
    according to Israeli Major General Elazar Stern. (21) Here is where
    unarmed 13 year-old girls can be shot twice "from close range at [the]
    head" and then "sprayed with automatic gunfire" afterwards without
    penalty. (22) Here is where real, actual, tangible "intimidation" and
    "silencing" takes place. And here is where our whining Zionists at
    Columbia could go and learn an object lesson in what intimidation is
    all about ­ if only they were not preoccupied with endorsing it.

    It is a resounding indictment of the intellectual and moral poverty of
    our times that those who support murder, torture, brutality, and
    racism - while lounging around in plush multi-million dollar offices on
    an Ivy League campus and starring in pseudo-documentaries, no
    less - are considered the victims, those speaking on behalf of the
    suffering are considered criminals, and those actually suffering from
    the real atrocities taking place are not considered at all.

    For those concerned with justice, the course of action could not be
    clearer. Now is a time not for interminable hesitance, but immediate
    resistance. The extraordinary level of arrogance, cruelty, and hate
    embodied by the forces promoting this and numerous other right-
    wing witch-hunts cannot be allowed to prowl about unchecked. For
    this is merely an extension of the war of bombs and bullets being
    waged upon the Arabs abroad; it is an attempt to Guantanomize our
    minds, Abu Ghraib our hearts, and Fallujah our souls - to remove
    from us every last trace of what is the best in each of us: the instinct
    to side with the weak and aid the oppressed.

    To resist this colonization of our compassion, to re-cultivate our
    resistance against those who believe in the "compassion" of
    colonization ­ these are the pressing demands of the hour. How
    vigorously we respond to these demands will determine whether
    those bruised, beaten children of Palestine will ultimately receive
    some respite from their inhumane condition, or instead find themselves
    further abused by the silent whip of indifference. In their eyes we will
    read either the redemption or indictment of the moral standing of our
    own country.

    M. Junaid Alam, 22, is co-editor of the radical youth journal Left Hook
    (http://www.lefthook.org), and a student at Northeastern University. He
    can be reached at alam@lefthook.org.


    1. The Israeli historians who have gone through some of the state's
    massive archives of the pre-war and war period of 1947-9 sometimes
    refer to themselves as 'new historians.' They include Simha Flapan,
    Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Tanya Reinhart, Ilan Pappe, and many others.
    I would recommended as an introduction The War for Palestine:
    Rewriting the History of 1948, edited by Eugene L. Rogan and Avi
    Shlaim, which contains a number of 'new historian' essays.

    2. Kimmerling is cited by American Jewish historian Norman G.
    Finkelstein in the Postscript to the German edition of his book, The Rise
    and Fall of Palestine. (http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?
    pg=4&ar=8) In the preface to Kimmerling's own 2003 book, Politicide,
    which argues that Israel is trying to exterminate the Palestinians as a
    political entity, he says his country is experiencing a "recent drift towards
    fascism." (p. 7)

    3. For an account of Israel's pattern of shooting Palestinian children,
    see the article "Killing children is no longer a big deal," by Gideon Levy,
    in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, October 17, 2004.

    4. For an account of the treatment meted out to those who defy the
    Israeli line in the U.S. by America's pro-Israeli lobby, see They Dare to
    Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby, by Paul
    Findley, who served as congressman of Illinois for over two decades.

    5. The David Project website is located at http://www.davidproject.org.
    See the "Training" and "Speakers" pages.

    6. See note 5, the website's front-page box titled "Understanding the

    7. Yitzhaki is cited in the Israeli paper, Ha'ir, by Guy Erlich in his May 6,
    1992 article, "Not Only Deir Yassin." Deir Yassin was an Arab village
    whose inhabitants were massacred by Zionist militia in 1948.

    8. Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete, pp.404-5; cf. pp. 403, 406-7,
    508 ­ as cited in the matchless synopsis of the Israeli-Palestinian
    conflict, by Norman G. Finkelstein, titled "An Introduction to the Israel-
    Palestine Conflict." (http://normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?

    9. "Shedding light on MEALAC," by Adam Sacarny, November 12, 2004,
    Columbia Spectator.

    10. "The 'Silent Jews' speak out," by Shoshana Kordova, Haaretz,
    February 9, 2005.

    11. About grades not being affected, see: "Non-academic debate," by
    Uriel Heilman, The Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2004 (updated
    December 29, 2004).

    12. Only one student actually had Massad for class ­ see "CAN Fights
    Zionist Smear Campaign at Columbia Univ.," by Suzie Schwartz, a
    Columbia student, Left Hook, December 17, 2004. (http://lefthook.
    org/Ground/Schwartz121704.html); and none majored in the department
    ­ see Eric Posner, as quoted in Independent Press Association (IPA-NY),
    "The Arab answer to the Columbia University question," by Amal Hageb.

    13. See note 10.

    14. Chris Hedge's A Gaza Diary, published in Harper's, October 2001;
    CIA study is titled "Israel: Foreign Intelligence and Security Services,"
    reprinted in Counterspy, May-June 1982 ­ as cited in Noam Chomsky's A
    Fateful Triangle Updated Edition, 1999, cited on page 11, sourced on
    page 33, as note 9; one of the accusers in the film was Tomy
    Schoenfeld - "a student who had served in the Israeli army" ­ according
    to "Mideast Tensions are Getting Personal on Campus at Columbia," by
    N. R. Kleinfield, The New York Times, January 18, 2005.

    15. Ariel Beery proudly advertises himself at his personal website, http:
    //www.arielbeery.com, where it is written, "He finished his service in the
    IDF Spokesperson's Unit where he wrote and translated information
    packets" on this specific page: http://www.arielbeery.com/Ariel.html; a
    host of his "documents" submitted to Campus Watch are kindly made
    available at the website: http://www.campus-watch.

    16. As quoted in IPA piece cited in note 12.

    17. All quoted in IPA piece cited in note 12.

    18. This is a reference to the Kraft Center - "Understanding the Attacks
    on Pro-Palestinian Professors at Columbia," by Jonah Birch, a Columbia
    Student, Left Hook, January 28, 2005. (http://lefthook.

    19. Congressman Anthony D. Weiner has called for Massad's firing. The
    New York City Council and members of the New York City Council have
    called for an outside investigation against him, egged on of course by
    the Sun and the Daily News.

    20. On urination and execration, beating, and being ordered to crawl
    around, see "Do not say: 'We did not know, we did not hear'," by Aharon
    Bachar, in Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, December 3, 1982 ­ as
    cited in Noam Chomsky's A Fateful Triangle, cited on page 131, sourced
    on page 176-7. On being forced to clean latrines and then being beaten
    in rooms, see "Peace Now officers recount atrocities," in Israeli
    newspaper Al Hamishmar, May 11, 1982 - as cited in Noam Chomsky's A
    Fateful Triangle, cited on page 132, sourced on page 177; on being
    beaten with rifle butts and helmets, see "Reports of Torture by Israelis
    Emerge," by Lee Hockstader, Washington Post, August 18, 2001; for
    pregnant women being stalled at Israeli checkpoints, see Israeli human
    rights group B'TSelem's website, www.btselem.org, and see note 3; it
    was Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon who said in an August 30, 2002
    interview with Haaretz Friday Magazine that there was a "Palestinian
    threat" the "characteristics of [which] are invisible, like cancer"; he then
    goes on to elaborate, "There are all kinds of solutions to cancerous
    manifestations. Some will say it is necessary to amputate organs. But at
    the moment, I am applying chemotherapy, yes."

    21. "General: 1 in 5 troops behave badly at roadblocks," by Gideon
    Alon, Haaretz, December 6, 2004.

    22. "Gaza girl death officer cleared," BBC News, October 15, 2004. The
    article notes, "Without revealing their identities, soldiers from the Givati
    brigade platoon told Israeli television how their officer sprayed Iman al-
    Hams with automatic gunfire on 5 October" after having "approached
    her and fired two bullets from close range at her head." The army chose
    not to believe the platoon, and accepted the awe-inspiring explanation
    of the commander that "he fired into the ground near the girl after
    coming under fire in a dangerous area." The BBC adds wryly, "It has not
    explained why the officer shot into the ground rather than at the source
    of the fire."



Behind the Myth


More on Columbia


Get Involved


Useful Sites